The Congressman from NSA Wants Contractor Contributions to Remain Secret

To be fair, Steny Hoyer can’t lay sole claim to be the Congressman representing the National Security Agency–the NSA actually gets three Congressmen: Steny, John Sarbanes, and Dutch Ruppersberger.

But I think it fair to note that Steny has, at key times, been the beneficiary of big political contributions from corporations with NSA sensitivities–like AT&T and Mantech. Just as notably, he’s gotten even bigger money from the banksters (particularly JP Morgan Chase, which has its own chunk of federal business) and other finance companies that ruined our economy.

In other words, Steny’s opposition to contractor transparency might be considered self-interest.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said government contracts should be awarded based solely on the reputation of the company and the substance of its bid. The issue of political contributions, he said, has no place in the process.

“The issue of contracting ought to be on the merits of the contractor’s application and bid and capabilities,” Hoyer told reporters at the Capitol. “There are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts.”

Now, perhaps it’s the reporting, but consider the logic of this funny claim: “There are some serious questions as to what implications there are if somehow we consider political contributions in the context of awarding contracts.” Who is the “we” here? Contracting officers? If they were to consider donations to affirmatively award contracts, they’d be committing Hatch Act violations and risk losing their job. But seeing big donations from, say, Mitchell Wade to a powerful Congressman like Duke Cunningham might raise concerns from contracting officers about undue influence (though admittedly, Cunningham’s staffers made it pretty clear to contracting officers what they wanted).

Is the “we” Congressmen themselves? Is Steny really suggesting that Congressmen are not aware of who their donors are, are not intimately familiar with how much they’re raking in from contractors?

Which leaves the possibility that by “we” Steny means “us,” citizens, journalists, and good government advocates. Is Steny suggesting that “we” shouldn’t consider the (ahem) possibility that members of Congress push contracts for their campaign donors? That we shouldn’t consider the implications of such possibilities?

Then again, the guy who steered warrantless wiretapping immunity through Congress might simply want to avoid making it easier for us to understand not just how contracts tie to political donations, but legislation itself.

  1. emptywheel says:

    Mind you, given the fact that we’ll never see the bulk of the AT&T contracts (or more likely, Memoranda of Understanding) with teh govt, it’s not going to help up beat up on Steny for his role in wiretapping immunity.

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I guess Steny would agree with the FBI’s response to the ACLU, that revealing the names of cooperating telecoms under FOIA “would substantially harm those companies” in that if customers were to learn of the extent of their cooperation, they might terminate their contracts and/or file suit against them. You bet.

  3. harpie says:


    Then again, the guy who steered warrantless wiretapping immunity through Congress might simply want to avoid making it easier for us to understand not just how contracts tie to political donations, but legislation itself.

    …so glad you mentioned

    [though, how could you not in this context? ;-) ]

    The Duke, who was immediately in my thoughts as well, when I read the title. Everytime I hear that name, I have to share this:

    Jack’s House; Hart Seely; NYT; 3/31/06


    These are the men

    That fleeced the tribes

    That paid the money

    That made the bribes

    That purchased the Congress that

    Jack built.

    This is the Duke

    That sailed the yacht

    That raised the eyebrows

    And got him caught,

    Who helped Mitch Wade,

    Who bought Duke’s land

    And kicked in 700 grand;

    Which raised Duke’s taxes,

    And gave Duke pain;

    So Wade paid the tab

    On Duke’s capital gain.

    Bigger than Abscam:

    Randy “Duke” Cunningham!

    Top gun in the Congress that

    Jack built.


    [The rest is just as good.]

  4. 1970cs says:

    Are there enough Progressives to help elect a freshman R from Steny’s district in MD? Getting him out of office and away from leadership can’t wait for a third party.

    • jest says:

      There are plenty, but Hoyer has so much cash and name recognition, forget it. It’s sad, because there really is a potential for a progressive to get that seat; if you need proof, keep in mind it’s virtually the same area as Donna Edwards’ district.

  5. MartyInNH says:

    If I still had a Democratic Representative, I’d be contacting them to reconsider allowing Mr. Hoyer to occupy a position in the leadership. Maybe after 2012 I will. Blatantly obvious indeed.

    I support any transparency around political contributions we can get.

  6. kabuki101 says:

    The Democrat wing of the Uniparty had their chance already to toss Mr Hoyer overboard, where he belongs. But fat chance of that. For truth be told, Mr Hoyer is the embodiment of the core values of the Dem wing of the Uniparty. The Uniparty, in both its forms, must be eradicated. This blog must work towards that goal.

    • 1970cs says:

      I agree that getting rid of the Uniparty is the goal.

      Getting rid of established and powerful Dems like Hoyer as fast as possible is a short term failure, and long term win. Unless there is a very strong 3rd party candidate running, Hoyer will remain. Better to unseat him in 2012, then go after the freshman in 2014 with better odds of winning.

    • lysias says:

      NSA headquarters is in Maryland’s Second District, which Dutch Ruppersberger represents in the House. However, NSA is Maryland’s biggest employer, and I am sure many NSA employees reside in Hoyer’s Fifth District.

  7. MadDog says:

    This says all one needs to know about which side Steny is really on:

    …Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) complimented Hoyer for his stance.

    “I’m glad to see that somebody on the other side is standing up to this blatant attempt to intimidate people into .. not contributing to causes the administration opposes,” McConnell said…

    I’ve thought for years that Steny Hoyer was as dumb as the proverbial stump. This quote in the piece confirms it for me. Take a look at what Steny is really saying:

    …Hoyer on Tuesday said the rules would raise questions of fairness every time a business with a history of donating to one party was turned down for awarded a contract by an administration of the other party.

    “They [would] think somehow that was politically [motivated],” he said…

    (Strikeouts and Bold are mine)

    Sometimes Steny is so dumb, he inadvertently tells the truth.

  8. Bruce H. Vail says:

    I’m curious about your mention of John Sarbanes.

    Apart for his careless support of more war in Afghanistan, what is the case against Sarbanes?

    • DWBartoo says:

      Hmm. Sounds like a “list”, Bruce H.

      Maybe a list should be developed?

      Let’s list all the good democrats first.

      On the left side

      And then the not so “less evil” dems.

      ………………………………………..over here, on the right.

      Does anyone have a name to start the “good” side of the list?

      Curiousity is a wonderful thing.

      Don’t you all agree?


      • Bruce H. Vail says:


        But my interest in a critique of Sarbanes is genuine. I live in Maryland’s 3rd District and I must admit to deeply conflicted feelings about him.

        I contacted him to oppose the Wall Street bailout, and he disappointed me (although in retrospect, I have some sympathy for Democrats who voted for that mess). I contacted him to support the Auto bailout, which he did. I contacted him to end the war in Afghanistan, and he disappointed me again. I contacted him to oppose KORUS, and received an infuriatingly vague response.

        He has a number of very good votes to his credit, but I don’t don’t pretend to have a good idea of the big picture. I have looked at some political contributions data and it seems quite opaque. He gets a lot of money from law firms that are in the lobbying business, but it is beyond my skills to connect those contributions to specific votes.

        • DWBartoo says:

          Well, Bruce, I’m only partially making jest …

          Most of us are in the same boat as you. The best that most of us might say about our own “democratic” Senator(s) (a fair number of States are “owned” by the Dems, in the Senate, at least …) is that said Senator or Senators have done little to distinguish themselves in matters which would clearly align them with mere hoi paloi … and I’m not certain that “sternly-worded-letter”-writing is all that much of a recommendation, as a general thing.

          Were such a “list’ to be compiled, one suspects it would list heavily to the “right” … but that is mere suspeculation.

          However, there are fifty-one Democratic Senators, so one, or even two, of them must be interested in something beyond money and self-aggrandizement

          at least … eventually. I know, sociopathic odds, but consider the kind of people who are drawn to becoming traditional politicians?

          If that doesn’t give you the creeps, then nothing will.


          • DWBartoo says:

            And 255 “Democratic” Representatives …

            That is a whole lot of folks, Senators and House members, folks who are “running” the place, that we don’t know … very much about, in terms of what they ARE “doing” while they are supposed to be “representing” the rest of us.

            But, rumor has it, they are ALL on “our” side …?

            Let’s have a grass-roots thumb up! or thumb down … list.

            It is time to do thumbthing.

            Aren’t we fortunate to have “opposable” thumbs?


          • Bruce H. Vail says:

            Hmmm….Your list would be a disheartening document.

            Here in Blue Maryland, the Republican party has all but given up competing for many of the plum electoral positions, so a number of our Democrats are outright Blue Dogs, or leaning in that direction. We have some good ones, but not as many as we should.

            • bobschacht says:

              Here in Blue Maryland, the Republican party has all but given up competing for many of the plum electoral positions, so a number of our Democrats are outright Blue Dogs, or leaning in that direction. We have some good ones, but not as many as we should.

              I think this is a general rule in politics. Whenever a region becomes dominated by one party, that party develops at least two wings– one is generally extremest, or purist, or ideology-driven, while the other wing often tends to be pragmatic, or centrist. For example, Hawaii, except for a recent Republican governor, has been about as Blue as a state can get. But then it turns out that many of them act like Blue Dogs. For example, about 5 years ago, one of the representatives, Ed Case, was a Democrat and yet worked with Republicans in the U.S. Congress to pass a credit law that really beat up on people who had to declare bankruptcy, or were in default on credit card payments– a segment of the population that has grown significantly since the economic bubble burst.

              A corollary of this ‘law’ is that parties that are inclusive, ‘big tent’ parties are more heterogeneous than rigidly ideological parties. Which means they have plenty of ‘deviants’ who won’t go along with the rest of the party on some matters.

              The current House Republican majority is also a case in point. There’s the Tea Party wing, and then there’s what passes for centrists, who are pragmatic enough to resist the craziest antics of the Tea Party folks.

              Steny is a pragmatist and a loyalist. He’ll do whatever, in order to elect more Democrats (himself included, of course). And when he sees dangling dollar bills, he wants to grab them before any Republican figures out a way to grab them.

              The problem with many of us DFH is that we want purity from our Representatives. It is time to get used to the idea that they all have feet of clay. We have to satisfy ourselves with this basic question: Are we better off with them, or without them?

              Bob in AZ

              • Bruce H. Vail says:

                I think your comments about Hoyer are spot on. He is at least partially responsible for the considerable success the Democratic Party has enjoyed in Maryland over the last 10 years. The downside of that is that the money chase has, in too many instances, become the most important factor. As bad as Hoyer may look to many FDL devotees, he looks pretty damn good compared to the two leading elected Republicans in the state — Roscoe Bartlett and Andy Harris.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                I think your last point is a bit reductionist. I don’t think we want purity. Consistency would be nice, inconsistency but with a good set of priorities would be better, a lot more backbone would be better still.

                To say as someone else has that one longtime Congresscritter is necessarily better than a couple of newbie GOP hacks isn’t much of a recommendation. Jane Harman was around for a long time, but I wouldn’t want to rely on the quality of her oversight of executive branch conduct. If we don’t push, they won’t get any better. They might not even if we do; they certainly won’t if we don’t push.

                • Bruce H. Vail says:

                  fyi – Roscoe Bartlett is actually not a newbie – he has been in Congress for 18 plus years. In fact, he is among the most senior of Republican lawmakers

                  In an event not widely noted outside Maryland, the Republican Caucus last year denied Bartlett the chairmanship of the powerful Armed Services Committee, although he was nominally in line for the post. It was hard for reporters to find anyone to comment truthfully about the reasons for the denial, but it apparently has something to do with the fact that he is cranky, unklikable and of questionable emotional stability.

                  • lysias says:

                    Bartlett voted against TARP. A trained research scientist, Bartlett has long been a committed environmentalist who has long been a passionate advocate of alternative energy sources, and has been driving a Prius for years. (He appears prominently in Michael Ruppert’s documentary Collapse.)

                    I doubt if GOP leadership in the House approves of such sentiments.

                    • Bruce H. Vail says:

                      Really, I didn’t know that.

                      Sort of appropriate to emptywheel, Bartlett has also criticized US military action against Libya, accusing Obama of usurping the Congress’ war-making authority.

                    • lysias says:

                      Gilchrest lost his seat (First District) because he opposed Bush’s war in Iraq. Bartlett better be careful about opposing wars.

                    • Bruce H. Vail says:

                      I don’t think that Bartlett is really, deeply opposed to the war. I think he is only really, deeply opposed to Obama.

                • bobschacht says:

                  My main point was that, when evaluating whom to vote for, the totality of that person’s record should be consulted, not just a few of today’s hot-button issues.

                  BTW, for consulting the totality of a congress-critter’s record, I recommend Progressive Punch.
                  FWIW, they rate Steny Hoyer’s Overall Lifetime Progressive Score at 86.5% (all issues), or 148th out of 432 members of the House. Among about 20 categories of issues, his worst score (75%) is on War & Peace issues, based on 22 votes. Of course, the devil is always in the details. You might not like the way PP defines “Progressive.” But PP shows you the votes, how Hoyer voted, versus how PP’s Progressive Standard-bearers voted. Your mileage may vary.

                  My congresscritter is ranked 383/432, or 2%, on Progressive issues. Given that alternative, would I vote for Hoyer? Youbetcha.

                  Is there another score-card keeper that you prefer?

                  Bob in AZ

                  • Bruce H. Vail says:

                    Thanks, Bob, I feel a lot better about Sarbanes now after looking him up on Progressive Punch.

                    He scored very well. Far better than I would have guessed before I viewed the site (also better than Steny Hoyer).

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m not making a case one way or another. Just pointing out that it’s not entirely accurate to say Steny represents NSA, as the case is stronger w/Ruppersburger and, to a lesser degree, Sarbanes. But it is one big sprawling base, particularly when you consider teh affiliated contractors.

      • Bruce H. Vail says:

        So your argument is that because parts of 3rd District touch a large NSA base, that means that Sarbanes is in thrall to military contractors?

          • Bruce H. Vail says:

            Well shame on you then for writing a lede sentence equating Sarbanes with Wall Street Shill Hoyer and Blue Dog War Dem Ruppersberger without “making a case one way or another.”


              • Bruce H. Vail says:


                Just admit it. You didn’t do your homework and you have no case at all to make against Sarbanes, other than NSA employees live and work in his district.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  Manners are not unmanly, Shrub’s belief to the contrary, and are useful in a lot of places, especially with the lady who owns the joint. There’s fair comment, and then there’s farting in the elevator just for fun.

                    • earlofhuntingdon says:

                      The Shrub example was hyperbole, an outsized description of behavior that would detract from the blog if we did have it. By all means make your point, just use a little Norman French along with the guttural Anglo-Saxon.

                • emptywheel says:

                  Which is all I asserted about him. You can’t, on one hand, insist that Sarbanes is a good guy (which as far as I know I agree with) but also complain that I made a factual statement backed by a link, made no further suggestion, but you want to know why I didn’t provide evidence for those further suggestions I didn’t make.

                  Or rather, you can, but it’s sheer lunacy.

                  • Bruce H. Vail says:

                    I guess I misunderstood your post.

                    So you intended no comment on Sarbanes and Ruppersburger whatsoever, except to note the geographical proximity of their district boundaries?

                    • emptywheel says:

                      Yes. The post is about Steny and only Steny, but had I claimed he was the ONLY Rep for NSA, I would have been inaccurate. So I felt it important to note that several districts have a big piece of NSA’s community.

        • lysias says:

          NSA’s annex — with a lot of offices, including the training facility — is at BWI Airport. Many NSA employees live in and around Laurel. And a lot of offices of NSA contractors are in those places too.

          Are those places not in Sarbanes’s Third District?

  9. onitgoes says:

    Thanks for the info, but like so many others here, I already knew what a lying POS corporate shill Hoyer is. Whether he is dumb or just exhibits are certain rat cunning is up for debate.

    I, too, wish we could unload ALL of these corrupt scumbags – from any party – asap. Sadly won’t hold my breath.

    Good to get this info out in the public domain.

  10. darms says:

    Hatch Act violations? Oh that’s a hoot, especially after what we saw 2001-2008. The Hatch Act is inoperative, one of those ‘laws for thee but not for me’. Hoyer is the very definition of a demublican, one of many reasons I’ve abandoned all hope for a better US. Thank dog I’m 54 & childless, hope I’m gone before the feces/air mover intersection…

  11. GeneralPudding says:

    So I take it then that the prevailing view here is favorable towards Obama’s proposal, for potential government contractors to disclose their donations as a condition for receiving a contract. Despite what you may think about Steny Hoyer, are his concerns though not valid? Would it not lead to a potential situation where government contracts only go to those companies who are the best well connected politically? Isn’t there more than a whiff of a political “shakedown” here? It seems that this transparency initiative could unintentionally end up making the nexus between government and corporations even stronger.

    • emptywheel says:

      I laid out my logic in the post. To argue that, you’d have to say that contracting officers will get information from political campaign donations that they aren’t somehow getting now. So to use my Duke Cunningham example, while knowing that Mitch Wade was giving Duke huge donations, the contracting officer would know that a powerful Congressman might want them to get the contract. But his staffers were already telling them that. So this would actually raise the chances that a contracting officer might think twice about the calls he was getting from congressional staffers.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I see that the good general is busy inspecting the post from stem to stern, to metaphorically mix services. I’ll repeat the substance of a comment I made elsewhere on the self-described origin’s of the general’s screen name, which might be useful in assessing his/her comments:

        Brigadier Pudding, as in the good Dr. Who’s Brigadier, except that Pudding was a different kettle of fish with a peculiar, one might say offal, taste in food and drink. Shades of the “excremental sublime”.

        In Pynchon’s surreal Gravity’s Rainbow, Brigadier Pudding is a bit of a Cheshire Cat. He has “delusions about his own importance” and “an intense desire for sadomasochism”. His death might make Rick Santorum swoon. He dies from E. coli poisoning after having eaten, in a bout of sexual ecstasy, the feces of his dominatrix. Unable to let go himself, he haunts the place afterwards.

        Before entering the spirit world, in his first command, during World War I, he took 40 yards of No Man’s Land at a cost of 70% dead and wounded. During the novel, he commands a beastly English governmental organization called the White Visitation. Its obscure responsibilities during World War II involve mind games, “manipulation and control”. Some critics have described Gravity’s Rainbow as “utterly incomprehensible and unreadable”.

        It’s nice to know our loyal opposition has a modicum of self-awareness and a revealing sense of humour.

  12. lysias says:

    Not just three congressmen, by the way, but four. In addition to Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, and Hoyer, you have Republican Andy Harris, an arm of whose Maryland First District extends deep into Anne Arundel County, very near Fort Meade.

    • emptywheel says:

      A fourth one! How did the NSA and its hundreds of opaque contracts get that lucky, when my entire city has just one Congressman.

      I just went by the GovTrack map as it overlaps the boundaries used in their map. BUt most folks from MD are on the NSA gravy train, aren’t they? In fact, Barbara Milulski is one of the worst.

  13. fwdpost says:

    Hoyer also said he wants to raise the retirement age for SS. Some banker probably suggested that to him, and he just had to bow down and say “yes, master!”

  14. mzchief says:

    OT– From “Look Who’s Lobbying for FINRA” (by John Lounsbury, Mar. 23, 2011):

    Michael Oxley, the former Republican congressman from Ohio and the Oxley in Sarbanes-Oxley, registered last week as a lobbyist for FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Agency). He served as the chairman of the Committee on Financial Services, and was House sponsor of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which provided for oversight of public companies to prevent fraud.

  15. JohnLopresti says:

    For people who would want to read the 2005 indictment of rep. Cunningham, it is there.

    In a way, as a kid I grew up around the def contracting pork barrel. However, Cunningham clearly was on a spree. I made a precis of only the first part of the charges. I have no idea how many were proven, leading to the subsequent 8 years 2 months sentence, which, evidently, Cunningham continues to write to obtain reprieve or reduction.

    8. became registered owner of a 42-foot yacht **Buoy Toy** at anchored as a residence in Capitol Yacht Club

    13d: tax evasion

    14a: cash, checks, meals, travel, lodging, furnioshings, antiques, rugs, yacht club fees, boat repairs and improvements, moving expenses, cars, boats.

    14e. one or more coconspirators would buy property for above-market prices; pay Cunningham for property Cunningham continued to own; sell to Cunningham property at below-market price;

    14f. conceal payments by directing payments through multi-layer transactions involving corporate entitiesand bank accounts that Cunningham and coconspirators owned and controlled;

    §14i $525,000 for a mortgage;

    §14ii. $500,000. for a mortgate;

    §14iii. $200,000 downpayment on condominium;

    §14iv. $115,000 to reimburse capital gains on sale of home;

    §14g. concealed conspiracy on financial disclosure statement with US House of Representatives;

    §14h. concealed conspiracy on personal income tax forms;

    §15a. $70,000. check deposited to personal account;

    §15b. $30,000 check deposit to federal credit union;

    §15c. $11,116. payment on yacht “Kelly C”;

    §15d. $100,000. in illicit payments received in Y2K not reported on IRS personal tax form;

    §15e. $12,000. paid to an antique store for 3 night stands, 1 leaded glass cabinet, 1 wash stand, 1 buffet, 4 armoires, all delivered to Cunningham;

    §15f. $200,000. wired to escrow account to pay for condominium;

    §15g. $50,000. paid to an account of a company controlled by Cunningham;

    §15h. $50,000. deposited to Cunningham personal bank account;

    §15i. $6,632. paid with credit card to furniture store for 1 leather sofa, 1 sleigh-style bed, all delivered to Cunningham;

    §15j. $7,200. paid with corporate account for 1 Louis Phillipe (c,1850) style commode, 1 Restoration period commode, 4 drawers; all delivered to Cunningham;

    §15k. $10,000. deposit to congressional federal credit union;

    §15l. $13,500. deposit to federal credit union for purchase of Rolls Royce car;

    §15m.$17,889. corporate check to pay for Rolls Royce repair;

    §15n. $140,000. corporate check to purchase 42-foot yacht “Buoy Toy”, renamed “Duke-stir”, delivered to Cunniungham*s boat slip;

    et seq.

    §15o. $250,000. illicit income not declared on personal income tax formfor2001

    §15p. $20,000. deposit into congressional FCU account;

    §15q. $16,867. paid to a marine service company for repairs to Cunningham yacht “Kelly C”;

    §15r. $2,000. company check to marine service company for transport of yacht “Kelly C”;

    §15s. $7,500. deposit to personal account to reimburse yacht club fees in VA;

    §15t. $40,000. deposit into personal bank account in CA;

    §15u. $1,119. deposit to reimburse repair of Rolls Royce car;

    §15v. $58,674. deposit to reimburse payment on mortgage of yacht “Kelly C”;

    §15w. $3,000.deposit to personal account;

    §15x. $30,000. deposit to personal account;

    §15y. $250,000. undeclared illicit income, personal income tax for 2002;

    §15z. $18,000. claimed price of 1999 Suburban vehicle, actual price was $10,00.; the form was altered;

    §15aa. $8,000. deposit to congressional FCU;

    §15bb. $2,731. checks to a resort; $1,500. gift certificate purchased ear-rings; $400. purchase Greenbriar charm and necklace;

    §15cc. $9,200. purchase of Laser Shot shooting simulator;

    §15dd. $19,025. deposit to personal checking account;

    §15ee. Inflated price quoted $1.5 million for sale of home;

    §15ff. $175,000. requested of coconspirator for purchase of new home;

    §15gg. $1,675,000. restated inflated price for sale of home, also deleting coconspirator from agreement, substituting shell company name;

    §15hh. $18,160. check for purchase of home; $1,664,300. wire transfer for purchase of home

    et seq.