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October 02, 2008

FDA funnelled money through AK native corp to DC PR firm

The Food and Drug Administration wanted to give a propaganda contract to Qorvis Communications, but they didn't want to open the contract for competitive bidding, so the agency funneled $300,000 through an Alaska native corporation with the understanding that the work would be subcontracted to Qorvis.

Alaska native corporations are curious entities that were created as part of land claims settlements about 30 years ago. These companies enjoy set-asides for federal contracts, which means they can circumvent the competitive bidding provisions that apply to other firms seeking to provide goods and services to the federal government.

Unscrupulous federal and corporate operators figured out to game this system a long time ago. The Native corporation puts its name on the paperwork and the work gets subcontracted to the same companies that would have bid on the work themselves. Of course, the natives who are supposed to be represented by the corporations don't usually see much of the profits.

While major corporations use native corporations to thwart competition rules, small minority- and woman-owned businesses are struggling to negotiate the federal contracting system.

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The Wall Street Bailout Bill passed by the Senate yesterday also allows no-bid contracts.

"SEC. 107. CONTRACTING PROCEDURES.

(a) Streamlined Process- For purposes of this Act, the Secretary may waive specific provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation upon a determination that urgent and compelling circumstances make compliance with such provisions contrary to the public interest. Any such determination, and the justification for such determination, shall be submitted to the Committees on Oversight and Government Reform and Financial Services of the House of Representatives and the Committees on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs of the Senate within 7 days."

It gets worse, according to the WSJ blog: Same Image Polisher Has Worked for FDA and Big Pharma “Turns out that the FDA and Big Pharma have more in common than we thought. They both tapped the same PR firm to improve their reputations… Earlier this year the FDA hired Qorvis Communications, an influential PR group in Washington, to help mend the agency’s ailing image with a public awareness campaign. But since 2006 Qorvis has been working for PhRMA, Big Pharma’s principal trade group. http://blogs.wsj.com/health/2008/10/03/same-image-polisher-has-worked-for-fda-and-big-pharma/

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