Sunday, October 12, 2008

Mike Conaway's Albertine Earmark

Disguising earmarks is a skill, apparently one held by my Congressman. Rep. Mike Conaway denoted his $1.6 million earmark for "Office of Naval Research." The Seattle Times reported on the true recipient:

Other co-sponsors tagged the money for Global Delta, a young company created by two longtime lobbyists.

John Albertine and his brother James, past president of the American League of Lobbyists, have knocked on lawmakers' doors seeking earmarks on behalf of clients. In 2003, they formed Global Delta and decided to get an earmark for themselves. Several months later, they succeeded. With no background in engineering, the two lobbyists landed a $4.1 million contract with the Office of Naval Research to study and develop advanced, cost-effective radars.

Soon after getting the contract in June 2004, John Albertine hired a couple of engineers to do research. Meanwhile, he and his brother continued to operate Albertine Enterprises, their lobbying firm.

Over the past five years, Global Delta officials have donated $35,000 to Conaway and others who sponsored its earmarks. Conaway's office said he was unavailable for comment.

Wow, it turns out Mike is silent on more than the causes of our current credit crisis. Rep. Conaway received $7,300 from Albertine Enterprises for his virtually unopposed 2008 campaign. Information on one of the two Albertine Brothers came from John M.'s appointment to the Intersection Inc's Board of Directors:

Dr. Albertine, 64, has been the chairman and chief executive officer of Albertine Enterprises, Inc., a consulting and merchant-banking firm, since 1990. He also has served since 2005 as a principal of JJ&B, LLC, an investment bank he founded that provides finance, public policy and legal assistance to clients; and since 2004 as the executive chairman of Global Delta, LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based government contractor specializing in advanced sensor radio frequency and electro-optical technologies. Dr. Albertine served as president of the American Business Conference, founded by Arthur Levitt, Jr.

Several things pop out in the above paragraph. The description of Albertine Enterprises omits their function as a lobbying firm. Also, Global Delta's mission implies a high tech firm with significant capabilities.

The company snagged a defense earmark in 2006 for $3 million and another in 2007 for $1 million. John Albertine said he asked for $4 million in 2008 but landed only $1.6 million.

Global Delta turned down the earmark because it wasn't enough funding, he said. They opted to search for private funding so they could own the intellectual property rights to some of the research, he said.

Their concept was to build a low-cost radar system to track ships. A prototype was never built, Albertine said.

Why weren't intellectual property rights an issue with the 2006 and 2007 earmarks? After spending $4 million, it never went beyond the concept stage? Why didn't "engineers" build a test model?

The Albertine brothers are ardent supporters of Mike Conaway. James and Anne of Bethesda, Maryland gave $4,700. John and Mona of Fredericksburg, Virginia contributed $5,500.

The first burst of donations, totalling $5,000, came in Spring 2007. The next round of $4,500 fell between the end of September and Thanksgiving that same year. The remaining $700 arrived in February 2008.

Refunds reduced total donations to $3,500 for the Bethesda Albertine's and $3,800 for the Virginia family.

When did the Defense bill with Mike's co-sponsored Albertine earmark pass the House? The bill was introduced to the House on March 20, 2007. Mike's first burst of checks arrived that same month. A $2,300 check from John Albertine arrived a week before the bill's initial presentation.

Fall saw the greatest House action and another $5,000 from the East Coast Albertine's. After George W. Bush approved the bill January 28, 2008, the final $700 arrived in Mike's office.

It turns out Dr. John Albertine and I share an alma mater, the University of Virginia. The historic Lawn has Jeffersonian gardens, hidden behind serpentine walls. Federal earmarks lie behind similarly twisted structures. Kudos to the Seattle Times for knocking a few bricks out. Let the light shine through.