Justice in the Gutter, Continued | Harper's Magazine

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Justice in the Gutter, Continued

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In “Justice in the Gutter,” I discussed the mounting evidence that a Bush political appointee had exploited his sinecure in the Office of Juvenile Justice to funnel contracts to political cronies. Now an investigation by the Office of Inspector General has validated those reports. Here’s Carrie Johnson in the Friday Washington Post:

A former Justice Department grant-making administrator violated federal ethics and procurement rules in awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in sole source contracts to ideologically favored companies and individuals, the department’s inspector general concluded today. The administrator, J. Robert Flores, was a political appointee during former president George Bush’s administration who left his post after the inauguration in January…

The report issued this morning culminates a nearly two-year investigation into alleged irregularities with grants awarded by the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention during the Bush administration.

At the core of the study is a figure named Hector Rene Fonseca, identified by the Post as a retired Colombian military officer. Josh Marshall offers the far more interesting facts:

Fonseca is actually a former Colonel in the Honduran military. He apparently got his start in US right-wing politics when he married Deborah Lynne De Moss, daughter of the right-wing philanthropist De Moss family, who was then Director of Latin American Affairs for Sen. Jesse Helms, generally known for archaic views on Latin American affairs generally. That was back in 1994.

Primed with that juice in the US and Honduras, Fonseca later ran for President of Honduras (though De Moss may have tripped up his chances by threatening to sic her “contacts” on Fonseca’s enemies) before seeing those dreams come to naught and angling for a soft landing with right-wing crony welfare courtesy of the Bush Justice Department.

So contracts were being awarded to feed a member of the movement conservative inner circle, with plenty of Religious Right connections to boot. The Inspector General concluded that the contract awards to Flores were a “misuse of funds.”

Other major contract beneficiaries were World Golf Foundation’s First Tee Initiative (honorary chair: George H.W. Bush); the Best Friends Foundation (headed by Mrs. William Bennett); and Victory Outreach, which had hired a former Bush White House official. The pattern is very consistent.

So what’s the Justice Department’s reaction to this? No charges will be brought. Seems that’s been the consistent Justice Department reaction to every established allegation of gross corruption involving political appointees at the Department since 2001. And who at Justice made that determination? That would be the Public Integrity Section, whose leadership is itself now the target of a criminal investigation by a special prosecutor. Maybe this decision needs to be reviewed by someone who actually knows something about public integrity.

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