Campaign for Accountability Asks Veterans Affairs IG to Investigate Possible Improper Influence by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Contract Award for VA Clinic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 4, 2020
Contact: Michael Clauw, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) filed a complaint with the Inspector General of the Department of Veterans Affairs asking for an investigation into whether House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) unduly interfered in the award of a contract to build a new VA clinic within his district in Bakersfield, California.
CfA Executive Director Michelle Kuppersmith stated, “Minority Leader McCarthy put the weight of his powerful position on the scale in favor of a proposal by SASD. McCarthy is a close ally of President Trump, who has made clear that insufficiently loyal civil servants can lose their jobs. The IG needs to investigate whether McCarthy’s actions improperly influenced the procurement decision.”
In August of 2017, the VA issued a solicitation of offers for a new lease on a new Bakersfield VA clinic, awarding the contract the following year to SASD Development Group. In September 2019, Progress for Bakersfield Veterans (PBV) protested the lease award, arguing it resulted in erroneous readings of the proposal, had improperly excluded the protestor, had failed to properly account for the price savings offered by the protestor, and that the awardee had not met mandatory minimum solicitation requirements. Since then there have been numerous proceedings, including matters in the Federal Court of Claims, in which the VA has admitted to errors in awarding the contract and agreed to take corrective action, including reevaluating bids. Most recently, the contract was again awarded to SASD and PBV is still protesting.
On September 4, 2019, an SASD representative sent a letter to Rep. McCarthy thanking him for all of his help throughout the contract award process. A few days later, in September 9, 2019 testimony before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Rep. McCarthy spoke in favor of SASD’s proposal, and claimed that because of the delays in the award process, the VA had doubled the lease payments made to the current facility owner to $2 million per month. In fact, at the time of his comments, the VA was only paying the clinic $172,178 per month. Rep. McCarthy also incorrectly stated the new clinic would be larger than the previous one, despite the fact that the new facility is actually expected to have less square footage. When confronted about the falsities, spokeswoman for Rep. McCarthy acknowledged the congressman’s statements about the lease cost had been inaccurate and said the Republican Leader would correct his congressional testimony. He has not and a video of Rep. McCarthy’s inaccurate testimony as well as transcript of his statement with the false claims remain posted on his official congressional website.
On October 7, 2019, Rep. McCarthy weighed in on the matter with VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who responded by explaining that the VA had briefed Rep. McCarthy’s staff just three days after Rep. McCarthy sent his letter and committed to providing regular updates on the status of the procurement.
Agency decisions are to be insulated from congressional pressure. In examining whether an agency has been improperly influenced by a member of Congress, the question is whether ‘extraneous factors intruded into the calculus of consideration’ of the individual decision maker.” Courts have found “the appearance of impartiality . . . cannot be maintained unless those who exercise the judicial function are free from powerful external influence.”
Ms. Kuppersmith continued, “The American people have a right to expect government contracts will be awarded on the merits, free of improper influence. Given the obviously troubled history of the bidding process and Rep. McCarthy’s clear efforts to pressure the VA to award the contract to SASD, the IG must investigate to determine whether undue political pressure influenced the contract award.”
Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.