Everyone’s reporting that the Christie Administration has agreed to supply Senate Democrats with a plethora of documents relating to our failed Race To The Top application, and that its cooperation has delayed plans to subpoena Christie Chief of Staff Richard Bagger, Communications Director Maria Comella, former Commissioner Bret Schundler, and an official from Wireless Generation, the private company responsible for vetting our application. (Sample: Star-Ledger.)
At the moment, at least, Senator Sweeney seems happy to get the paperwork. But it’s unlikely that this will lead to meaningful answers regarding the collaboration between Wireless and the DOE, which predates Christie’s administration. Indeed, there’s no getting to the bottom of this without hearing from former Commissioner Lucille Davy. After all, she’s the one who originally hired Wireless Generation under a no-bid contract for our first failed attempt at the federal competition, and it appears that the Corzine’s administration’s relationship with the company led to a series of new contracts that bypassed the usual bidding process.
Not to get melodramatic here (well, maybe a little) but our adventure with Wireless is sort of our own private Blackwater. Think about it. The US government hired Blackwater during the Iraq War for a $21 million no-bid contract to guard US and foreign officials. During a US Senate investigation, Iraq Embassador Ryan Crocker explained, "There is simply no way at all that the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security could ever have enough full-time personnel to staff the security function in Iraq. There is no alternative except through contracts." And we all know how that went.
So we have a NJ DOE that didn’t have enough full-time personnel to staff the creation of our application in either the Corzine or Christie administration (in fairness, neither did most other states) and there was no alternative except through contracting the application out. But what’s with the no-bidding deal? And why limit the scope of the investigation of our relationship with a company – that wrote itself into our second Race To The Top application (see yesterday's post here)– to the last few months?
If these hearings are a purely political exercise on the part of Senate Democrats, then they will limit their questions to Christie’s governorship. If these hearings are meant to uncover general dysfunction at the DOE and specific problems with our RTTT application, then they will expand their questions to those who hired Wireless Generation in the first place.