Thursday, July 12, 2012

Obama spending $30M on struggling schools - in Arab kingdom

Bipartisan donor gets latest contract for facilities, computers, furniture

The Obama administration’s solution to public school budget cuts and classroom overcrowding? Infuse millions of extra federal dollars into constructing modern facilities and renovating old ones, while deploying additional computer equipment – and new furniture – in schools nationwide

Nationwide, that is, in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

A generous multinational political donor – one that straddles the partisan fence, showering both parties with millions – secured the contract for the latest phase of the project.

MWH Americas, Inc., on Sunday, July 8 received the $30 million award, Number AID-278-C-12-00002, from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is overseeing multiple endeavors benefiting the Government of Jordan, particularly the Jordanian Ministry of Education, or MOE.

Though the company’s entry into the initiative is recent, this particular U.S. effort in modernizing the Jordanian school system had begun under President George W. Bush. The administration had scheduled the attainment of some program objectives beyond Bush’s second term in office.

The White House under Barack Obama, however, has stepped up the program, offering greater financial resources to the Middle Eastern nation in order to bring those plans to fruition. USAID continues those prior engineering and design efforts, linking them to the latest planning, construction and technological/material support initiatives.

MWH has combined its political and financial influence through a political action committee jointly operated with corporate affiliate mCapitol Management, whose president, Gary J. LaPaille, once was Illinois Democratic Party chairman and vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

LaPaille has publicly acknowledged that the Obama-Illinois connection has benefited his firm, a consequence, according to The Hill newspaper, of Obama’s “aggressive legislative agenda.”

“It doesn’t hurt to be someone who is from Chicago or Illinois,” LaPaille in 2009 was quoted telling The Hill. “I don’t market it like that, but there aren’t that many of us out there.”

The mCapitol Management/MWH Americas PAC over the past 15 years has bestowed direct financial support upon Republicans and Democrats alike. Similarly, the PAC’s donations to other committees have helped fill the coffers of groups and individuals spanning the liberal-conservative spectrum.

For example, the mCapitol/MWH PAC gave $110,250 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee between 1997 and 2011, according to Federal Election Commission records. On a similar scale, the PAC donated $51,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $49,000 to DNC Services Corporation/Democratic National Committee around that same period.

Just two donations to then-Sen. Obama, D-Ill., are on record, a pair of $5,000 checks in 2004 cut to the future president on May 19 and Sept. 20, respectively. However, the Obama Senate campaign on Oct. 11 of that year returned one of those checks to the mCapitol/MWH PAC for reasons unstated in the FEC filing.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has received nearly as much as its Democratic counterpart committee from the PAC, but in less time, gaining $110,000 from 2004-2011. The National Republican Congressional Committee likewise got $110,000.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., got $20,000 from 1998-2011. House Speaker John Boehner received a little more than half that amount – $11,000 – in about half the time (2006-2011).

In the most recent quarter of the 2010-2011 election cycle, the PAC’s bipartisan beneficence was equally reflected.

For instance, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., – whom the National Organization for Women once unsuccessfully endorsed to become Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services – received $2,500 from mCapitol/MWH.

The campaign contribution came in along a flurry of other donations from multiple sources to Stabenow, whose counterattack of former Michigan Republican Rep. Pete Hoekstra reportedly led to record-breaking fundraising numbers for the incumbent senator.

Hoekstra had come under fire from liberal groups for airing a Super Bowl ad featuring an Asian actress with a fake but mild accent, who thanked Debbie “Spend-It-Now” for contributing to the flight of jobs and capital to China.

Conservative Filipino-American columnist Michelle Malkin described that reaction as the “latest overwrought tempest” in a political-correctness teapot. “Is the ad less than tasteful? Yes,” Malkin wrote on her blog. “Is it ‘xenophobic’ to point out that China is benefiting ginormously [sic] from our fiscal recklessness, indebtedness, and outsourcing of jobs? Certainly not.”

The PAC that same quarter gave $10,000 to the Democratic Governors Association, then turned around and gave $15,000 to the Republican National Committee.

Transfers from mCapitol/MWH to others PACs – and the subsequent financial support those secondary sources provided – again straddled the partisan fence.

MWH, for example, directly gave Hillary Clinton $21,000 in contributions prior to her becoming Secretary of State, while both before and after that appointment MWH gave $26,000 to the Searchlight Leadership Fund (2004-2011).

Searchlight, in turn, also gave Clinton a total of $21,000 between her 1998 senatorial campaign and her 2008 bid for the presidential nomination. Searchlight also separately doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in total donations to numerous other liberal icons including Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., – the House’s first openly lesbian representative – and Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the House socialist.

Conversely, the mCapitol/MWH PAC donated $15,000 to the Republican Mainstreet Partnership PAC (2006-2012), which in turn gave $28,500 to the Republican National Committee (2009-2011).

MWH now will carry out the Jordan School Construction and Rehabilitation Program II. Under JSP II, the company will provide additional engineering and design functions as well as construction services.

The Jordan MOE consequently will gain 25 new schools while having 100 other educational facilities improved.

In addition to satisfying the U.S. policy objective of reducing overcrowding in Jordanian schools, MWH likewise will factor into its design plans modern environmental standards.

Those “green” issues include those involving appropriate acoustic standards, optimal light conditions, climate features such as ventilation and solar radiation, and even color – from both an environmental/psychological and maintenance point of view, according to Request for Proposals in JSP II.

JSP I will provide technology and furniture to Jordan. MWH is not involved in that procurement.

JSP I also will prove to be a classroom electronics boon for the Jordanians. According to a revised RFP, this project segment entails: 842 student computers, 355 teacher computers, 140 student laptops, 539 teacher laptops, 131 interactive white boards with projectors, and 252 microscopes – not to mention dozens of stoves, refrigerators, hot plates and cleaning machines.

Recipient schools that the agency identified are:
  • Saed Bin Abi Wakas Basic Boys School
  • Hay Aj-Janobi Basic Boys School
  • Madaba Basic Co. School,
  • Jabal Tareq Basic Boys School
  • Ezz Ad-Dien Qassam Basic Co. School
  • Um Qsir Basic Boys School
  • Sahab Basic Boys School
  • Shajarat Ad Dur Basic Co. School
  • Abdel Muneam Reyadh Basic Boys School
  • Dahiet Ameer Hassan Basic Co. School
  • Al Qadesiah Sec. Girls School
  • Al Qadesiah Sec. Co. School
  • Safeiah Basic Co. School.
USAID has not disclosed the estimated value of JSP I.

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