What do you get when you mix Democratic fat-cat donations, Big Labor favors, pharmaceutical lobbying and Beltway business as usual? Answer: another toxic half-billion-dollar Barack Obama-approved crony deal. Move over, Solyndra. Here comes Siga-Gate.
This latest Chicago-style payoff on your dime involves a dubious smallpox drug backed by a liberal billionaire investor, along with a former union boss who was one of the White House's most frequent visitors. They're the "1 percent" with 100 percent immunity from the selectively outraged Occupier mobs that purport to oppose partisan government bailouts and handouts to privileged corporations.
Ronald Perelman is the New York City-based leveraged buyout wheeler-dealer who controls Siga Technologies. He has donated nearly $130,000 mostly to Democrats over the past two election cycles alone, and he forked over $50,000 to pay for the president's lavish inaugural parties. A Siga affiliate pitched in nearly half a million more in contributions -- 65 percent of which went to Democrats -- and the firms have spent millions on lobbying.
Perelman's pharma company makes an experimental antiviral pill used by smallpox patients who received diagnoses too late to be treated with the existing smallpox vaccine. Smallpox experts cast doubt on the need for the drug given ample vaccine stockpiles, the remoteness of a mass attack and questions about its efficacy. But over the objections of federal contract negotiators, competitors and scientists, the Obama administration approved a lucrative $433 million no-bid deal for Siga in May. No other manufacturers were able to compete for the "sole source" procurement, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The special arrangement was made after a competitor objected to the administration's violating small-business rules during a first call for bids. That's right: It's yet another rigged giveaway from a Hope-and-Change champion who vowed on the 2008 campaign trail to "end the abuse of no-bid contracts once and for all."
Intensifying the culture-of-corruption stench: the critical role of Andy Stern. He's the profligate, corruption-coddling former head of the powerful Service Employees International Union -- the 2.2 million-member public-employee union powerhouse that he left in April 2010 with a mountain of debt and eroding rank-and-file pensions.
After pouring some $60 million of workers' dues into Democratic coffers, Stern was rewarded by Obama with a cozy spot on the White House deficit panel and dozens of visits to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue -- including at least seven with the president, one with Vice President Joe Biden, and meetings with Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Biden Chief of Staff Ron Klain, OMB Director Peter Orszag, health czar aide Jennifer Cannistra and Valerie Jarrett's former high-powered aide and Chicago fundraiser Tina Tchen.
In a classic access-buying maneuver, Siga placed Stern on its board of directors in June 2010. Four months later, Siga nabbed an estimated $3 billion contract. By January of this year, Siga's stock had skyrocketed. The House GOP has been investigating the deal for months, which comes amid separate allegations of insider trading and political profiteering by investigative journalist Peter Schweizer.
Stern and Perelman have been scratching each other's backs for years. In the fall of 2006, the SEIU backed off organizing protests against AlliedBarton, a security guard firm in Philadelphia owned by a Perelman interest -- and then remained quiet when the firm was bought out by a longtime SEIU nemesis, the Blackstone Group.
According to the L.A. Times, which exposed the scandal over the weekend, Obama's top biodefense bureaucrat Nicole Lurie railroaded a key dissenter at the Department of Health and Human Services who ridiculed Siga's inflated projected profit margins. Lurie soothingly reassured a whiny Siga executive that the "most senior procurement official" would take over and mollified him in a letter: "I trust this will be satisfactory to you."
Lurie falsely told the newspaper that she had never made contact with the official regarding the contract and deemed any such contact improper. When caught with documentation, her department spun the communication with Siga as a "national security" matter. Lurie, it should be noted, is a former Clintonite and Howard Dean health care consultant who was most recently in the headlines for pushing anthrax vaccine testing for children. According to the Labor Union Report, there have been market murmurs of a merger between Siga and the anthrax vaccine manufacturer, PharmAthene. Hard to trust Lurie's public health moral authority with the taint of pay-for-play wafting over the Siga deal.
As always, venture socialism backed by Big Labor muscle and White House wealth redistribution is hazardous to taxpayers' health.
Michelle Malkin is the author of "Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies" (Regnery 2010). Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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