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Steney Hoyer likes to show the disregard he has for the voters of the United States:

On Tuesday he laughed at the suggestion that he read things before he voted on them. “If every member pledged to not vote for it if they hadn’t read it in its entirety, I think we would have very few votes,”In fact, Hoyer found the idea of the pledge humorous, laughing as he responded to the question. “I’m laughing because a) I don’t know how long this bill is going to be, but it’s going to be a very long bill,” he said.

Hoyer must have read part of the porkulus bill, however because it seems that $18,000,000 worth of your stimulus funds are being given to a Hoyer supporter, to redesign Recovery.gov, the website about porkulus. At the very least, that price tag is about 10x what it should cost to redesign and maintain the website:

Many unanswered questions about Hoyer, $18 million Recovery.gov redesign award
By: Mark Tapscott


One of the great things about journalism is that you never know where a story is going to lead. So it was earlier this week when I saw a notice that the federal government had awarded an $18 million, multi-year contract to redesign the Recovery.gov web site to Smartronix, an obscure Maryland firm.

Recovery.gov is the federal government’s web site that is supposed to provide up-to-date data on how funds are being spent under the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that was approved by Congress in February. The site has been criticized by folks across the political spectrum for being full of praise for the Obama administration but lacking in timely data on recovery spending.

A private sector site, Recovery.org, has been praised as providing far more and more timely info at far less cost. That site is maintained by Onvia, a Seattle-based firm that tracks federal spending.

The amount struck me as excessive, even for a government web site, the multi-year duration also seemed a bit odd, and a quick scan of the Smartronix web site disclosed that it was a defense firm that had received more than $260 million in federal contracts, but with no obvious claims to special experience or skills for web site design. So I queried my colleagues on the Examiner’s commentary staff.

Within five minutes, David Freddoso emailed back the news that several Smartonix executives had made $19,000 in contributions to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer since 1999, and that it appeared those were their only contributions. I was quite surprised, having been an admirer of Hoyer since my years at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) during the Reagan administration.

Hoyer is a Maryland Democrat who represents a district that includes many federal installations and thousands of active and retired federal career civil servants. So he was among the House Democrats with whom OPM most frequently dealt. Hoyer is a 70s generation liberal, an exremely adept politician whose career has been free of taint. We had even editorialized shortly after the 2006 election that Hoyer, who is known for being a master legislative operator, would make a far better House Speaker than Nancy Pelosi.

But, the FEC records were clear, so we had to start asking questions. And we got predictable answers. A spokesman for Recovery.gov told David that Smartronix was one of only three bidders and that the contract required design of a sophisticated web site with many advances over the existing site. And Stephanie Lundberg, Hoyer’s spokesman as House Majority Leader said the Hoyer office didn’t know about the contract award until the evening of the day it was first reported.

So we put up apost with a headline that included a reference to the “Hoyer-linked firm.” That’s when Lundberg went off, thus beginning a very interesting conversation about whether the headline was accurate. In a series of emails and telephone conversations, Lundberg insisted that Hoyer didn’t know about the award until it was announced and therefore the headline reference was inaccurate.

She was further enraged when a number of bloggers and cable news outlets picked up the story and began asking questions. I rejected her demand that we change the headline to remove any Hoyer reference, but assured her that we would give her concerns a full description, as we did.

But then Lundberg said something that really sparked my curiousity, namely that Smartronix was “just a small company in our district, in St. Mary’s County, they have no political involvement, they were just supporting their hometown congressman.” And she asserted that “these guys are not big players trying to “buy” influence anywhere they can. They support Congressman Hoyer for the reasons many people support their local Congressperson – because they believe he does a good job representing the district or they share his views on issues. There is nothing wrong or bad about them contributing to Congressman Hoyer.”

When I then asked Lundberg if her assessment was conjectural on her part or based on direct knowledge, she refused to answer, saying instead: “Is your assessment of there being anything more than a coincidental link between the contract and the contributions based on direct knowledge or conjecture?”

She quickly sent a second email response, adding: “Furthermore, we DO have direct knowledge that they did not support him because of this contract. So if that is your test, your story should be taken down.”
To which I responded, asking: “When did you talk to the three Smartronix execs about the reasons for their substantial contributions? Did they initiate that conversation or did you? Where did it take place, in your congressional office or outside? When did it take place? Was Mr. Hoyer aware of it before, during or after? Was he present at the discussion?”

No response.

Those are extremely relevant questions since Lundberg’s statement makes clear that there is indeed a relationship between Hoyer and Smartronix. The nature of that relationship is of interest because there is no FEC record of political donations by the Smartronix executives to any other federal office holder, the $18 million award and the RFP that produced it are raising multiple eyebrows among knowledgeable web designers, Smartronix refuses to discuss the controversy and Lundberg refuses to clarify the nature of the relationship between her boss and Smartronix.

Stay tuned.

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