There’s a tourist train line running through the Napa Valley (California’s wine growing country).
[The] Wine Train [is] a private rail line established by the late Vincent DeDomenico, the wealthy creator of Rice-A-Roni pasta. Sixteen times each week, according to the Wine Train’s Web site, the train transports tourists from Napa to St. Helena aboard restored dining cars. A champagne dinner on the Vista Dome car costs $129 per person. About 125,000 people ride the Wine Train each year.
$54 million in stimulus funds were allocated to relocating the tracks and redoing the bridge. The work was awarded in a no-bid contract to Suluutaaq, Inc. of Anchorage, Alaska. “Because the company was founded by Alaska Natives, it enjoys special access to federal contracts.”
The “company” (which appears to be basically a Caucasian CEO and a handful of staff, few of them “Alaska Native”) then subcontracted an actual (reputable) construction company (Peter Kiewit & Sons, also a contractor on the Bay Bridge) to do the actual work.
According to Federal records, Suulutaaq is paying Kiewit $28.1 million – 53 percent of the total stimulus contract. Other subcontractors, all from the lower 48 states, get another $4.7 million. Profit to Suluutaaq for doing essentially no work? About $20.4 million. Ka-ching!
And note not all the rogues in this rogues’ gallery are Democrats:
Suulutaaq is one of dozens of Alaska Native corporations that have emerged as players in federal contracting via measures crafted in the 1980s and 1990s by former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a powerful lawmaker whose career ended with a contracting scandal.
For decades, the U.S. Small Business Administration has run a preferential contracting program to aid disadvantaged businesses. Qualifying firms can get federal contracts worth up to $5.5 million by negotiation, rather than competitive bidding.
The Stevens measures gave corporations that were set up by Alaska Natives special access – with no cap on the size of contracts they can obtain.
Zombie sums up:
So, basically, a white wheeler-dealer got himself appointed CEO of a shell company that’s legally classified as an “Alaska Native corporation,” then, using this unique privileged status, finagled a no-bid contract to get $54 million in taxpayer funds for a construction job — and then used a small portion of that money to hire subcontractors to do the actual work, while pocketing the rest as pure profit.
Nice, eh? And guess what: You’re the sucker in this swindle.
One has the suspicion that the entire “Stimulus” is nothing but countless Wine Train-style deals bundled together and given an uplifting name to disguise that fact that it’s little more than a thousand unnecessary crooked backroom scams with essentially no oversight.
UPDATE: Fenway Nation has more.
UPDATE 2: from Zombie’s comments, #25: “Reminds me of a low income housing project going up here in Houston. According to one of their legal postings, the total budget divided by the number of units comes out to $550,000 per unit. And they will be build out of fiberboard…”