Constitution Warrior

Furthering the Cause of Anti-Federalism

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Term Limits: Senate – George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

George Mason, Virginia Ratifying Convention

16 June 1788Papers 3: 1079

The senators are chosen for six years. They are not recallable for those six years, and are re-eligible at the end of the six years. It stands on a very different ground from the confederation. By that system they were only elected for one year, might be recalled, and were incapable of reelection. But in the new constitution, instead of being elected for one, they are chosen for six years. They cannot be recalled in all that time for any misconduct, and at the end of that long term may again be elected. What will be the operation of this? Is it not probable, that those gentlemen who will be elected senators will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of our state? They will purchase a good seat in or near the town, and become inhabitants of that place. Will it not be then in the power of the senate to worry the house of representatives into any thing? They will be a continually existing body. They will exercise those machinations and contrivances, which the many have always to fear from the few. The house of representatives is the only check on the senate, with their enormous powers. But by that clause you give them the power of worrying the house of representatives into a compliance with any measure. The senators living at the spot will feel no inconvenience from long sessions, as they will vote themselves handsome pay, without incurring any additional expences. Your representatives are on a different ground, from their shorter continuance in office. The gentlemen from Georgia are six or seven hundred miles from home, and wish to go home. The senate taking advantage of this, by stopping the other house from adjourning, may worry them into any thing. These are my doubts, and I think the provision not consistent with the usual parliamentary modes.

The Papers of George Mason, 1725–1792. Edited by Robert A. Rutland. 3 vols. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1970.


Elbridge Gerry Writes To Massachusetts General Court Explaining Why He Did Not Sign Constitution

Elbridge Gerry

Elbridge Gerry to President of Senate and Speaker of House of Representatives of Massachusetts (October 18, 1787)

New York, Oct. 18, 1787.

Gentlemen : I have the honor to enclose, pursuant to my commission, the Constitution proposed by the Federal Convention.

To this system I gave my dissent, and shall submit my objections to the honorable legislature.

It was painful for me, on a subject of such national importance, to differ from the respectable members who signed the Constitution; but conceiving, as I did, that the liberties of America were not secured by the system, it was my duty to oppose it.

My principal objections to the plan are, that there is no adequate provision for a representation of the people; that they have no security for the right of election; that some of the powers of the legislature are ambiguous, and others indefinite and dangerous; that the executive is blended with, and will have an undue influence over, the legislature; that the judicial department will be oppressive; that treaties of the highest importance may be formed by the President, with the advice of two thirds of a quorum of the Senate; and that the system is without the security of a bill of rights . These are objections which are not local, but apply equally to all the states.

As the Convention was called for “the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, and reporting to Congress, and the several legislatures, such alterations and provisions as shall render the Federal Constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union,” I did not conceive that these powers extend to the formation of the plan proposed; but the Convention being of a different opinion, I acquiesced in it, being fully convinced that, to preserve the Union, an efficient government was indispensably necessary, and that it would be difficult to make proper amendments to the Articles of Confederation.

The Constitution proposed has few, if any, federal features, but is rather a system of national government. Nevertheless, in many respects, I think it has great merit, and, by proper amendments, may be adapted to the “exigencies of government, and preservation of liberty.”

The question on this plan involves others of the highest importance: 1. Whether there shall be a dissolution of the federal government; 2. Whether the several state governments shall be so altered as in effect to be dissolved; 3. Whether, in lieu of the federal and state governments, the national Constitution now proposed shall be substituted without amendment. Never, perhaps, were a people called on to decide a question of greater magnitude. Should the citizens of America adopt the plan as it now stands, their liberties may be lost; or should they reject it altogether, anarchy may ensue. It is evident, therefore, that they should not be precipitate in their decisions; that the subject should be well understood;–lest they should refuse to support the government after having hastily accepted it.

If those who are in favor of the Constitution, as well as those who are against it, should preserve moderation, their discussions may afford much information, and finally direct to a happy issue.

It may be urged by some, that an implicit confidence should be placed in the Convention; but, however respectable the members may be who signed the Constitution, it must be admitted that a free people are the proper guardians of their rights and liberties; that the greatest men may err, and that their errors are sometimes of the greatest magnitude.

Others may suppose that the Constitution may be safely adopted, because therein provision is made to amend it. But cannot this object be better attained before a ratification than after it? And should a free people adopt a form of government under conviction that it wants amendment?

And some may conceive that, if the plan is not accepted by the people, they will not unite in another. But surely, while they have the power to amend, they are not under the necessity of rejecting it.

I have been detained here longer than I expected, but shall leave this place in a day or two for Massachusetts, and on my arrival shall submit the reasons (if required by the legislature) on which my objections are grounded.

I shall only add that, as the welfare of the Union requires a better Constitution than the Confederation, I shall think it my duty, as a citizen of Massachusetts, to support that which shall be finally adopted, sincerely hoping it will secure the liberty and happiness of America.

I have the honor to be, gentlemen, with the highest respect for the honorable legislature and yourselves, your most obedient and very humble servant,


To the Hon . Samuel Adams , Esq., President of the Senate, and the Hon . James Warren , Esq., Speaker of the House of Representatives, of Massachusetts.

CGI: Not Their First Government Contract

I saw a post yesterday about Valerie Jarrett’s daughter Laura and her husband, Tony Balkissoon, working for CGI.  Neither works for CGI (Laura Jarrett works for Mayer Brown Law Firm and Tony Balkissoon works for Sidley Austin LLP Law Firm in Chicago). But in looking into it, I found some very interesting information about CGI.

The website and the Exchanges are not CGI’s first contracts with the US Government.  They have been involved with HUD since 1999.  CGI holds many contracts with HUD.   Check out this article By Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post.

“CGI Federal landed the contract. Here’s how it fights for the ones it loses.”

CGI Federal, arguably the key contractor behind the construction of HealthCare.Gov, has come under a fair amount of scrutiny over the past few weeks for its federal health-care practice. But that’s far from its only contract.

HUD: Just another source of CGI's contracts. (Lydia DePillis)

HUD: Just another source of CGI’s contracts. (Lydia DePillis)

Consider Section 8 rental subsidies. For CGI, the business of handling the low-income housing program started back in 1999, when the Department of Housing and Urban Development — under pressure to downsize its in-house operations — started outsourcing the job to public housing authorities around the country. The housing authorities would subcontract with IT providers like CGI Federal, which mopped upmore than 25 percent of the $200-300 million or so in fees that came from HUD every year. CGI, the biggest of all the subcontractors, provides the infrastructure and support to route housing subsidies to landlords and monitor for compliance with HUD rules.

The relationship between contractor and subcontractor is very close. At the Assisted Housing Services Corporation of Ohio, California Affordable Housing Initiatives, andNorth Tampa Housing Development Corporation, many staff actually list themselves on LinkedIn as CGI employees. The Ohio group’s state director, for example, identifies himself as a “Manager of Consulting Services in CGI Federal’s Healthcare Compliance Group, focused on business process outsourcing for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” The California group‘s state director calls himself the same thing, adding that he has “quickly adapted staffing strategies to changing industry conditions in order to maintain and improve competitive position,” and has experience “analyzing and interpreting Federal policy and managing the impacts on operations.” The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority executive named as the Ohio group’s contract administrator was a CGI director of consulting services until 2011.

So while the “instrumentality” set up by the housing authority is a separate legal actor, it effectively functions as a joint venture with CGI.

“What CGI and a number of other firms have done is they’ve gone in to work with these local housing authorities and said, ‘you’re eligible for this contract, we can provide you with a lot of help in administering these contracts, and share the fees with you,'” says Garth Rieman, director of advocacy at the National Council of State Housing Agencies, which is now competing with the local housing authorities for the Section 8 contracts. “So it’s a moneymaking venture for the local housing authority, to partner with these entities to win the contracts.”

In 2007 and 2009, however, HUD’s inspector general found that contract administrators had been allowed to overbill the program by tens of millions of dollars. In 2011, HUD decided to rebid the contracts, setting a lower standard for the profit margin that recipients would be allowed to take and a cap on the number of units any one contractor could administer. When the new contracts were awarded — with a savings of about  $100 million, or one third. over the previous set, — many of CGI’s partners lost out.

Instead of letting the awards stand, the losers complained en masse to the Government Accountability Office, prompting HUD to back off those awards and offer another solicitation. This time around, HUD got rid of the cap on the number of units a subcontractor could administer, but precluded out-of-state entities from landing a Section 8 contracts if there was a qualified local bidder, which cut into CGI’s business model — some of the entities they worked with offered services to housing authorities all around the region, and wanted to compete for contracts even further afield. The GAOruled that the new process was a no-no.

HUD decided to ignore the GAO. So the housing authority-affiliated entities appealed again, this time to the Federal Court of Claims — the three that contract with CGI filed a joint complaint, saying HUD’s award process was anticompetitive. In April, HUD won. But the companies kicked it up yet another notch, to the Federal Court of Appeals, where arguments were held last week. Until the litigation is resolved, HUD can’t execute any of the new awards.

Meanwhile, the Ohio entity asked its state’s Congressional delegation — where CGI does lots of business — to include an amendment in this year’s ill-fated Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development appropriations bill that would have forced HUD to keep the contracts available to out-of-state entities, which CGI wanted. (The legislators asked HUD nicely to do so earlier in 2012, to no avail).

Public records indicate that during this time, every quarter from 2010 through 2012, CGI Group itself was lobbying on “HUD housing management contracts.”

Finally, there’s also a whistleblower lawsuit from a former CGI employee — who’d been recruited from HUD after overseeing the very Section 8 contracts CGI won — alleging that he was fired after refusing to go along with fraudulent plans to work around the bidding process. CGI denies the accusations, but has so far failed to get the case thrown out.

Those are the lengths to which a company — in this case, partnering with a local non-profit entity that it needs to land the contract — will go to preserve government work. In private enterprise, of course, a losing bidder usually just figures they’ve lost, and moves on. In federal contracting, with enough lawyers, it’s possible to improve your chances of getting that business back.

“It is not unusual for a contractor to protest and to pursue all avenues, including the courts, to seek remedy when they feel like the government hasn’t followed its own rules,” says Neil Couture, director of Government Procurement Law and Business Programs at George Washington School of Business. “Especially in a strategically important area, with large dollars, or new technology.”

In response to questions about the current status of CGI’s partnerships with housing authorities, CGI spokeswoman Linda Odorisio said: “CGI’s systems and consulting services have been recognized by federal, state and local agencies as a key tool in helping public housing agencies operate more efficiently and effectively.”

Technically, it’s possible for CGI to also work with the statewide housing agencies that would be advantaged if HUD wins at the Court of Appeals, and hang on to the business it’s so carefully developed. But according to Rieman, whose organization represents those agencies, CGI has preferred to work with local entities — who may see the contract more as a business proposition than a way to serve residents.

“Does the system make sure that the entity administering the program has a full enough public purpose and affordable housing mission to ensure that the services are being done with that intent, and not just a narrower profit making enterprise with a private sector firm?” Rieman asks. “Our view is they are taking all steps necessary to preserve their opportunity to participate in this program in the way that they want to.”

Which doesn’t mean CGI is doing anything illegal. It’s just the cost of getting — and keeping — business.

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