Unauthorized log-ins to 15 congressional servers. $283,000 wired to individuals in Pakistan. A congresswoman’s laptop computer found abandoned in a phone booth. Federal agents arresting a man only moments away from getting on a plane to flee the United States. Sounds like a Tom Clancy spy novel but it’s business as usual for US Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Now, a plea deal has been reached with the congressional IT contractor at the center of this scandal, a Mr. Imran Awan. It appears that the Department of Justice has found no evidence of espionage, stolen U.S. secrets or spy intrigue. Wasserman Schultz and her backers are gloating as they exclaim that right-wing conspiracy theories have been debunked. However, the facts of this story make it clear that US taxpayers won’t be gloating but will soon be sickened when they learn of this latest instance of incompetence and corruption on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Awan became an IT contractor for a few congressional representatives starting in 2004 and was receiving a six figure salary. He proceeded to hire his family members to the IT staff including his wife and some relatives with little or no IT experience. His 20 year-old brother became the taxpayers’ burden with his $170,000 per year salary. The Awan family proceeded to access congressional servers of House members that did not employ them (some of these servers were accessed by the Awans 27 times per day). This is a clear violation of House rules.
Despite siphoning away so much taxpayer money, Mr. Awan seems to be lacking in financial management skills. He filed for bankruptcy in 2012 citing $1.1 million dollars in debt. While the DOJ did not find cause for charging Awan with treason, he is being charged as a fraudster. He purportedly committed bank fraud by lying on a personal loan application. He then wired the money to Pakistan. Being a Beltway veteran, Mr. Awan has cried that he is a poor victim picked merely because he has a Pakistani last name. Of course, this an overt sign that his attorney cannot come up with a plausible legal defense.
Much culpability lies with Debbie and her congressional colleagues. These are the leaders elected to manage the affairs of the country yet they don’t seem to be able to manage their own staffs. House rules require that contractors undergo a background check, yet Debbie and over 40 other Democratic House members used a loophole allowing the Awans to avoid background checks. Not heeding House ethics rules, Wasserman Schultz refused to answer any questions about this IT scandal. Her nonplussed tact with the public contrasts with Debbie’s vociferous threats to the Capitol Police saying they would suffer “consequences” if they did not immediately return the abandoned laptop computer to her. Over time, some congressional members realized the risk the Awan gang posed for them so they fired these IT contractors. The lone House member who kept Awan on the payroll was none other than Wasserman Schultz.
While the lack of controls and gross mismanagement could have resulted in classified information landing in the wrong hands, the DOJ believes that did not happen, but who really knows? If that didn’t happen, it’s simply a case of stealing taxpayer money over many years and compromising the information systems of the United States. Just another chapter in Debbie’s book of incompetence and corruption. As a constituent of the 23rd District and as an American, I have my anti-nausea medication close at hand for the next chapter.
by Steve Litton – Member of the County Executive Committee, Libertarian Party of Broward County