Wed – 2/6: Trump and the wall…what’s really in it for him?

Action – Call today and every day until Feb. 15th against his stupid wall.

There are so many ways over, under and around his physical wall idea, and so much proof that neither drugs nor terrorists would be stopped by it, that there has to be another reason why Trump keeps insisting on this solution. We think he smells the thing that gets him up in the morning, prepared to spend another day doing his “loser” job…

Minimal Script. I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Rep./Sen. [___] to know in the upcoming negotiations to fully fund the government for 2019, we want four essential things: no wall, no taking border funding from domestic or social safety net programs, no cuts or blocks to legal immigration, refugee or asylum programs, and no wasting our troop’s time by militarizing the border. And a full public accounting of the contractors that met with him regarding wall construction.

Contact
Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email. (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
and Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my representative?: hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com 

Background

Did anybody else notice that Trump met directly with contractors on Monday, Feb. 4th, to discuss building his vanity project?

There is no doubt that our president, despite his claims that he “lost massive amounts of money doing” his “loser” job, has found the presidency profitable. There’s the easy stuff like doubling membership fees at Mar-a-Lago. The #TaxScam was such a huge boon to him that he couldn’t help boasting “You all just got a lot richer” to his friends. The GOP-controlled Senate just re-introduced a bill to completely repeal the estate tax, something that will help his family. His DC hotel finally made a token “donation” to the government, which we are told represents the profit earned from foreign guests. It’s not surprising that there’s no oversight on the accounting or even any definition of “profit”. Neither are we shocked that he and his family turned his inauguration into a money-machine by providing hugely marked-up services for his own events, which is now being investigated by NY federal prosecutors, nor that $40 million dollars seems to have disappeared. Small change. He gets at least $175 million a year from Chinese tenants of his buildings.

When his taxes and account books are opened by prosecutors, we will find out just how profitable this “loser job” can be. (Here are interim lists of corruption under his watch.)

So back to this…

Trump is desperate to build his ridiculous, counterproductive wall for several reasons. Yes, vanity is one, and he’s got to keep his supporters who don’t care that it was just a memory gimmick happy enough to re-elect him to this trough. But he may have found another glimmer of gold in his “loser” job…

Trump met directly with contractors on Monday, Feb. 4th, to discuss building the wall. Somewhere, in some government office, red lights should be flashing…

Federal law requiresfull and open competition” for most government projects. The traditional bidding process requires that the government publicly announce its need for a specific product or service, whereupon, qualified companies submit sealed proposals. The government then chooses the lowest-cost, highest-quality bidder. Only if the project requires such a specialized product or service, that only one company can provide it, can the government create a no-bid contract, the most corrupt type of contracting process.

Since hundreds of contracting firms would be capable of building Trump’s vanity project, the government cannot claim a no-bid contract. So, this meeting with contractors who haven’t been awarded the contract for a wall yet…was this just a fact-finding mission (unlikely) or was it more?

Who were the contractors that met with him? How were they chosen? Were they the ones that built the prototypes? Were they given expectations that the meeting might count as a factor towards getting parts of the final wall bid?  The prototypes, which all had flaws (besides being crossable by ladder, tunnel or drone), were intended to be study models, and we haven’t found a public “Request for proposal” (RFP) for an exact wall design yet. These contractors he met with…were they or are they now donors to his campaign or to his inauguration? Do any of them stay at his hotels? Can we see their records, which material suppliers they work with and which subcontractors? Can we compare them to donor lists to Trump, or causes he likes? Are there tapes of their discussion open to the public?

Are we being too careful? No. Last year, the Texas Tribune and ProPublica published a joint report detailing the legal battle over a kickback scheme that grew out of construction process of the Bush-era version of the wall. The authors wrote that the whole debacle raised “additional questions about Homeland Security’s oversight” process.

“I would build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me — and I’ll build them very inexpensively,” -Trump (abcnews)

It’s easier than you think. As you can see from the great chart below, there are a lot of ways to get money from one person to another through a complicated building project, especially for someone who owns a number of private companies.

image.png

(Sohail, Mu & Cavill, Sue. (2008). Accountability to Prevent Corruption in Construction Projects. Journal of Construction Engineering and Management. 134. 10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9364(2008)134:9(729 Accountabilitytopreventcorruptioninconstructionprojects_revised_).

“Executive time” creativity: With that meeting, the corruption that is the wall may have already started. As this Salon article states: “Giving Trump a huge bucket of money and a bunch of government construction contracts to start handing out is basically a license for corruption. The only real question is how flagrant it would be: Will Mar-a-Lago dues double again, as construction companies seek private audiences to get contracts to build the wall? How blatant will the bribery get? Considering how indifferent congressional Republicans have been so far to Trump’s various other shady dealings, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine that Trump might see if he can hire himself — or some shell corporation under his control — to build his wall. Again, not a single shovel has to hit the ground for taxpayers to lose out on this. Construction is a business where a lot of money can wind up in people’s pockets, without a project ever being completed, or even getting off the drawing board.”

Here’s another hypothetical: Public works contracts and construction ranked highest for foreign bribery out of 19 industries on Transparency International’s Bribe Payer’s Index (2011). One of the big winners for supplying material, for foundations at the very least, could be a Cemex SAB, giant cement maker based in Mexico. Grupo Cementos de Chihuahua, which trades on the Mexican Stock Exchange, would also benefit from the wall’s construction. Even if Cemex doesn’t bid directly on projects, American companies that win construction contracts will probably source materials from the Mexican company, as well as Martin Marietta Materials and Vulcan Materials Co.

Our president, coincidentally, has wide-ranging business interests in Mexico and a score or two to settle.

People who own boats jokingly call them “a hole in the water into which you pour money.” We might be wise to consider a border wall constructed under Trump as a similar entity, a gaping hole in our treasury, from which our tax money will flow out into accounts our president might ultimately control. “Loser” job indeed. We can see why he might want a second term. In the meantime, stop the wall project.

 

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