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New Documents Show Former Rep. Ran Through Revolving Door

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The revolving door has long been a problem in Washington, DC. Members of Congress and other public servants can be working for the government one day and making the big bucks at the private businesses they previously regulated the very next.  

Former Representative Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) recently made news when her 2009 trip through the revolving door resulted in a Department of Energy Inspector General investigation into the almost half a million dollars paid to her company by four nuclear laboratories.

Shortly after leaving Congress, Wilson established consulting contracts with the four nuclear labs—Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Nevada National Security Site—generating over $450,000 for Heather Wilson and Company, LLC., between 2009 and 2011. But the Inspector General report found that there was little to no documentation of the services she actually provided. The vague nature of Wilson’s agreements with the labs led to serious questions about redundant work, prohibitions that may have been violated, and whether there were any deliverables.

Heather Wilson

Former New Mexico Representative Heather Wilson

The labs have since repaid $442,877of the taxpayer funds spent on Wilson’s alleged consulting services, but Wilson’s company, of which she is the only employee, has kept the nearly half a million dollars she received for doing who knows what.

Now, new documents obtained by Nuclear Watch New Mexico director Jay Coghlan and publicized by the Albuquerque Journal reveal that Wilson left Congress on January 3, 2009, and began working for Sandia National Laboratories for $10,000 a month the very next day.

Technically this is legal—the law states that Members of Congress may negotiate future employments once their successor has been elected. But just because these actions do not technically break the law doesn’t mean that they should be ethically acceptable.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, Wilson established her consulting business on December 8, 2008. Just eleven days later, Sandia National Laboratories, a nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico, sent Representative Wilson a proposed contract for a $10,000-per-month consulting position.

When Wilson left Congress on January 4, 2009, she filed a congressional disclosure form stating her new position as president of Heather Wilson and Co. LLC, but made no mention of her contract with Sandia. When the Journal asked her about this partial disclosure she told them that “congressional rules required her to list only her company—not Sandia—because the company was her employer. There is no requirement to list her employer’s clients, she said.”

Perhaps the worst part of Wilson’s far too chummy relationship with the nuclear labs is yet to come. In early 2013 she was appointed by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to be a member of an advisory panel on the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) governance of nuclear labs. The panel will make recommendations for future changes to improve performance at the NNSA. Wilson’s appointment is troubling since this agency has had such a long and disconcerting history with contractor mismanagement; the very last thing it needs is yet another contractor calling for less oversight and more money.

Coghlan told the Albuquerque Journal that, “Given the long string of chronic cost overruns and security infractions, diminished federal oversight and greater autonomy for privatized corporate nuclear weapons contractors is the wrong direction....Don’t expect Heather Wilson to help the American taxpayer correct that direction.”

Due to Wilson’s extremely questionable history with the nuclear labs, she should step down from her position on the NNSA advisory panel. Furthermore the Department of Energy Inspector General needs to make sure there is accountability in contracting. It is absolutely ludicrous to pay almost half a million taxpayer dollars to one woman who is not required to provide a single deliverable.

Image from the U.S. Congress.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is a research associate for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia handles whistleblower intake and works on nuclear safety and security at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Ethics, Contractor Accountability, Contractor Compensation, Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Revolving Door, Waste, Federal Advisory Committees

Authors: Lydia Dennett

Submitted by Nan at: November 10, 2013
There moral and ethical conflict of interests with people in congress. This was gained by being in that elected job in the first place. They were suppose to be working for the people who elected them. No country has ever figured out what to do with nuclear waste properly. That should be a moral and ethical concern for all countries and future generations. It is not a renewable source and could prove hazardous and even dangerous to our aquifers. We should be smarter than to keep mining for resource elements and try to capture our renewals. To be a world leader does not negate the danger that has been prevalent with the nuclear fuels waste problem. Shame on you Heather Wilson.
Submitted by BobM at: November 9, 2013
What a rip-off.
Submitted by Barbara at: November 9, 2013
Talk about hypocrisy! This is a good example of why we have the government we have.
Submitted by OMG at: November 9, 2013
How long has our Government been paying government Agencies to lobby our Government. OMG
Submitted by bitrat at: November 9, 2013
She only held out for half a mil? What a loser....if yer gonna sell out, the going rate in 2013 is 50 mil in a nice briefcase ;*p
Submitted by Miguel at: November 9, 2013
When are we going to stop the Heather Wilsons in our country? These types of actions by former elected officials are not only unethical, but outright unscrupulous. This  is  also known as " hidden corruption… "  
Submitted by devildog at: November 9, 2013
The frequency of dishonesty in business and/or government is hardly a justification for it. Arrangements like this may well amount to bribes for "services rendered" while in office and should not be acceptable to anyone. At the very least, contractors should be required to provide a contract showing specific goods or services they are being paid to provide.
Submitted by redknightz13 at: November 8, 2013
So what's new? Another government scumbag steeling taxpayer money. They all do it. Well most of them.
Submitted by Anonymous at: November 6, 2013
Jay Coghlan is an idiot! His agenda is to close the entire nuclear weapons complex and lead the US to a declared non-nuclear state. Fools like him are a national threat.
Submitted by Jim at: November 6, 2013
Elected officials should have to follow the same rules the military must follow with respect to ethics under the Joint Ethics Regulation.

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