President Joe Biden’s mishandling of the massive migrant surge at America’s southern border has drawn harsh criticism from both sides of the aisle in recent weeks, and now a new controversy related to the escalating crisis has attracted the attention of a prominent GOP lawmaker who wants answers.
According to the Washington Examiner, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has initiated a probe of the Biden administration’s decision to award two no-bid, high-dollar contracts to a Texas nonprofit with known ties to key federal officials.
Pursuant to his role as the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Johnson sent a letter Wednesday demanding that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide internal documentation regarding the contracts – worth over $600 million – within two weeks.
As Axios previously reported, the firm in question, Family Endeavors, received the contracts soon after naming Andrew Lorenzen-Strait as its senior director for migrant services and federal affairs. This is significant because Lorenzen-Strait is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) official who served on the Biden-Harris transition team on matters impacting Department of Homeland Security staffing and policy issues.
One of the contracts – on which no other companies were permitted to submit proposals – is a $530 million deal to provide housing services to unaccompanied minors who have made their way across the border. The second award, which was granted last month, is an $87 million deal to assume responsibility for a program in which more than 1,200 hotel beds will be used to shelter migrant families in Texas and Arizona into the fall, as the Examiner noted.
The outlet quoted Carol Thompson, a partner with D.C.-based Federal Practice Group law firm, to explain that awards are not permitted to be made in the absence of formal bidding except in emergency scenarios such as natural disaster relief, and thus far, HHS has not provided the rationale used as justification for doing so in this instance.
While Family Endeavors has contracted with other federal agencies in the past, those deals typically never exceeded $1 million in value. Furthermore, according to tax information obtained by the Examiner, the company brought in only $43 million in 2018, raising questions about its capacity to now handle a project nearly 12 times that size.
In light of those facts, Sen. Johnson has asked for the production of “materials that support the claim that unusual and compelling urgency” prompted the contract award and the reasoning why bids were not solicited on the project. The senator’s letter further stated that the approval documentation for the massive contract stated that Family Endeavors is the only known source “presently capable of meeting the Government’s urgent requirement[s] on this matter,” and he requested additional details on how this determination was made.
Though there are innumerable aspects of Biden’s response to the migrant influx that demand prompt investigation, the idea that former administration insiders now appear poised to profit from the unchecked chaos at the border is particularly egregious, and Sen. Johnson is right to demand accountability.