How much would you pay to have someone write a speech for you if you didn’t want your staff to do it? How about $5,500 -- or $16,500 for three?
Actually, you did pay for it, through your taxes.
That’s the amount of money the Small Business Administration, which has its own staff of public relations writers, paid the White House Writers Group Inc. in 2006 to write three speeches for then-SBA Administrator Steve Preston.
The White House Writers Group is a private firm led by former members of various Republican administrations.
“We had a period in the fall of 2006 when our previous speechwriter, a political appointee, left to go to another agency, and we were left without one for a time when Mr. Preston had several speeches to make, so they hired the [White House] Writer’s Group, until another political appointee who could write speeches joined the agency,” explains Michael Stamler, a spokesman for the SBA, in an e-mail to CVBT.
The deal was one of two documents pried out of the SBA by its nemesis, the American Small Business League of Petaluma.
The ASBL sued the SBA after the agency refused to turn over information on public relations contracts it gave to Apco Worldwide Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based international public relations firm specializing in crisis management.
ASBL says it thinks the SBA has spent American tax dollars to hire consultants to help obscure the SBA's role in diverting billions of dollars a month in federal small business contracts to Fortune 500 firms and other large businesses around the world.
Part of a $30,000 deal with Apco includes the one-day work of two “trainers” to coach SBA officials in how to deal with the media.
Another $7,500 paid for “message development” by Apco for the SBA, while the remainder went to a “strategy session” that lasted for a day.
The documents do not offer details of the content of the “message development” or the speeches, but at the time the SBA was under fire for how it was handling help to small businesses damaged or wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.
The ASBL has contended that the Small Business Administration is allowing some of the world’s largest companies to take federal contract money meant for small businesses. It says it believes that the SBA may have launched a campaign to cover-up the diversion of federal small business contracts to large businesses, and to discourage the media from covering the issue.
"We are going to continue to sue the SBA to force the release of information that shows they have encouraged and protected firms that have committed felony contracting fraud," says ASBL President Lloyd Chapman. "The proposal to combine the SBA with the Commerce Department is just the latest attempt by the government to cover up billions of dollars in abuse, while trying to further dismantle federal small business contracting programs."