DOE

IG sheds more light on lobbying for Sandia contract

The Department of Energy's watchdog has fleshed out more details on its investigation into intense lobbying for the contract to operate Sandia National Laboratories.

Yesterday, the department's inspector general released a revised special inquiry report with fewer redactions in response to an appeal under the Freedom of Information Act. The new document is still heavy with white out but does show more of who was helping Sandia as well as who they were trying to influence on Capitol Hill and the Obama administration.

Sandia Corp. -- a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the DOE contractor running the New Mexico-based labs -- used three of its consultants beginning in 2009 to provide advice and guidance in developing its contract renewal strategy.

With its latest contract extension set to expire in 2012, the company wanted the department to re-up the agreement without competition. Sandia's contract, estimated to be worth $2.4 billion a year, was last extended in March 2014 for another two years, when DOE plans to open it up for competitive bids.

The document released yesterday sheds new light on the contractor's advocacy effort for renewing its agreement.

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The IG's revised report identifies a new member of Sandia's trio of consultants: Everet Beckner, a former deputy administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and onetime Lockheed Martin executive. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) was already identified in the previous report, which was released in July this year (Greenwire, July 6). The third consultant, a former NNSA site office official, remains unnamed by the IG.

Beckner's consulting agreement with Sandia had a ceiling price of $25,000, the lowest of the three advisers, according to the DOE watchdog.

His work for Sandia involved "(solely) using historical knowledge to assist with [management and operating] contract renewal strategies," according to his contract's statement of work. Beckner told the IG that he only remembered having two meetings with Sandia personnel and his job was to guide them on NNSA priorities if the contract came up for competition again.

"I was involved in a very minor role when Sandia organized a small group to come up with some ideas for the upcoming rebid for the contract," Becker told Greenwire.

"I was not doing anything else other than helping strategize on what was good and what was bad about Sandia's performance and how it could be perceived from the outside."

Further, the former deputy NNSA chief emphasized that he wasn't involved in any lobbying scheme for Sandia.

"I had absolutely nothing to do with lobbying Washington," Beckner said.

'Did I tell you that I met with both Bingaman and Heinrich on this issue?'

The IG's revised report also provides new details on whom the contractor was trying to win over as it sought a new agreement.

Wilson provided several suggestions to Sandia to help with renewing its contract -- much of it centered on trying to influence then-Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

"Meet with Pete Domenici [former U.S. senator from New Mexico] to seek his advice on strategy and request his help in getting Bennett ... and [Jeff] Bingaman [former U.S. senator from New Mexico] and their colleagues to be assertive with the Department" was one of the former congresswoman's recommendations, according to the IG. "Bennett" refers to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

In addition, Wilson suggested meeting with Bill Richardson, then the governor of New Mexico, "and get him to call Chu or Rahm Emanuel [former White House chief of staff] and assert the State's desire to keep the Lockheed Martin/Sandia Team in place and extend the contract."

Wilson also said that Beckner and Linton Brooks, a former NNSA administrator, should be contacted for advice regarding influencing the nuclear agency.

Congress, especially New Mexico's lawmakers, were also a target of Sandia's lobbying.

"Did I tell you that I met with both Bingaman and Heinrich on this issue?" read one Sandia email in January 2011 dug up by the IG. "Heinrich" refers to Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who was then a member of the House.

The issue in question was articulated in a Sandia point paper that said, "We do not believe that the best strategy for the Department is to compete the Sandia contract in 2012," according to the IG.

In 2009, Wilson also asked whether then-Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) "thought highly" of Lockheed Martin's management of the Sandia labs "and whether Senator Bingaman would weigh in and make a call to the then Secretary Chu," according to the IG's report.

Officials with Sandia also tried to win over Thomas D'Agostino, then the NNSA administrator, beginning in 2009.

One person's notes on the NNSA chief said he "had easy access to Secretary Chu and Mr. Dan Poneman in the Department front office and Mr. D'Agostino has no problem interfacing with Congress and committees on the matter of a Sandia contract extension," according to the IG report.

Poneman was then DOE's deputy secretary.

The contractor's lobbying campaign ultimately landed it in hot water with federal authorities.

In August, the Department of Justice announced that Sandia agreed to pay nearly $4.8 million to resolve the charges that it used federal money to lobby the government to extend the labs' contract (Greenwire, Aug. 24).

Reporter Hannah Northey contributed.

Twitter: @KevinBogardusEmail: kbogardus@eenews.net

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