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White House breaches no-bid contracts vow
Exception made for Biden aide after Obama’s promise
Weeks before taking office, President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. pledged to end abuse of no-bid contracting and require competitive bidding on nearly all contract orders for more than $25,000 across the federal government.
But the White House has made at least one exception.
Since last year, the White House signed off on two $48,000 no-bid contract orders for Jeff Nussbaum, who was a speechwriting aide to Mr. Biden during the 2008 presidential general election, federal procurement records show. He also received a third contract for $4,000.
So far, the public relations contract has a value of $100,000.
Mr. Nussbaum hasn’t been paid all of the money at once. A Biden spokesman said that the contract pays $4,000 per month to Mr. Nussbaum, who is expected to continue writing speeches for Mr. Biden until next year under a contract modification approved in March.
The contract for Mr. Nussbaum was first approved last year for $48,000, and it was extended again for the same amount this year. Mr. Nussbaum also received an additional $4,000 for what Mr. Biden’s office called a busy month that involved a lot of extra work.
Mr. Nussbaum, who previously wrote speeches for former Vice President Al Gore, among other prominent Democrats, is a principal at the Washington speechwriting firm West Wing Writers. He did not return phone messages this week.
Biden spokesman Jay Carney said Mr. Nussbaum’s hiring is permitted under the sole-source provision of federal contracting rules. He said Mr. Nussbaum is able to “provide unique services where no other person can fulfill the contract requirements.”
He also said Mr. Biden gives a lot of speeches and, with only one-full time speechwriter on staff for Mr. Biden, there was a need for extra help. Mr. Nussbaum didn’t want to join the staff as a full-time hire, he said.
According to procurement records, the Bush White House in 2007 approved a $25,000 sole-source speechwriting contract for Matthew Scully, who had previously worked as a special assistant and deputy director of presidential speechwriting in the Bush White House.
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