- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A limousine company linked to a congressional bribery scandal has sued the Department of Homeland Security, saying the agency caved to political pressure by trying to shut the company out of contracts.In a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Shirlington Limousine of Arlington says homeland security officials sought bids on a transportation contract last fall in a manner designed to keep the firm from competing to “relieve some of the political pressure” from members of Congress.Homeland Security spokes-man Larry Orluskie declined comment on the lawsuit but said the agency’s contracting decisions have nothing to do with one company.”Bottom line is this is about getting the best deal for the American taxpayer, it’s about economy of scale,” Mr. Orluskie said.Shirlington’s lawsuit was reported yesterday by the Hill newspaper.The litigation comes after Shirlington surfaced as a minor player last year in the scandal that sent former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, California Republican, to prison for taking more than $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.Company president Christopher Baker appeared before a grand jury as investigators sought to determine whether a contractor had provided Cunningham with prostitutes and limos. Neither the company nor Mr. Baker were named in indictments in the case, and prosecutors didn’t raise accusations of prostitution in the D.C. area.The company name was included in several angry congressional hearings last summer about why it was able to get contracts with homeland security despite a history of problems including poor service on other contracts and Mr. Baker’s criminal record.Lawmakers discovered that Cunningham had written a letter to the Department of Homeland Security recommending Shirlington for contracts, though the agency said it misplaced the letter and asserted Cunningham’s intervention had nothing to do with two contracts that Shirlington received that totaled roughly $25 million.At about the time of the hearings, the agency decided to redo its transportation contracts. The request for proposals issued in November didn’t include ones “set aside” for small businesses, which Shirlington had pursued in the past. Mr. Orluskie said that set-asides were no longer practical but that Shirlington could have bid on the contract.Shirlington says that homeland security officials violated the law by not restricting competition to certain small businesses and that the company went to great lengths to submit its proposal on time but was foiled by convoluted procedures.Because Cunningham had used Shirlington sedans, Mr. Baker “was dragged by the press ‘feeding frenzy’ into the fray. He was never charged with any wrongdoing whatsoever,” the Shirlington lawsuit states. The government has not filed its response.

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