- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

FedBid, a well-connected federal contractor announced Tuesday it was promoting the former top procurement official at the White House to be its chief executive as the company tries to move beyond a political influence scandal last year at the Veterans Affairs Department.

Joseph Jordan has been working at FedBid since his abrupt 2013 departure as administrator of the White House Office of Federal Procurement Policy, and assumes control of the company despite Obama administration ethics rules that were designed to prevent outgoing officials from influencing their previous agencies on behalf of their new employers.

In Mr. Jordan’s case, however, his ethics agreement was narrow and only applied to the White House Office of Management and Budget, despite his purview overseeing contracting throughout the government.

In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Jordan said he received clearance from OMB and that he recused himself from any decisions that would impact FedBid once he began talking with the company about a potential job in November 2012.

“Before I left, I consulted with the legal counsel at OMB and then after getting here, I talked to the lawyers at FedBid and both agreed that it was no problem for me to perform the duties of my position at FedBid while complying fully with the post-employment restrictions,” Mr. Jordan said.

“I have not, do not and for a period of two years from my departure could not and would not interact with my colleagues at OMB or in the broader Executive Office of the President on anything that would affect the financial interests of FedBid,” he said.

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The Washington Times has sought copies of post-employment opinions and emails related to FedBid and reverse auctions during Mr. Jordan’s time at the White House. But OMB has declined to respond or even explain delays in processing an open record request submitted by the newspaper early last year.

Mr. Jordan’s move to FedBid came at a time when the company was under congressional scrutiny over its deep political ties, and as questions arose as to whether using the reverse auction service saved the government money.

Mr. Jordan’s move also raised concerns about the so-called “revolving door” between the White House’s top procurement job and the government contracting industry.

Another former White House procurement policy chief, Steve Kelman, has worked as a paid adviser to FedBid. The company’s lobbyists, directors and advisers also include former top officials in government acquisition as well as former members of Congress.

Reacting to news of Mr. Jordan’s job change in December 2013, the Project on Government Oversight said the White House’s procurement office had become a “launching pad” for jobs in the contracting industry.

Last year, FedBid found itself the target of a scathing report by the Veterans Affairs Department’s Office of Inspector General, which accused the company of trying to assassinate the character of a top VA contracting official, Jan Frye.

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A retired Army colonel, Mr. Frye enacted a moratorium on reverse auctions amid complaints from suppliers and questions about costs. But it was overturned after fierce lobbying from FedBid and its backers, including financier Steve Case.

“Need to assassinate his character and discredit him,” one company official said in a memo uncovered in the investigation, referring to Mr. Frye.

VA has canceled all business with FedBid, though Mr. Jordan said that happened before the inspector general’s report.

Asked about the memo, Mr. Jordan said there was no excuse for it. He said that while no laws were broken, some of the “tone, tenor and content” of emails that surfaced in the investigation “were certainly not appropriate.”

Since the inspector general report, Mr. Jordan said the company ordered an independent review and has hired a compliance officer, while implementing a “beefed up” ethics program for all employees, advisers and directors.

“This is absolutely a priority for me,” Mr. Jordan said. “I’m fully committed to ensuring the integrity, transparency and really ethical behavior of our marketplace, company and entire FedBid team,” he said.

• Jim McElhatton can be reached at jmcelhatton@washingtontimes.com.

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