With Christmas fast approaching, several Congressmen and government officials deserve nothing more than lumps of coal for their behavior in 2006. The appearance of Congressional improprieties is nothing new, but 2006 was a bad year for Congressmen and other officials getting caught on Santa's naughty list.
For shareholders of companies that rely mostly on the government for its sales, like Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick American Science and Engineering (Nasdaq: ASEI ) or bulletproof-vest-maker DHB Industries (AMEX: DHB ) , these sort of shenanigans are particularly painful. It's much harder to sell their products if they're competing against potentially inferior but deep-pocketed competitors willing to make the necessary bribes to gain the defense contracts.
The year began with the guilty plea of Congressman Randall "Duke" Cunningham of San Diego in March, after he admitted to steering defense-appropriations spending to contractors who gave him millions of dollars in bribes. This ignominy earned him eight years in jail and the forfeiture of the plentiful assets he acquired through these bribes.
Then in May, associates of Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson pleaded guilty to bribing a public official. The FBI reportedly taped Jefferson receiving cash in a briefcase, and a government search found thousands of dollars in his freezer. Right now, a corruption investigation is under way, and charges could be filed against Jefferson in the future. (Despite the scandal, he still won reelection last month.)
In 2005, the U.S. spent considerably more than $400 billion in defense-related expenditures. With all these billions of dollars up for grabs, the potential for improprieties like those mentioned above is enormous. Congressional spending needs greater independent oversight to better prevent these incidents, and ensure that their perpetrators are punished. Shareholders and corporations alike need the government to more fairly and efficiently manage its spending.
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