An April 29 article about the corruption investigation involving former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) misstated the duration of a transportation contract given last year by the Department of Homeland Security to Shirlington Limousine and Transportation Inc. The department said the $21.2 million contract is for five years, not one year as a department spokesman originally stated.
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During these financial troubles, Baker's company won a contract worth $3.8 million with the Department of Homeland Security in April 2004. It appears from federal records that Shirlington Limousine was the only bidder. The contract was awarded under a program that limited competition to businesses in poor neighborhoods.
Baker was able to close his bankruptcy case last April after he made nearly $125,000 in payments to creditors, according to court records.
The Homeland Security Department said it awarded Shirlington Limousine, one of three bidders, another one-year contract for $21.2 million in October.
Homeland Security spokesman Larry Orluskie said the department does not routinely conduct background checks on its contractors. Instead, it relies on a list the government keeps of vendors who have had serious problems with federal contracts, he said.
In Shirlington Limousine's case, only the drivers were subject to criminal background checks, he said.
Past performance is one key factor the government weighs in awarding a contract, Orluskie said. But he said he did not know whether contract officers checked with Howard University before awarding Shirlington Limousine its first contract.
He stressed that Shirlington Limousine has performed well, saying: "We have not had any problems with this service -- we don't question whether they can deliver because they are delivering."
Steven L. Schooner, an associate professor and contracting expert at George Washington University Law School, said that although there is no explicit prohibition against giving contracts to felons or people with poor business histories, the government is obligated to ensure that potential vendors have a satisfactory record of business ethics and integrity, and that they have the financial resources to meet contractual obligations.
"There's a fundamental government responsibility to investigate," he said.
Researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.