Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Here's a story that has it all

I love everything about this story from Josh Marshal on Talking Points Memo. It has Republicans being corrupt, hypocritical, incompetent, misogynistic, with their strange ideas of family values on display. Plus, it is presented with just the right tone. Here's the kicker: my bet is that Mr. Marshall is spot on in his prediction that there's more to come.
Here at TPM and TPMmuckraker we're trying to keep close tabs on the still bubbling congressional bribery and prostitution scandal involving Duke Cunningham, his briber Brent Wilkes and assorted others. But while we're looking at that, as Justin Rood notes today, Shirlington Limousine company, the outfit that allegedly ferried sundry hookers for liaisons with various political bigwigs, looks to be a bigger and bigger part of the story.

Let's review some of what we know.

Shirlington limo is owned by Chris Baker who has a lengthy criminal record -- a 62 page rap sheet, which we're going to try to post tomorrow. The company has also had something of a spotty record.

According to an October 3rd, 2002 article in the Washington Post, the Bowie State Bulldogs were unfortunate enough to have their team buses provided by Shirlington. And for their trouble, while the team was eating dinner in Atlanta on a trip to play Morehouse, the team's buses were repossessed by ABC Financial Services as they sat in the parking lot.

As the Post put it, ABC called Bowie State Coach Henry Frazier III "on his cell phone while the team was eating to tell him the buses had been repossessed. Frazier said he thought it was a crank call, possibly by one of his players. But, when everyone went outside, the buses were nowhere to be found."

That must have been a fun moment. Would have been fun to hang with Coach Frazier that evening.

Anyway, ABC and Morehouse officials helped the stranded footballers find alternative transportation home.

But apparently Howard University didn't have a great experience either.

They hired Shirlington to provide shuttle services back in 1999. But they canned Shirlington a few months before the incident with the Bowie players down in Atlanta. The problems cited by Howard included "failure to provide copies of maintenance records, failure to provide evidence of workman's compensation insurance, cited on numerous occasions for poor bus cleanliness, poor implementation of two-way communication system, and subcontracted to Thomas Tours without written authorization from the University."

Suffice it to say that Shirlington was doing was our president would call a heckuva job.

And if things weren't looking up for the Shirlington limousine family, they only got worse.

As the Washington Post reported a couple days ago, in 2003 and 2004 Shirlington got eviction notices for an office it mantained in a fancy DC apartment building. Then, as the Post reports, "in September 2004, the company was sued in D.C. Superior Court for $1.8 million, for failing to make payments on buses it bought for the Howard contract. The case was settled last month, with Shirlington Limousine agreeing to pay $300,000."

You might have thought that at this point Shirlington limo was about to give up the ghost. But no. Someone at the Department of Homeland Security could see potential in Shirlington that the folks at Howard and the company's creditors apparently didn't. Because in April 2004, Shirlington bagged a $3.8 million contract with DHS.

Not that everything was perfect yet, mind you. In June 2005, according to Department of Transportation records consulted today by TPM, Shirlington had its Motor Passenger Common Carrier authority 'involuntarily revoked.' They didn't get it reinstated until October 31st of 2005. And just in time. Because according to the Post it was in October 2005 when DHS awarded Shirlington another contract worth $21.2 million for "shuttle services and executive transportation support."

So let's put this all together. Shirlington limo's owner Chris Baker has a long criminal record. He's tight with Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes and reportedly provided the transportation services for the parties Wilkes used to sauce up members of Congress and various intel folks as well as get them set up with hookers. Only, aside from squiring Duke Cunningham around with his daily prostitutes, Shirlington seemed like a really screwed up company. They're getting their buses repossessed, their DOT authority to take people across state lines yanked, and pretty much sued right and left. If Shirlington had taxis and you flagged one down to drive you a few blocks, you might tell them you weren't willing to take the risk. But the Department of Homeland Security, which has various law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities (and if you remember some general thing with protecting the homeland) decides Shirlington is the company it wants providing transportation for its senior-most appointees, the folks who run the place.

Anything sound fishy to you?

-- Josh Marshal

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