Wednesday federal headlines – June 19, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Two federal contracting fraudsters have been sentenced to prison for abuse of the 8(a) program. Joseph Richards received a 27-month sentence, and David Lux 15 months. They must make nearly a quarter of a million dollars in restitution. Richards and Lux pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy to commit government fraud. They obtained federal security contracts using 8(a) status for years after the company’s African-American woman left. They also helped a second company with a puppet CEO to qualify for 8(a) status. The two companies received a total of $31 million in federal contracts. (Federal News Radio)
  • The controversy over National Security Agency surveillance programs may revive a little-known advisory group. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board meets behind closed doors today for the first time since the leak. President Barack Obama has asked it to examine the NSA spy programs. The board began in 2004 as part of the executive branch. Congress made it independent four years later, but it’s had trouble finding its rhythm. Chairman David Medine was confirmed in May after administrative delays and resistance from some lawmakers. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Barack Obama’s nominee for chairman of the Federal Communications Commission faced a tough hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee. Tom Wheeler was grilled on his views of competition and consumer protection. Broadcasting and Cable reports, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said a bias toward regulating political speech would be a deal-killer for Wheeler. He demanded a written answer about Wheeler’s views on the Disclose Act. But Mashable reports, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) told Wheeler he would probably be confirmed. Rockfeller had urged the administration to nominate commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for the chairmanship. Wheeler is a venture capitalist who has worked for two telecommunications trade associations. (Broadcasting and Cable/Mashable)
  • The Government Accountability Office has cast a skeptical eye on the rollout of ObamaCare. Auditors will release a report today saying there’s no guarantee the health care exchanges will be operating properly on Day One — Oct. 1. The GAO does see positive signs. It notes the administration had spent $400 million as of March to set up the software infrastructure required to tie together the insurance industry, state and federal government, and millions of people. The federal government had to set up the markets in 34 states. Auditors say that workload was unforseen in the Affordable Care Act. (Federal News Radio)
  • A vocal critic says the IRS is ignoring White House guidance and handing out $70 million in employee bonuses. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says the bonuses are part of a deal between the agency and the National Treasury Employees Union. It goes into effect today. Grassley has written to IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. Ironically, Werfel was the one who signed that White House guidance urging agencies to cancel bonuses. At the time, he was controller of the Office of Management and Budget. (Federal News Radio)
  • When Jacob Lew became Treasury secretary, his signature was no more than a series of loops. But he’s been practicing. The Treasury Department tweeted out Lew’s new scrawl yesterday. You can clearly make out the J in Jacob and the L in Lew, although the letters in between are still a bit vague. The department also released a photo of Lew studiously practicing. When President Barack Obama tapped Lew for the job, the president joked that Lew’s signature was so bad it would “debase” the currency. Treasury secretaries’ signatures have been on U.S. currency since 1914. (Federal News Radio)