U-T San Diego reporter Ashly McGlone is usually a total bad ass. Her work uncovering (alleged) corruption at the Sweetwater Unified School District is among the best watchdog journalism in town.
But, man, did she miss something big in her latest report on Rep. Duncan D. Hunter.
In a story titled "Hunter, IEDs and campaign contributions," McGlone examines Hunter’s recent defense-spending crusade for a certain brand of roadside-bomb-prediction software. She rightfully asked the question, "So, how much has the company given to Hunter?"
Her conclusion was surprising: Nothing. Not a penny of campaign money from Palantir Technologies ended up in Hunter's war chest. What made the story even more startling was that Hunter was actively opposing a competing software package peddled by a consortium of his best campaign donors—General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and SAIC.
The story essentially gave Hunter a clean bill of ethical health (at least on this issue) and let his spokesperson drop self-righteous remarks like:
Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said Hunter's efforts on behalf of Palantir "dispels the idea that contributions influence positions."
"Here we have a group of major contractors involved with the Army's system and Congressman Hunter is pointing to an alternate platform as something that ground commanders want but can’t get due to the bureaucracy within the acquisition process," Kasper said. "Congressman Hunter doesn't care what company leads with a technology. It's never a factor. As long as the technology is effective, reliable, and something that can benefit our military, then that’s all he needs to know."
If only McGlone had looked a little deeper.
In 2012, Palantir employed three different lobbying firms at a cost of $120,000 per quarter. The most expensive of the lot is a Cassidy & Associates lobbyist named Terry Paul, who collects $80,000 per quarter from Palantir according to his 2012 disclosures.
That would be retired Brig. Gen. Terry Paul, the same Terry Paul who lathers praise upon Hunter's father, retired Congressman Duncan L. Hunter on the website for the elder Hunter's book, Victory in Iraq: How America Won.
This is the same Terry Paul who is such a close family friend of the Hunters that he served as the Master of Ceremonies during the unveiling of Duncan L. Hunter's official portrait in 2009. According to the Congressional transcript, during this ceremony, Paul recounted how the younger Hunter personally approached him for advice on whether to join the Marines after Sept. 11. Later in the ceremony, Hunter the elder would tell a story about the time Paul taught his son how to use a compass to navigate in the dark.
When Hunter the younger took the stage, he had this to say about Paul:
And thanks to the great General Paul, a great mentor, a great Marine and a pretty good lobbyist now, I think. And I want to say, Mom told me to tell you guys one thing. There are a lot of folks here that have different business backgrounds. Dad is looking for a job. His resume is outside. But you have to promise to take him every month for at least 2 weeks back out here to D.C., so she has some time on her own.
And here's Paul passionately stumping for Duncan D. Hunter on the campaign trail:
So, maybe Hunter does believe in the technology, but having a Hunter "mentor" shilling for the software couldn't have hurt Palantir's cause.
And just in case you thought campaign contributions weren't involved, the grand total that Paul has given to Hunter's campaign since 2007 is….