Remember the Montana company with two employees that won a dubious $300 million no-bid contract to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s utility grid after Hurricane Maria? Whitefish Energy’s strange deal was very quickly put under a microscope, with calls for its cancellation growing hourly. In the fall of 2017, the contract was indeed canceled and Whitefish Energy told news outlets that Puerto Rico still owed the company over $83 million. The CEO of Whitefish Energy was Andy Techmanski, a Montana buddy of former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
I’ll give you one guess at who is back getting million dollar no-bid contracts? Yup! According to CNN, Andy Techmanski has a new company he co-leads, and he’s not in the utility business anymore. He just got a no-bid government contract for $4 million to “provide a total of 100,000 reusable gowns over the next four months” to the Veterans Administration.
Techmanski’s new company is called Merrow-FORLOH Medical. The “medical” means he isn’t in the “energy” business anymore, and the omission of “Whitefish” is like renaming your Blackwater company Academi. According to CNN, this new business from the former Whitefish CEO is a partnership with Massachusetts-based company Merrow Manufacturing. Merrow has reportedly already produced 1.5 million gowns for hospitals and state governments, at least according to Merrow.
Hospitals and local governments have been racing around trying to get their hands on life-saving medical and personal protective equipment since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration, after its criminally negligent absence of a response early on, has subsequently allowed son-in-law Jared Kushner, a younger, less orange-looking version of Donald Trump, to lead a secret “task force” that seems to be trying to figure out ways for private industry to profit off of our country’s tragedy. It’s under the guise of helping “solve” it all, of course.
Critics of the contracting system being used argue that Techmanski’s ability to get around his previous business failures by starting a brand new company highlights the fatal flaw in the current no-bid federal contracting process. Those critics would be right.