A firm connected to the Obama administration was awarded $10,000 to design the logo for “Let’s Move,” a get-healthy initiative spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama, according to a new report.
The arrangement between the White House and marketing firm Shepardson, Stern & Kaminsky (SS&K), which was also responsible for the administration’s 2008 and 2012 Obama for America’s youth initiatives, violates federal contracting rules, according to Judicial Watch, and has been characterized by federal officials as an “unauthorized commitment.”
Information regarding the marketing firm’s “plum no-bid contract,” as Judicial Watch puts it, was made available via official government documents.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency that awarded the contract, was forced to address the unorthodox nature of the award by preparing a “request for ratification of an unauthorized commitment” to make the deal legitimate, records show.
So how did the USDA justify awarding the highly questionable contract?
Officials told Judicial Watch the “Let’s Move!” program “was too important and time-sensitive for the official who awarded the no-bid deal to research the rules.”
Official documents reveal USDA Deputy Director Jodey Edwards in the Office of Procurement & Property Management questioned the administration’s decision to award the contract despite it being in clear violation of longstanding rules.
“What did we get for our money … any deliverable? I know this is an unauthorized commitment: however the contractor still must provide evidence of what is being paid for,” she said in an email to an agency administrative officer named Yvette Ward.
And this isn’t even the first time that SS&K has benefited from its relationship with the White House. The group was also awarded a $2 million deal for a teacher recruitment campaign in 2010.
Prior to President Obama’s first term, the marketing firm was awarded only one federal contract: A contract for $50,000 from the Department of Defense in 2002.
The federal official behind the "Let's Move!" logo deal appears to have been David Lazarus, according to Judicial Watch.
Lazarus served as a senior adviser to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack who at one point served as National Rural Vote Deputy Director for Obama for America and as an adviser to the Obama-Biden transition team, the report notes.
No one appears to have been held accountable for the apparent violation of federal contracting rules.
Senior officials did, however, speak with those responsible for awarding the contract to “explain the procurement process,” records show.
Officials were also required to reacquaint themselves with procurement rules via training programs, according to government files.
“The Senior Procurement Executive had intended to provide this seminar as part of the training that was given to new incoming political appointees at the start of the administration, but thought administrative oversight this wasn’t done,” the documents read.
A spokesperson for the USDA did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment.
Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter