Let’s End the Government’s Racial Discrimination in Contracting

Roger Clegg, Center for Equal Opportunity, April 24, 2013

In an recent op-ed, I posed this question: As the federal government struggles with sequestration and governments at all levels also face the need to economize, isn’t it time to start awarding government contracts to the lowest bidder, rather than on the basis of skin color, national origin and sex?

Every bit of savings helps, after all. Or, as the late Sen. Everett Dirksen put it, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.”

Besides, there’s of course more at stake than money. It’s just unfair and divisive to discriminate by using race, ethnicity and sex to decide who gets awarded contracts.

Contracting programs should be open to all, bidding opportunities should be widely publicized beforehand, and no one should be discriminated against because of skin color, national origin or sex. And that means no preferences, whether labeled as “set-asides,” “quotas,” or “goals,” since they all end up amounting to the same thing.

Race- and sex-based contracting can breed corruption, or at least abuse. This was underscored by the recent analysis by the Washington Times of contracts under President Obama’s $785 billion stimulus program that were reserved for minority-owned firms. According to the Times, 17 percent of these firms merely acted as “middlemen” and subcontracted the work to others.

Most fundamentally, contracting discrimination violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law.

Such discrimination has been around for a long time, but the Obama administration has certainly done nothing to stop it. In its first year, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent a letter to all 50 governors, telling them “it is vital that we work together to provide small disadvantaged businesses and female and minority workers a fair chance to engage in transportation projects.”

They must use not only existing programs but also, it was emphasized, “innovative strategies to provide opportunities for the underrepresented.” “Underrepresented” is invariably defined in terms of race, ethnicity and sex. So is “disadvantaged” in the Department of Transportation context. The governors and their “local partners” were urged to establish and meet goals, to reach a greater number of “disadvantaged” businesses.

Goals, of course, inevitably become quotas.

Remedial discrimination makes less and less sense with every tick of the clock, as the days when black companies were not allowed to compete fade into the past, and as America becomes increasingly multiethnic and multiracial.

Regarding that last point, consider: It is widely known that Asians (along with whites) are discriminated against in university admissions, but what is less well-known is that it is more and more common for Hispanics (again, along with whites) to be discriminated against in government contracting.

A recent example is in Milwaukee. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last year called for the repeal of a new measure purportedly designed to ensure the participation of minority contractors in getting city business. According to the chamber’s president, Maria Monreal-Cameron, the ordinance is “based on the results of the disparity study which said that Hispanic-owned and Native American-owned firms are overutilized in the area of construction.” She added, “It means we’re being penalized for our success and hard work.”

The California Department of Transportation has been engaging in similar discrimination, and the issue has recently arisen in New York City as well. Meanwhile, however, the Obama administration has been considering whether to add Arab Americans to the list of those who get special treatment by the federal government.

Congress could put an end to this nonsense. If a House bill could not get through the Senate and the Oval Office, a Representative could at least ask the Government Accountability Office to calculate how much these programs are costing the taxpayers. The GAO could also help document how widespread discrimination is at the state and local level.

In recent testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, professor George LaNoue of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, gave chapter and verse for why the federal government’s contracting preferences need to be carefully reassessed, to determine whether they can plausibly be defended as ending discrimination rather than causing it.

In Cleveland, the city paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for a disparity study in order to justify its discrimination, but it turns out that much of that study was simply cut and pasted from the consulting firm’s work elsewhere.

It’s doubtful the existence of a racial disparity in contracting any longer justifies racial discrimination. Greater transparency in advertising bids, in announcing the number of winning bids, in getting rid of irrational requirements and, of course, in insisting on a color-blind process is uniquely available in the contracting area as a way to remedy any discrimination.

In 2013, contracting preferences are never the “narrowly tailored” remedy, to use the Supreme Court’s parlance. As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has written, “The way to stop to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

That’s a point that ought to be litigated, and a case now before a federal court of appeals, DynaLantic Corp. v. U.S. Department of Defense, may provide a vehicle for presenting it to the Supreme Court.

With luck, the Court will hand down opinions against racial preferences this term in university admissions and the use of politically correct racial gerrymandering in redistricting. It’s time that the court put a stop to racial discrimination in government contracting, too.


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  • joegoofinoff

    All major contractors have their own dummy minority contractor to get these setaside contracts.

    • APaige

      You are correct. I worked summers for a small construction company in which the owner had a company in his wife’s name.

      • JDInSanDiego

        Same here, except that even though the owner was half Cuban, he still found it more advantageous to put the company in his wife’s name.

        • IanJMacDonald

          If she took his Hispanic surname, then so much the better in seeking government contracts. “Oh look, this applicant is Hispanic *and* female!” coo the liberal racists who honeycomb the government and academy and freely dispense other people’s money.

      • I worked for a guy here in Arizona that had a small co, and he divorced his wife and married a woman half Apache and put the company in her name and got contracts to build houses on the Res……..made a ton of cash…

        • Bobby

          Isn’t it pathetic, what whites have to do in the nation their forefathers carved out and fought for, by even destroying others like themselves???

    • HadEnough

      Well, sure. But if the government is going to set aside quotas for stupid colored people, we should not be surprised when intelligent white people work out how to take advantage of the situation. More power to them.

  • Puggg

    As the federal government struggles with sequestration

    Sure, I’m sure it’s such a struggle to be limited to $3.5 trillion of spending.

    • dogbone

      Moochelle Obama can spend that much in one weekend.

  • The__Bobster

    I know a lot of Italian construction firms that have either black or female figureheads. They can pad their bids knowing they’ll be the preferred company. Getting caught results in a mere slap on the wrist.

    • roger

      we need to stop all racial preferences…………..

  • The__Bobster

    Such discrimination has been around for a long time, but the Obama administration has certainly done nothing to stop it. In its first year, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood sent a letter to all 50 governors, telling them “it is vital that we work together to provide small disadvantaged businesses and female and minority workers a fair chance to engage in transportation projects.”

    It’s still going on and Obongo approves of it. He’s actually gone to major government contractors and told them to subcontract some of their work to small minority-headed bidnesses. It’s all a giant farce, with some lone minority picking up a large paycheck for sitting on his azz.

  • The middle easterners in the United States should seize the opportunity to lobby Washington with their sob stories. The sissy, castrated white male isn’t going to do anything about it, so why not take his slice of the pie (chart)?

    First, you ask for 10%.
    Then, you ask for 20%.
    Next, you accuse them of being racists as you ask for 30%.
    By now, there are enough of you people to elect one of your own into office.
    Once you are “represented”, he will look for you.

    That’s all you have to do. Don’t worry about white people. Their threats are empty, and they are only bluffing. I mean, look at who they allowed to become citizens on 9-11 of all dates.

  • sbuffalonative

    “Besides, there’s of course more at stake than money. It’s just unfair and divisive to discriminate by using race, ethnicity and sex to decide who gets awarded contracts.”
    The only two people that you can argue might have a claim of past discrimination are Native Americans and decedents of African slaves. All other groups, including the Chinese who helped to build the railroads, came here by choice.
    If you came here of your own free will, you have no claim of discrimination.
    African Americans are fools to let Hispanics claim discrimination. By doing so, they give Hispanics the right to claim affirmative action jobs. Affirmative action was supposed to be for blacks and Native Americans not anyone who decided to cross the border.

    • Jim G

      How is where or how one’s ancestor came here hundreds of years ago a valid grounds for granting special benefits?

      Children, spouses, servants and others could easily have been brought to America
      against their wills. Many people came to America paying money to unscrupulous
      merchants that sold immigrants a bill of goods that America was lined with gold.

      Most importantly no African native today would refuse trading places with an African American, and no Black in America would go back to Africa.

      When the government takes the earnings of a White worker and hands it over to Blacks, whether in the form of Affirmative Action or benefits specially tailored for Blacks, that is the government enslaving the White man.

  • Secret Tribunal

    “Under the circumstances, racism really is the best option.” -RevJed DeValley

  • Jefferson

    [QUOTE] Meanwhile, however, the Obama administration has been considering
    whether to add Arab Americans to the list of those who get special
    treatment by the federal government.[/QUOTE]

    When are Serbian Americans like me going to get special treatment by the Obama administration ? After all we only make up 0.6% of the U.S population. So we truly are a Minority in this country judging by our small numbers.

    • dhs

      How do you say, “When hell freezes over” in Serbian?

      • Dimitri Isakov

        Kada se pakao zamrzne.

  • bigone4u

    A number of the local Hispanic race hustlers, including Hispanic professors at the university, got together and formed a company to get government research money awarded to minority contracters. They are all quite wealthy now, multimillionaires I believe, but I know of no research of any value that was ever produced. These schemes are intended to enrich minorities, while justifying higher taxes on the white middle class. By impoverishing whites and enriching blacks and browns, that fundamental change that Obama wants comes closer to reality.

    • Tim

      Speaking of hustlers, bought your cascarones yet?…Happy Fiesta!!

      • bigone4u

        I was going to explain to those who do not live in an area with many Hispanics what a cascarone is, but it’ll be more fun to let anyone interested look it up.

        • Tim

          I had a man walk into Applebee`s Airport during Fiesta and ask if he could get some confetti eggs. I told him we didn`t sell them but any place Downtown would. He got mad at me for not trying when I realized, HE THOUGHT YOU ATE THEM!! So I asked where he was from and he said, “Minnesota.” I explained they were like water balloons, “You don`t eat them, you throw them!!” but I got the impression he thought I was still pulling his chain….

    • Garrett Brown

      Maybe some of us whites should do te same. Lets get rich! We’d have to change our names to Pablo though huh?

      • bigone4u

        Some Hispanics have European names. I am not sure what proof is required of minority ancestry, but it may not be much, so possibly no need to change names.

  • Kathy M

    When multiracial individual Eric Holder refuses to prosecute clear cases of illegality, as in the New Black Panther Party’s intimidation of white males at voting booths, can we expect him to do anything fair in employment contracting? I think not.

  • Bill

    Great idea. Then we can set-asides for Arabic companies for all our security at airports, public events, GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS, and the White House. Let’s start with the House and Senate. All security guards and secret service functions for House and Senate are now set aside for Arabic and muslim companies employing ONLY muslims.

  • HadEnough

    Affirmative action for Arabs? Dear Christ, when will it end? When a government operates so flagrantly and contemptuously against the interests of its own people, you have to ask yourself, “Why do I owe these people my allegiance?” The simple fact is that the transgressions of the Crown in the 1770s were utterly trivial compared to the all-out assault on middle America that we’re witnessing now. Then, it produced a revolution. Now it produces acquiescence and a few web sites like this one. Where did we go wrong!

    • saxonsun

      And from the Crown’s pov, it wasn’t transgressing.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    Whatever happened to colorblind merit in any gubbamint endeavor? Whatever happened to civil service exams? I understand why many White race realists are Libertarians but…

    What a shame. There was a time, not a mythical Camelot, but a real time in our country’s history, where the federal government and many, most state governments…hired, retained, promoted, and awarded contracts based on that all but forgotten racist concept known as “MERIT”.

    Patriotic and competent Americans once aspired to serve their country in a variety of ways other than the military, no aspersion intended to the Armed Services. And before the civil rights war on Whites (oooh – nice rhyme there, I can rap with absolutely no training!) I gotta say the Federal government did some pretty cool and impressive things that helped out every citizen directly or indirectly…

    Interstate highways, TVA, man on the moon…even many of the social welfare programs were in fact solvent “social safety nets”, not giveaway reparations…

    But then something changed starting in the 60’s, a creeping cancer of mediocrity and excuse making and lowering of standards…

    How many TRILLIONS of dollars have we WASTED trying to prove a flawed IDEOLOGY? And in the process sacrificed a noble calling to civil service that once really did do great things, helped grow prosperity and helped truly needy people?

    Those trillions of dollars wasted aren’t just pieces of money. They are the vital blood of the nation spilled on the alter of White genocide. Truly Orwellian…

  • LHathaway

    I have to admit, when I was an ignorant kid growing up, a lower person with no influence, I felt that affirmative action was a bad plan. Whether you agree with it or not, the principle reality of affirmative action is that, for the sake of ‘harmony’, ‘inclusiion’, ‘whatever excuse’ whites, and only white men are required to give something up. . and then the issue is framed in such a way so that the public perception -and ‘tolerance steps’ are taken to the effect – that whites are still officially the bad guys – Whites are discriminating, and this is wrong and evil. And an evil only embodied by whites. The more they discriminate against real whites, the more these same whites must be blamed. At least that’s how it works.

    As an older and wiser person. . i’m against affirmative action simply as a matter of fairness. It will only be after white men are denied ‘affirmative action’, too, the public will finally be forced to end it for every other group but white men – at least until the time whites become a very small minority. I just don’t see another 50 years of affirmative action (discrimination against white men) to make up for the injustices caused continued discrimination against white men – with so many poor children being raised without a father.

    Affirmative action – and the industry enforcing this ‘tolerance’ – it’s days our numbered. You’d have to be an idiot not to know Lucy is going to pull the football away once again. How could affirmative action even be enforeced for whites? There must be 100 ethnicities of people in this nation, with a fair amount of them relatively recent off the boat. . .

  • Bob

    I know from the world of Federal contacting that set-asides, in addition to being unfair, hurt minority bidders! How is that possible? Let me explain.

    The way government sales often happen is that a business development person (salesman) works with his contacts at some government entity to define a need. That government entity then decides to make the acquisition (purchase). However, acquisitions can only be formally made by contracting officers. Therefore the real customer needs to come up with a strategy for doing the acquisition. One possible strategy is full open competition, where the opportunity is put out for bid on FedBizOpps. That’s slow, and more importantly, it doesn’t let the end user (customer) pick who the vendor is. The contract officer will compare the bids that come in and might choose someone the end user isn’t expecting.

    So what they do is they look for a set-aside they can use to avoid open competition. The classic examples are service disabled veterans and Alaska native corporations. The vendor will identity one of those highly privileged companies and make an agreement with that company. These companies are usually just one person, who will get a small cut of the total contract for doing very little actual work. With this partnership, the big company will offer its services through the Alaska native corporation, and the government can acquire it without going through a bid process!

    As you can see, this hurts taxpayers by avoiding open bidding. Perversely, it also hurts real small businesses, including minority small businesses, because it’s a way that very big powerful businesses can avoid having to go through a competition. Even though an Alaska native or minority company might “win” the bid, that company is not doing the actual work, and it’s just one guy who’s getting a small cut of it, so it doesn’t have much impact or benefit, except for a tiny number of people who own these “bid front” companies. The only winners of this are the major Federal contractors.

  • I know this article is satyr but the new SF-Oakland Bay Bridge is a piece of junk thanks to who knows what kind of idiot allowed Chinese Contractors to supply anything.
    Just an aside, I do some pipe fitting, when I attempted to thread some 1/2″ black pipe for a gas line, the iron pipe would fall apart after a few turns on the hand held threader. I had to run all the pipes to the hardware store for a good machined thread. The owner told me the problem was the Chinese have scaled back on adding enough steel to the mix.

  • Bobby

    Whoa………this won’t sit well with Robert Reich, who is always worried that white folks might get a job. First thing that bugged him, was the thought of Obama’s “stimulus” program being helpfull to white contractors.