Saturday, February 8, 2014

Mo' money for Cuba

I went through some federal contracts today to try to learn more about Broadcasting Board of Governors' Cuba spending.

Among the contracts that caught my eye:
  • Mega Media Holdings (Spanish Broadcasting System Inc.) received the largest total amount: $1,050,500. The Miami-based firm touts itself as "the largest publicly traded Hispanic-controlled media and entertainment company in the United States." It operates Mega TV and other stations. The company's BBG contracts included $397,400 for DirecTV leasing.
  • The second largest amount, as far as I could tell, went to unnamed "miscellaneous foreign awardees." Amount: $596,919.
  • The Phoenix Air Group pulled in $235,567 for services related to Aero Marti, including $79,524 to store the Aero Marti plane.
  • Applied Memetics received a total of $261,905. A highly trained former CIA covert operations officer owns the company (See "Ex-CIA agent leads new team of journalists in Cuba").
  • The BBG paid the Pinyon Foundation $450,000 without competitive bidding "to produce self-help, self-actualization training and programs" for Cubans. That was the largest single contract I could find.
1712 Canyon Road
The Pinyon Foundation's corporate address is a home at 1712 Canyon Road in Santa Fe, N.M. It had proposed the self-help project and the Office of Cuban Broadcasting, or OCB, evidently liked it. A contract document states:
Based on our extensive knowledge of the Cuban environment after thirty years of in-depth reporting on Cuban issues, and our knowledge of the types of activities conducted on the island and the kind of programming in the marketplace specifically targeted at a Cuban audiences, it is OCB's opinion that the proposal represents a unique opportunity for our media organization to reach our audience in important new ways that would be highly beneficial to them, and that the substance of the proposal is not available from another source.
These are not annual figures. These are totals found in federal records.
Important note: The list shown above is incomplete and imperfect. I don't have enough information to know the top 35 or the top 10 vendors. Keyword searches in federal databases are notoriously inaccurate because they don't always detect Cuba-related programs. So I'd regard the vendors listed here as important, but not necessarily the top recipients.
Complicating things, many vendors contract with the BBG for non-Cuba projects. For instance, records showed that the Press Association Inc. (Associated Press) had a total of $4,649,719.17 in BBG contracts, but keyword searches using Cuba showed only $343,714. So that's the amount I listed.
To come up with these numbers, I skimmed through 2,615 records dated from Oct. 21, 2003, to Feb. 7, 2014. The contracts totaled $13,064,877.16.
If you'd like to sort through the most recent $6 million or so contracts yourself, below are PDFs of BBG vendors hired for Cuba work since Jan. 1, 2013:
Total: $6,452,981.80

The BBG requested funding of $731.08 million for fiscal year 2014. Its stated goal is to "support United States national interests through its mission to inform, engage, and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy."

Click to enlarge
This is a map showing the locations of selected BBG vendors.

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