Decisions about U.S. aid are often no longer being governed by career professionals applying a rigorous review of applicants and their capabilities. Over the last two years, political pressure, particularly from the office of Vice President Mike Pence, had seeped into aid deliberations and convinced key decision-makers that unless they fell in line, their jobs could be at stake.
Last month, USAID announced two grants to Iraqi organizations that career officials had previously rejected. Political appointees significantly impacted the latest awards, according to interviews with officials and other people aware of the process. Typically, such appointees have little to no involvement in USAID grants, to avoid perceptions of undue political influence on procurement.
One of the groups selected for the newest awards has no full-time paid staff, no experience with government grants and a financial tie that would typically raise questions in an intense competition for limited funds. The second organization received its first USAID direct grant after extensive public comments by its leader and allies highlighting what they described as a lack of U.S. assistance to Christians.
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.@ProPublica viewed internal emails and conducted interviews with nearly 40 current and former U.S. officials and aid professionals on Pence and his allies interfering with the government’s long-standing process for awarding foreign aid. https://t.co/w5XXccqNlO
— Robert Faturechi (@RobertFaturechi) November 6, 2019
Officials at USAID warned that favoring Christian groups in Iraq could be unconstitutional and inflame religious tensions. When one colleague lost her job, they said she had been “Penced.” https://t.co/QJOrpYyCvn
— ProPublica (@propublica) November 6, 2019
Pence’s allies in the government find the Constitution’s prohibition of the establishment of an official religion for the country “constraining.” When federal employees resist their efforts to aid Christians, they have been known to be “Penced,” fired. https://t.co/LSXeox7yR2
— Richard Tofel (@dicktofel) November 6, 2019
— Jesse Eisinger (@eisingerj) November 6, 2019