CHICAGO - The term "crony capitalism" describes a system in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials, resulting in an unfair distribution of government contracts, legal permits or even special tax breaks.
Chicago-style "crony capitalism" may very well have been at play in the recent decision to award the new Obamacare website contract to Chicago's Accenture, which employed at least two individuals who played critical roles in the Obama campaigns.
Two weeks ago, the Obama Administration announced that the federal contract to administer Healthcare.gov would not be renewed with Canada's CGI. Instead, the $90 million contract would be awarded to Accenture - a technology company with offices in Chicago - located only four blocks away from Obama's 2008 and 2012 election campaign headquarters.
Two prominent Accenture-linked Chicagoans who either work now for the company, or have in the immediate past, also have very close to President Obama -- Obama Campaign's Chief Scientist Rayid Ghani and Accenture Senior Manager and Technology Executive Tracey Patterson.
Was the contract with Accenture affected by these two Obama campaign insiders?
President Obama's key campaign adviser, Chicagoan David Axelrod, looked to an expert in artificial intelligence, who had worked for Accenture Labs, to be the Obama campaign's Chief Data Scientist – a new title never used before on a national campaign.
Ghani's curriculum vitae says at Accenture he led a team of researchers focused on applying "Machine Learning" and "Data Mining" - two areas of computer science that center on not only gathering data, but using it to tap online interests and motivate that interest into action.
The campaign used the Ghani's top-shelf analytics to rank target voters individually and devise a message that would speak to their interests and motivate them to get to the polls on election day. Ghani was considered one of the top 10 persons most crucial to the Obama Re-election campaign.
After helping the president get re-elected in 2012, instead of returning to Accenture, Ghani co-founded a new data mining business and began teaching at the University of Chicago - where Axelrod also now teaches.
One of Chicago United's top 45 business leaders in 2013, Patterson is a senior manager at Accenture, and directs a global team in large-scale technology deployments. Her Accenture responsibilities include working with Accenture offices in Canada, Argentia, Spain, India, Ireland and Manila.
Patterson lives in Chicago with her husband Chaka, who is listed on the Obama-Biden website as one of the campaign's most successful bundlers, credited with raising over $500,000 for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012.
The Pattersons also hosted the President in their Chicago home for a private fundraiser in June 2012. During White House-released remarks from that evening, the President mentioned his long history with Mr. Patterson.
It is true Chaka and I have know each other for a long time. The first time we met he was still a young up-and-comer. (Laughter.) Now he's a big ship. (Laughter.) Now he's a big ship in the deep ocean. (Laughter.) But not only has he not gotten any gray hair -- whereas I have -- (laughter) -- but he hasn't changed in terms of his graciousness and his character. And so we're just really appreciative of the friendship that we have.
So, were any other companies as qualified as Accenture to take over the Healthcare.gov debacle? If so, were they asked for advice and counsel, or given an opportunity to bid on the $90 million contract?
If not, might it be entirely possible that these two key Obama campaign insiders found that getting a president re-elected can pay off?
More to come on Accenture ...