NASA Goddard climate scientist charged in nepotism money scheme

h/t to WUWT reader Keith.  Excerpts from:

Government Executive

NASA scientist pleads guilty to directing contracts to wife’s firm

By Robert Brodsky rbrodsky@govexec.com September 30, 2009

An award-winning NASA scientist has admitted to directing thousands of dollars in sole-source agency contracts to his wife’s firm and failing to report the income on a financial disclosure form.

Mark Schoeberl, 60, of Silver Spring, Md., a senior manager and scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., to one count of felony conflict of interest.

Schoeberl, who has worked at NASA since the early 1980s, was charged last week after authorities completed an investigation run out of NASA inspector general’s office.

“When government officials direct business to themselves or their family members, other people are deprived of a fair chance to compete,” said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. “It is illegal for any federal employee to make an official decision that directly affects their financial interest, unless they disclose that conflict of interest and get approval from the government.”

At the time, Schoeberl was the chief scientist of Goddard’s earth sciences division — which conducts climate research — and the project scientist for the Aura project, a NASA mission to study the Earth’s ozone layer, air quality and climate.

Between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2008, Animated Earth was awarded more than $190,000 in NASA contracts, all without competition, according to data on USASpending.gov, a federal Web site that aggregates contract spending data.

Schoeberl’s 2007 financial disclosure form did not include the more than $50,000 in contracts his wife’s firm earned that year.

Full story here.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is the agency that control the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) which is an adjunct of Columbia University in NYC.

===

Here’s what all that government money bought us, impressive huh? Especially when you compare it to work already being seen at NASA’s Earth Observatory and Visible Earth.

The page of http://www.animated-earth.com is shown below. Note that the links to graphics don’t work on the original main web page, so please don’t complain to WUWT.

Welcome to Animated Earth

Animated Earth develops and distributes Earth Today, an exhibit displaying near-real-time Earth Science data sets displayed on a rotating globe.

Animated Earth also develops short movies that explain earth science processes and complement Earth Today.  Movies are designed for viewing on plasma screens, over the web, or on museum kiosks.

The Animated Earth website is presently under construction. New features and additional information will be added over the next several months.


Earth Today and HoloGlobe

Part of an exhibit at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and Maryland Science Center, 74 MB


Earth Observation Movies

Earth Observation Movies Page Link


Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

(TRMM)

A series of animations about Measuring Rainfall and the Water & Energy Cycles


UARS

Is the first movie we created. It is the only movie in NTSC format. It summarizes the UARS mission, 203.4 MB.


contact: barbara@animated-earth.com

39 thoughts on “NASA Goddard climate scientist charged in nepotism money scheme

  1. This is an individual human failing, most likely, or folie a deux. I draw no conclusions about NASA Goddard from this. I do about other things, though; let me count the ways.
    ==================================
    REPLY: The only conclusion I draw is that there is too much uncontrolled money being poured into climate research. With such temptations at hand, such incidents will only increase. See this:
    http://joannenova.com.au/2009/07/massive-climate-funding-exposed/
    – Anthony

  2. Why, how can Gore be promoting global warming like mad when he has money interests in the deal, and be legal , and a poor federal employ directing funds to his wife’s firm illegal. Maybe it is the scale, Gore gathers millions and expects many more whereas a federal employ can only reach a few thousands.

  3. Government money corrupts everything it touches, reducing normal honest people to low grade fraudsters. You can see this everywhere, and science is particularly susceptible due to the dominance of Government in science funding

  4. Cognitive dissonance seems to be the limiting factor in the American psyche, with a massive amount of Hegelian dialectic thrown in for good measure. Break down these barriers and you win.

  5. One of the important factors in evaluating proposals is consideration of the qualifications of the personnel of competing firms to do the work. This nepotism sort of thing simply takes that “little item” out of consideration. This is far more than “fairness” in contract award, but has significant other negative consequences.
    I have been in the position (government) of evaluating a good many proposals for contract engineering work, and being the final decision maker as to who got the engineering contract. I know whereof I speak.

  6. Here’s what all that government money bought us, impressive huh?
    Wow. That web site is a joke. That’s all you get after 3 years and $190,000? That proves it was all a scam. Schoeberl got what he deserved. Does anyone know if they’re still going to give him his fat pension?

  7. Scientist to politician; “you scratch my back and I scratch yours”
    And so the AGW – the great global warming scam/ swindle began.
    So much greater the benefit accrued when one can keep it in the family.

  8. I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg…
    “In May, Schoeberl admitted to preparing a document that justified Animated Earth as the only contractor eligible to bid on a new award for maintenance on kiosks that the company had previously installed on NASA grounds.
    The following month, Schoeberl provided another sole-source justification directing NASA contracting and financial personnel to award a $60,000 software procurement to his wife’s company. He also asked colleagues about how he could direct Recovery Act funds to Animated Earth, according to the plea agreement.
    In addition, Schoeberl admitted to instructing his wife on how to invoice NASA for work performed by her company.
    Between fiscal 2006 and fiscal 2008, Animated Earth was awarded more than $190,000 in NASA contracts, all without competition, according to data on USASpending.gov, a federal Web site that aggregates contract spending data.
    Schoeberl’s 2007 financial disclosure form did not include the more than $50,000 in contracts his wife’s firm earned that year.”

    Notice how he tried to direct “Recovery Act” funds to his wife’s company. Those are your tax dollars!! And this at a time that the rest of the private sector work force is enduring 10% unemployment…

  9. Anthony,
    Normally I agree with almost everything written on here. But I have to part company over this.
    I work for the government – specifically in public procurement. I am constantly horrified by how many government employees don’t follow the rules for spending money – in all sorts of areas of public service. I can categorically state that it’s not limited to climate scientists, nor does not it say anything about how much funding is available for climate science.
    I think it says more about officers not knowing (or perhaps ignoring) the procurement regulations. There could even be a “lack of scrutiny / accountability” angle to this story. Perhaps it also says something about the enormous amounts of red tape involved in public spending. The scope of the rules are mind-boggling – trust me. But I hardly think it warrants much more attention.
    If NASA were a private company, no one would bat an eyelid over this. People in the commercial world give friends and families all sorts of deals. No one cares. Sure this is different. It’s public money. And so there are certain rules to follow – rules which are based around competition, transparency, fairness, etc).
    But I hardly expected this otherwise-excellent blog to get worked up over competition, transparency and fairness.

  10. Agree with the too much uncontrolled money being poured into climate research. Desperation does that.
    I saw the SPPI study that said $79 billion had been dumped in the AGW pit over the last 20 or so years.
    And all they got for it is one fake chart …

  11. Sorry – a typo in my above comment!
    I work for the government – specifically in public procurement. I am constantly horrified by how many government employees don’t follow the rules for spending money – in all sorts of areas of public service. I can categorically state that it’s not limited to climate scientists, nor does it say anything about how much funding is available for climate science.

  12. The same requirements apply to some of the big time offenders, such as Senators Feinstein and Reid, and Congress persons Pelosi, Murtha, Mollahan. Pelosi, Feinstein and Reid family members, and themselves since both CA and NV are community property law states, were the beneficiaries of specific earmarks upon which they voted without disclosures of the conflicts of interest.
    However, there may be an exemption for members of Congress that makes the offenses even more egregious.

  13. $3.4 billion for carbon capture and storage. Who is the master and who is the slave?
    “September 30, 2009
    ROCKEFELLER: ANY SENATE CLIMATE LEGISLATION SHOULD SOLIDIFY WEST VIRGINIA AND COAL’S FUTURE
    Washington, D.C. – Senator Jay Rockefeller released the following statement regarding climate legislation introduced today by Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry:
    “The climate legislation proposed today by Senators Boxer and Kerry is a disappointing step in the wrong direction and I am against it.
    “Requiring 20 percent emission reductions by 2020 is unrealistic and harmful – it is simply not enough time to deploy the carbon capture and storage (CCS) and energy efficiency technologies we need. Period.
    “Our nation cannot survive without energy from coal and any viable climate policy must solidify our future by focusing on technology to make coal cleaner faster.
    “I will continue studying the bill and all of its implications for our state and the coal industry. This is by no means the defining word on climate legislation in the Senate.
    “I remain adamant in my conviction not to support any bill that might threaten the economy, workers or families across West Virginia.
    “We should take the time to approach these issues with absolute care and diligence – they require nothing less.”
    Background:
    At least six Senate committees, including the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which Rockefeller chairs, have jurisdiction over climate legislation and could offer their own versions – which would ultimately have to be incorporated into one bill before being considered on the Senate floor.
    Rockefeller has consistently pushed to make CCS technologies part of the solution in making the United States more energy independent. He fought to make sure funding for CCS technologies was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – and as a result, $3.4 billion was secured for low carbon coal and carbon sequestration projects.
    As discussions surrounding climate legislation move forward in the Senate, Rockefeller is fighting for even stronger investments in the technologies needed to secure a confident future for West Virginia coal.
    http://rockefeller.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=318456

  14. You just don’t get it. The coming climate catastrophe requires all good citizens to do their part to save the planet!!
    A few hundred thousand $$$ here or there is NOTHING compared to the firey death that awaits us all if we do not act now. Managers at NASA are ONLY doing what is best for the planet. Hiring your wife to get the message out is merely ONE of the techniques available for responsible scientists to raise the awareness of the threat we face. Fixing data so it looks like a “Hockey stick” would be called “fraud” in any other science but not here, oh no, this is yet another example of absolutely NECESSARY tactics to SAVE OUR PLANET! What could be more important? Even NASA’s highest profile scientist, James Hanson, publically recommends to commit civil disobediance in order to raise awareness.
    You will eventually forgive these folks for doing what may at a glance seem wrong but will become patently obvious as absolutely necessary, in thirty years time, for the sake of all of us and our children.
    If only you at WUWT understood how your attitudes are endangering the lives of everyone on this entire planet. If we AGW’ers get half the chance we will lock all of you up – the whole lot of you deniers (to save our children)!
    /sarc off

  15. This is just ordinary corruption that goes with power and loose money. Not related to AGW or the scientific method. When the R’s had power they were corrupt, now the D’s have power and they’re corrupt. The corruption goes with power, not philosophy.
    And Anthony you don’t need to worry so much about uncontrolled money for AGW research; the spendulus bill only included two or three billion dollars for climate research. So what if that’s above the normal billions of funding. So far you and Steve are out funded by about 1000 to one and still winning.

  16. Dang, for $50,000 a year I could launch daily, weekly and monthly CEIT and CEUVI movies so kiddies could watch the Sun develop as if humans could see in the ultraviolet, and in color.
    Animated GIF movies of the Sunspot development and faculae growth.
    Drat.
    All I got was a Tee Shirt for making an HST Snap proposal for a lousy wandering black hole evidence study.
    Arghhh…. I have the luck of the Irish.

  17. Gee Jeremy, what are you going to do when the earth continues to cool and you cannot afford heat? Freeze with your children?

  18. I agree with those who are saying that this is a personal matter concerning the person convicted – there are always a couple of bad apples. My experience is that graft and corruption seem to be pretty equally divided among Democrats and Republicans – – probably Independents, too – – same goes for Warmers and Skeptics.
    I would say the same thing about faulty zippers, too.

  19. CPA’s do a fine job of catching these conflict of interest or inside deal contracts in the private sector. They then become personnel matters. Mr Watts posted the abuse of desktops to watch porn. Yes government workers in some ways have more employment security and exploit the same. It is a fact that vendors sell less fraud and monitoring software to government agencies.
    I resent the Feds telling me i use too much water and don’t pay enough for energy and they let this happen.

  20. I think that called a supplemental retirement fund.
    So like maybe there’s a job opening at GISS ?

  21. And this is relevant to the AGW “debate” how? Oh, it is not. Yet you keep on trying to discredit one and all climate scientists as being corrupt. Come on, be reasonable, climate scientists are no worse than anyone else in this regard, there will always be a few bad apples.
    REPLY: It’s about the huge amount of money being poured into climate science. For example, why replicate services for cost with outside contractors when NASA is fully capable of doing these simple animations themselves? – A

  22. Don’t confuse NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre near Washington DC with NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Sciences in NYC, where Jim Hansen works. GSFC is a great place, and Aurora is a good mission. It’s sad, nothing more nothing less, that its project scientist is in trouble.
    REPLY: Hello Nigel, thanks for dropping by. I purposely made that distinction in the article with a note. The real issue is the amount of money being poured into climate research which lends itself to corruption like this. Why did NASA need to duplicate animation services they can do themselves? – Anthony

  23. The $7 Billion dollars a year spent in the US on Climate Research would buy 28 billion tons of Carbon Credits at today’s market rates.
    The total world CO2 emission output is only 32 billion tons this year, so instead of the research funding, we could actually Carbon Credit our way to Zero emissions.
    Realistically, it still costs $15 to $50 per ton to get rid of CO2 but $7 billion would still get rid of 140 to 466 Megatons.
    That is much more efficient use of taxpayer’s money in terms of actually having an impact on climate change …
    On second thought, it looks like the $7 billion should just be cut instead.

  24. Oh, so no job opening at GISS, then. Back to Wal-mart.
    .
    Maurice Garoutte (13:42:39) : above is correct. It isn’t the corruption of little contracts going to relatives, it’s the insane total tens of thousands of billions of dollars this President/Congress is spending. We’ve given our credit card and checkbook to children.
    .
    We once raised a fuss about $800 toilet seats. At least that money went for something useful.

  25. Eve (13:50:18) :
    Gee Jeremy, what are you going to do when the earth continues to cool and you cannot afford heat? Freeze with your children?

    In order to save our planet, YES – if needs be I will freeze. CO2 is a toxin – the EPA says so and the President is moving to enact federal laws against the evil factories and oil industry. I know it is all illegal stuff as the EPA does not have jurisdiction over CO2 but like I said the end justifies the means – if we save the planet then it will be all well worth it.
    /sarc off

  26. Ben M (12:36:12) : If NASA were a private company, no one would bat an eyelid over this. People in the commercial world give friends and families all sorts of deals. No one cares.
    Um, that isn’t quite so clear… Many companies have policies about self dealing and conflict of interest. I’ve worked at several where such a deal would be a career ending event. (I’ve seen folks assigned to new departments and/or fired over such events). Maybe in your closely held mom & pop or in your Senator’s Private Slush company, but not in any publicly traded company or anything of size.

  27. We do not have a directly equivalent law here in the UK, although we have some rather obscure laws that are rarely used but could apply to such a situation. The curious thing is that there are always two, cumulative, failings before a government contract can be awarded inappropriately, yet only one gains attention.
    First there is the obvious human failing of greed that causes a government employee to overlook his responsibilities when dollar signs flash before his eyes. This is the one we hear about, with gaudy headlines along the lines of “greedy scientist feathers his nest”. Secondly, and equally seriously, there is a failure in the system so that his egregious conduct is not detected before it is too late.
    The first failing can never be eliminated from any organisation because everything works through human beings, with all the frailties and errors of judgment that are a necessary part of the human condition. That does not mean that adults who succumb to temptation should avoid the full rigours of the law, they must take responsibilities for their mistakes.
    The second failing is often brushed under the carpet because failing to supervise properly is not a crime. Yet no one would try a fraud unless they felt there was a good chance of getting away with it. Indeed, the vast majority of crimes, whether financial crimes or others, would not be committed if potential perpetrators knew they were very likely to be caught.
    Within a commercial organisation, be it a trading company or a governmental organisation like NASA, the potential for financial jiggery-pokery is vast. In fact very little goes on because (i) the vast majority of employees are decent honest people who would never dream of cheating and (ii) those few who might be tempted know there is little chance of getting away with it.
    What intrigues me is how this chap did get away with it. We must not overlook the fact that he didn’t get away with it for long, but he was able to place grossly over-priced contracts for pretty simple pieces of work with no one batting an eyelid at either the cost or the identity of the beneficiary.
    There is another aspect to it. Placing a contract with a family member is not a problem provided you declare the connection. That’s all you have to do. Once you have done it you can argue your case as hard as you like and your argument will be heard in its proper context. This applies to tax-funded contracts and to private business. Transparency is the key. No one could even start to suggest there has been any form of cheating if the truth is out in the open.
    Isn’t it strange how transparency is at the heart of avoiding corruption, at the heart of avoiding fraud and at the heart of good science? Well, no it isn’t strange at all. It’s just common sense.

  28. Ben M (12:36:12) :
    “……….
    But I hardly expected this otherwise-excellent blog to get worked up over competition, transparency and fairness”
    I would not presume to speak for Anthony or the Moderators, but in my opinion:
    The focus of this blog is the science around Weather, Climate, and AGW. In the discussion here of the science, it is obvious to me that money and power have corrupted much of the science. As they said in Deep Throat: Follow the Money.
    So, I am not at all surprised to see “competition, transparency and fairness“a hot topic here. It has been a lack thereof that has debased the science.
    Steamboat Jack

  29. Will someone please explain to me why he is spending 3.4 billion dollars of my money on carbon capture and storage (CCS)?
    Rockefeller has consistently pushed to make CCS technologies part of the solution in making the United States more energy independent. He fought to make sure funding for CCS technologies was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act – and as a result, $3.4 billion was secured for low carbon coal and carbon sequestration projects.
    As discussions surrounding climate legislation move forward in the Senate, Rockefeller is fighting for even stronger investments in the technologies needed to secure a confident future for West Virginia coal.
    http://rockefeller.senate.gov/press/record.cfm?id=318456

  30. How far would I get if I submitted a proposal to study Solar Cooling?
    The advantage goes to those already inside the system, who can use thier knowledge of how things are awarded, and position. Pour billions into a generalized ‘climate study area’ and the pheromones get activated.
    A large portion of the blame has to go to government, who should know better.

  31. When I worked at a large defense contractor, I saw an engineer get fired for taking a partial box of typewriter carbon paper [see how old I am?] to his car. Stealing company property, even a few sheets of carbon paper, was not tolerated.
    From the article:
    “When government officials direct business to themselves or their family members, other people are deprived of a fair chance to compete,” said U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. “It is illegal for any federal employee to make an official decision that directly affects their financial interest, unless they disclose that conflict of interest and get approval from the government.”
    Oh, really?
    That doesn’t seem to apply to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who resigned as Chair of the Senate’s Military Appropriations subcommittee after it was disclosed that she used her position to funnel contracts to her husband’s companies in illegal no-bid contracts: click.
    And Sen. Barbara “Bouncer” Boxer kited over one hundred personal checks to the U.S. Post Office, made out to “Cash”. All the checks bounced, and Boxer never responded to the Post Office’s letters asking her to make them good.
    Finally a Post Office employee called the newspaper, and Boxer immediately repaid the entire amount. The fact that she was facing re-election probably goosed her a little. What do you think would happen to you, if you kited even one bad check to the feds, and ignored their demands for repayment?
    The government has abandoned its fiduciary duty to its citizens. Now, getting caught funneling tens of millions of dollars to your husband’s company results in only losing a subcommittee chairmanship — but no ethics or criminal charges. And she and her hubby got to keep all the money.
    And now it appears that Keith Briffa has pocketed over a million dollars [£708,805] in grants that bought a brand new hokey stick to replace Michael Mann’s fabrication.
    Question: who represents the hard-bitten taxpayers? Anyone?

  32. How come the title bar says “Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6” when you follow the link to the Animated Earth home page?
    According to Adobe, they have discontinued their GoLive product as of April 28, 2008 – and at that time the product was at version 9. Very sloppy work, but I guess that’s all you can get for that kind of money these days. ;->

  33. It seems as though wuwt wants to have a private war with NASA and Gavin Schmidt. Even as an avid wuwt reader and AGW skeptic, the tone of this and some other posts about NASA and GS is becoming needlessly nasty, and IMO undermining wuwt’s message about skewed and biased climate science.

  34. I want to be able to trust ‘published science’. These people have squandered government money and public trust to push a hypothesis that is over-simple and not supported by the facts. Rather than concede that observations invalidate their hypothesis they have diddled the data and attempted to hide behind bluster.
    For Science to regain its credibility bad practices such as these must be rooted out with zeal by those who believe in the purity of Science.
    The enormity of the crime of fiddling data must be understood.

  35. Here’s an idea. How ’bout the guvmint just stop spending money, period? Think of all the investigative costs that would be saved!!!!!! No money, no scandals. We could start a referendum!

  36. REPLY: It’s about the huge amount of money being poured into climate science. For example, why replicate services for cost with outside contractors when NASA is fully capable of doing these simple animations themselves? – A
    Just because it’s done in house doesn’t mean it’s free. $64,000 a year in a university environment (non-overheaded) usually amounts to ~$48000 in salary the rest consumables etc. About one third of the salary would be benefits so that leaves $32000 in direct pay (less than a grad student), so I’m guessing half a staff person at NASA? Or a low level SBIR Phase 2 contract.

Comments are closed.