In February 2010, Azam Doost received a $15.8 million loan from U.S. taxpayers.
Specifically, from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a federal agency that finances infrastructure projects abroad.
With the $15.8 million, Doost was supposed to organize a marble mining project in Afghanistan. And in hiring vendors to provide equipment and services for the mining operation, Doost's company was supposed to operate above board.
In other words, he was not to receive "thank-you" payments or kickbacks. But the Department of Justice accuses Doost of doing just that. It alleges that Doost received $444,000 in payments in return for vendor contracts. The case is now going to trial, but there's a broader point at stake here.
Namely, the fact that OPIC is a poor joke.
As Tim Carney explains, OPIC is designed to fail. It has a big wallet.
Unfortunately, OPIC also doesn't seem to realize that when you put hundreds of millions -- or billions -- of dollars into big foreign infrastructure projects, the risks of failure and corruption are severe. This is the recipe for corruption and mismanagement.
Now, if OPIC, were a private organization funded by private donors, I wouldn't gripe. After all, private individuals are allowed to invest in whatever they want. But it isn't. OPIC is a taxpayer funded entity. Whatever OPIC loses, we're on the line for it.
And boy, are we losing a lot of money.
Still, what's most aggravating is that OPIC doesn't seem to learn from its mistakes. Its penchant for idiotic investments continues unhindered. Consider OPIC's announcement, last week, of new investments. Alongside a $120 million wind farm in Indonesia, OPIC will provide up to $243 million "to expand access to mortgages for low-income home buyers in Colombia."
Two questions follow.
First, does investing in mortgages for low-income Colombian home buyers represent a good investment? I.e., can American taxpayers be confident of a return on investment?
Give me a break.
Second, should the federal government be paying for it?
Again, I think the vast majority of Americans would say no.
Don't get me wrong. I believe U.S. development programs play an important moral and strategic role around the world. But unlike the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), OPIC is supposed to be an investment arm. And unlike USAID's focus on human outcomes as its return on investment calculus, OPIC is supposed to be cost neutral. At the level of mission statement and mission fulfillment, there's an inherent dishonesty to this organization.
For all the aforementioned rationales, Trump is absolutely right to try and kill OPIC.