Paul Ryan’s budget committee rescinds invitation to Gary Alexander in wake of plagiarism scandal

Rhode Island welfare consultant Gary Alexander (left) and Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew prepare to answer questions from the Health and Human Services Committee at the Cross Office Building in Augusta in this January 2014 file photo.
Rhode Island welfare consultant Gary Alexander (left) and Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew prepare to answer questions from the Health and Human Services Committee at the Cross Office Building in Augusta in this January 2014 file photo.
Posted June 03, 2014, at 4:50 p.m.
Last modified June 03, 2014, at 7:11 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Accusations of plagiarism, errors and unseemly political motivations swirling around the Alexander Group command headlines in Maine and are now reaching Washington, D.C., where Republican congressional heavyweights are distancing themselves from the controversial consulting group.

Republicans on the House Budget Committee, led by the GOP budget guru, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, had invited the company’s founder and president, Gary Alexander, to testify during a June 10 hearing about the War on Poverty and Republicans’ efforts to reform federal aid, according to a congressional schedule obtained by the BDN on Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, Alexander’s name was stricken from the list of expected witnesses published on the committee’s website.

“In light of recent events, Mr. Alexander will not be testifying before the House Budget Committee next week,” said a committee spokesman in a request for comment.

Alexander, who previously served as the top official for public welfare in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, had originally been invited as an expert witness on the subject of welfare reform efforts.

In March, Ryan released a report titled ” The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later.” The report, according to the Washington Post, is an “often stinging 204-page critique of the federal government’s anti-poverty policies, questioning the efficacy of dozens of initiatives and underscoring where Republicans say consolidation or spending reductions are needed.”

Ryan said the report showed that the nearly $800 billion spent on 92 welfare programs was not being spent wisely, calling some of the programs “duplication or even counter-productive.” He told the Post that the government had created a “poverty trap.”

When Gov. Paul LePage’s administration handed the Alexander Group a $925,000 sole-source contract for a handful of welfare reports back in September, it created a political firestorm. Alexander has presented himself as a results-driven analyst and welfare reformer, though his analyses tend to point toward the same policy goals already espoused by the Republicans who hire him.

Namely, that’s cutting welfare spending.

Critics have claimed Alexander is driven by ideology, not facts. In Maine, Democrats have said he was hired by LePage not to produce objective reports, but to draft GOP talking points masquerading as independent research.

More recently, Alexander has been the subject of a plagiarism controversy in Maine, where it’s been revealed that a recent report on Maine’s welfare programs contained entire pages of material lifted from other sources. Alexander has said his firm simply failed to properly cite his sources and has denied allegations of plagiarism.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services has demanded a new report, with proper citation where necessary. LePage, who has long defended Alexander from critics, has suspended all further payments to the Rhode Island consultant pending a review of the plagiarism accusations. There also is talk of canceling the contract altogether and attempting to claw back the more than $500,000 the state has already paid the Alexander Group.

As of this week, LePage has not yet made a decision on whether to take additional action against the consulting firm. Efforts to reach Alexander for comment were unsuccessful.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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