—Spotlight has come on an Sikh-owned security firm, Akal Security Inc., which was in February of this year awarded a $108 million contract with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to conduct screenings at Kansas City International Airport.
A report in The Washington Free Beacon said that the company, co-founded and run by Daya Singh Khalsa, has in all received more than $3 billion in federal contracts, but the controversial part is that it has donated over two times more to Democrats than Republican candidates.
The recent contract for Kansas was given after a two-year court battle that questioned whether the government conducted a fair and open bidding process, said the report.
Akal was first awarded the contract, worth $150.8 million, in April 2011. However, a competitor sued and won in federal claims court, forcing the TSA to rebid the contract. When Akal succeeded in securing the Kansas City airport security job, this time it was for a price 23 percent below the federal government’s cost estimate. The government valued the five-year contract at $140.9 million. Akal was awarded a $108 million contract, said Beacon.
The report points out that since 2008, the company donated a total of $105,050 to Democrats during that period, and $43,412 to Republicans.
“We play in the political arena like everyone else,” Khalsa was quoted as saying by the Beacon.
Akal Security is part of Sikh Dharma International in New Mexico, a religious compound founded by Yogi Bhajan. A Sikh missionary and hippie guru, Bhajan practiced reincarnation, Hinduism, telepathy, and mysticism.In the 1960s Bhajan claimed he could use his yogic powers to stop the rain, and that he received a vision that “America’s hippies needed his guidance.”
According to the Beacon, Bhajan encouraged one of his followers to found a security firm in 1980 after the man could not get a law enforcement job because of his beard and turban. Akal Security garnered more than $3.5 billion in government contracts between 2000 and 2010. Bhajan served as an adviser to Akal, and was a paid consultant on management issues.
Bhajan died in 2004, prompting former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D.), one of the biggest recipients of Akal’s political donations, to order flags flown at half-staff in the state. Richardson considered Bhajan a “trusted adviser and loyal ally,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
An NPR report in 2009 said that in three years, Akal and its subsidiary, Coastal International Security, earned more than $1 billion in federal contracts. In addition to screening people at federal courthouses, Akal also guards immigration detention centers, NASA facilities, federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and embassies under construction from Ecuador to Iraq.
The NPR report also said Khalsa was born Daniel Cohn, the son of a New York department store executive; he grew up in the Connecticut suburbs, graduated with an English degree from Amherst College, and drifted to the then-new Sikh colony in New Mexico to pursue his interest in yoga and meditation.
The Beacon report points out that the lawsuit over the latest TSA contract is not the first time Akal has faced legal trouble. Akal paid the federal government $18 million in 2007 to settle a suit after an investigation found that the company failed to provide adequate training and the necessary amount of security guards at eight Army bases across the country. Also, it settled with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2010 for a “nationwide pattern” of discrimination against its female security guards.
Akal currently patrols the parking lots and vehicles outside Baltimore Washington International Airport and has security contracts for federal courthouses in 40 states. The contract for Kansas City International is the first for which they will provide airport screening, said the Beacon.