HowDareThey.org & New Standard News & TomDispatch.org – 2005-09-16 23:58:23
Katrina Money for Halliburton? How Dare They!
(September 13, 2005) — You’ve heard of “war profiteering.” Now comes “hurricane profiteering.”
Congress approved more than $60 billion of assistance to victims of Hurricane Katrina, and already well-connected lobbyists have lined up to get their clients no-bid, lucrative contracts. Adding insult to injury, the Bush Administration suspended the prevailing wage rules that required that these companies pay a decent wage to the workers now coming in to clean-up the area.
We must hold our public officials accountable — contracts should not be awarded on the basis of how well-connected you are or how much money you contributed.
Public Campaign launched HowDareThey.org in the wake of 9/11 as a response to the Washington lobbyists and their big money clients cashing in on the nation’s tragedy. In the words of journalist Bill Moyers, “While we [had] our hands on our hearts, they [were] picking our pockets.”
Today, sadly, they’re at it again. Our hearts are heavy with news that the same is happening in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Even Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former employer, is grabbing tens of millions of dollars in rebuilding contracts, despite their inability to account for more than $1 billion in taxpayer spending in Iraq.
Halliburton Corporation — Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company — received a $30 million contract to clean up after Hurricane Katrina. Lobbyists are lining up to grab profits for their clients without having to competitvely bid for Katrina reconstruction work. Some contracts will be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe even billions.
Companies like Halliburton shouldn’t be able to cash in on their political connections to steal a profit after Hurricane Katrina.
This pay-to-play cronyism should have no place in this humanitarian mission. How well-connected your lobbyist is, or how much money you gave to politicians, shouldn’t be more important than how well-qualified your company is.
We’ve relaunched HowDareThey.org because we’re outraged. How dare Washington insiders rush to the Gulf Coast to profit from this tragedy. Sign the petition to tell Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to set up a streamlined, but competitive, bidding process. And pass it on!
David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director
Send a message to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff demanding that he establish a competitive, but streamlined, bidding process to stop the hurricane profiteering. You can cut the red tape without resorting to cronyism.
Sign this petition:
I am disturbed by news reports that companies are looking to profit from their political connections by getting no bid contracts in the Gulf Coast. The clean-up work and the reconstruction of New Orleans and other places destroyed by Katrina should be awarded to those well-qualified for the job, not those who are well-connected. I demand that you set up a competitive, but streamlined, bidding process that guarantees that the work gets done by professionals, not cronies.
Sign this Petition!
Campaign Expiration Date:
October 12, 2005
Questions Persist about Katrina Recovery Contracts
Brendan Coyne / The New Standard
(September 15, 2005) — Following the repeal of normal operating procedures for contractors and allegations of cronyism in awarding federal hurricane relief work, the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that it would dispatch a team of auditors with a mandate to ensure taxpayer money is spent properly, the New York Times reports.
The investigation, which will reportedly focus largely on the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s contract-awarding process, is to be carried out by officials from the Agency’s own parent department, not an independent body.
The announcement came a day after House Democrats called for an independent investigation and amid union charges that the Bush administration has used the relief effort to gut workers’ rights and protections. The Agency has not been forthcoming about how Hurricane Katrina clean-up contracts are being awarded.
Charging that the Bush administration has demonstrated a record of “persistent and costly mismanagement” in awarding no-bid contracts in Iraq and elsewhere, House Democrats sent a letter to United States Comptroller General David M. Walker asking the Government Accountability Office to step in and oversee the contract-awarding process. As recently as March 2004, DHS inspectors found serious flaws in FEMA record keeping, the letter noted.
News reports and reviews by non-governmental organizations have revealed a number of no-bid contracts handed to Bush supporters and allies. Former FEMA director and Bush campaign manager Joseph M. Allbaugh has procured millions in contracts for client companies.
Other companies that have won federal clean-up and relief contracts include $29.8 million to Vice President Dick Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, and $100 million to Flour, a high-dollar Republican Party donor.
According to the Times, DHS Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, a former FEMA official, is sending a team of 30 auditors to Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana to monitor no-bid and other contracts. Skinner declined to discuss specifics, though he told the Times he would look at contracts awarded to politically-connected companies.
© 2005 The NewStandard.
Corporations of the Whirlwind:
The Reconstruction of New Oraq
Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse / TomGram
“At times it is hard to ignore the comparisons between Baghdad (where I was less than a month ago and have spent more of the last two years) and New Orleans: The anarchy, the looting, some of it purely for survival, some of it purely opportunistic. We watched a flatbed truck drive by, a man on the back with an M-16 looking up on the roofs for snipers, as is common in Iraq. Private security contractors were stationed outside the Royal St. Charles Hotel; when asked if things were getting pretty wild around the area, one of them replied, ŒNope. It’s pretty Green Zone here.'”
(David Enders, Surviving New Orleans,
In the decade before September 11th, 2001, “globalization,” a word now largely missing-in-action, was on everyone’s lips and we constantly heard about what a small, small world this really was. In the aftermath of Katrina, that global smallness has grown positively claustrophobic and particularly predatory.
Iraq and New Orleans now seem to be morphing into a single entity, New Oraq, to be devoured by the same limited set of corporations, let loose and overseen by the same small set of Bush administration officials. In George Bush’s new world of globalization, first comes the destruction and only then does one sit down at the planetary table to sup.
In recent weeks, news has been seeping out of Iraq that the “reconstruction” of that country is petering out, because the money is largely gone. According to American officials, reported T. Christian Miller of the Los Angeles Times
Water and sanitation projects have been particularly hard hit; while staggering sums, once earmarked for reconstruction, are being shunted to private security firms whose hired-guns are assigned to guard the projects that can’t be done. With funds growing scarce, various corporations closely connected to the Bush administration, having worked the Iraqi disaster for all it was worth (largely under no-bid, cost-plus contracts), are now looking New Orleans-ward.
Ground Zero Iraq
The American occupation of Iraq began in April 2003 with a prolonged moment of chaos that set the stage for everything to follow. In the first days after Baghdad fell, the occupying army stood by idly (guarding only the Oil Ministry and the intelligence services) while Iraqi looters swept away the institutional, administrative, and cultural underpinnings of the country. The newly installed Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), soon to be led by American viceroy L. Paul Bremer, followed up by promptly disbanding the only institution that remained half-standing, the Iraqi military.
At the same time, a new American administration was set up inside the increasingly well-fortified and isolated Green Zone in Baghdad, staffed largely by Bush cronies. (“Neocon kindergarten” was the way some insiders derisively referred to the young Bush supporters sent out from Washington to staff the lower levels of the CPA for months at a time.)
The CPA then instituted a flat tax
For Iraqis, this was more than just “shock and awe”; it was to be caught in the whirlwind. Call it Year Zero for Iraq or Ground Zero for the new Bush order. Iraq, stripped for action, was ready to be strip-mined — and it was then that Washington called in its crony corporations to “reconstruct” the land.
Leading the list was Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of the energy firm Halliburton, the mega-corporation Vice President Dick Cheney once presided over. From providing fuel to building bases, doing KP to supplying laundry soap, it supported the newly privatized, stripped-down American military — and for that it “received more money
Fluor Corporation, an Orange County, California-based firm that inked a joint $1.1 billion deal
Another successful bidder in the Iraqi lottery was CH2M Hill, a Colorado-based company that, in a joint venture, took in a $28.5 million
These firms were joined at the table by other heavy-hitters and a dizzying array of smaller-fry American subcontractors, from the KBR-connected food service company Event Source
Over two years after the American superpower occupied Iraq and called in its reconstructors, however, the scorecard for “reconstruction” looked remarkably like one for deconstruction. The country was essentially looted and no one was left on guard, not even at the Oil Ministry. Money was spent profligately, and sometimes evidently simply pilfered.
L. Paul Bremer himself reputedly had a slush fund of $600 million dollars in cash for which, according to Ed Harriman (who did a superb study of the various reports by U.S. auditors on the ensuing mayhem in the London Review of Books
When Bremer left Baghdad in June of last year, the CPA had already run through $20 billion dollars in Iraqi funds, mostly generated by oil revenues and earmarked for “the benefit of the Iraqi people” (though only $300 million in U.S. funds). Much of it seems to have gone to American companies for their various reconstruction tasks.
US auditors, Harriman reports, “have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution.” It was evidently a field day of malfeasance and — a particular signature of the Bush administration — lack of accountability. In the meantime, KBR
The results we now know well. Electricity and oil production, for instance, still remain at or below the figures for the worst days of Saddam Hussein’s embattled regime; and on that cleared land at Ground Zero Iraq, a fierce resistance movement rages, while, from Basra to Mosul, disappointment with and disapproval of the American occupiers only grows.
Now, these same corporations are being loosed on the Southeastern United States on the same no-bid, cost-plus basis. Like Baghdad and much of Iraq, New Orleans and the Mississippi coast have just experienced “shock and awe” — Katrina’s winds and waters, not US cruise missiles.
With troops occupying New Orleans, the Bush administration-allied corporations of the whirlwind that feed off chaos and destruction are already moving in. In this sense, the next wave of chaos has, from their point of view, arrived like the proverbial cavalry, just in the nick of time.
Bringing the Post-War Home
As Reuters reported
In fact, with Congress already making a $62 billion initial down payment on post-Katrina reconstruction work, the Bush administration has just given out its first 6 reconstruction contracts, five of them — could anyone be surprised — to Iraqi reconstructors, including Fluor. Small world indeed. The Bush version of crony capitalism should perhaps be termed predatory capitalism, following as it does so closely in the wake of war and natural disaster much as camp followers used to trail armies, ready, in case of victory, to loot the baggage train of the enemy.
But let’s pull back for a moment and try to reconstruct, however briefly, at least a modest picture of the massively interconnected world of the reconstructors. A good place to start is with George Bush’s pal Joseph Allbaugh, a member of his “so-called iron triangle
Allbaugh seems to display in his recent biography just about every linkage that makes New Oraq what it is clearly becoming. He ran the Bush presidential campaign of 2000; and subsequently was installed as the director of FEMA which, in congressional testimony, he characterized as “an overstuffed entitlement program,” counseling (as Harold Meyerson of the American Prospect
As at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, so at FEMA in Washington, the larder of administrators would soon be stocked with second and third-rate Bush supporters and cronies. Five of FEMA’s top eight managers would, according to Spencer S. Hsu of the Washington Post, arrive with “virtually no experience in handling disasters,” three of them “with ties to President Bush’s 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation.”
A “brain drain” of competent administrators followed as — à la the Pentagon — FEMA’s focus turned to the war on terror, money was drained from natural-disaster work, and the agency was “privatized” with previously crucial activities outsourced to Bush-friendly corporations.
In March 2003, Allbaugh departed FEMA, putting the increasingly starved and down-sized operation in the hands of Michael Brown, an old college buddy whose previous job had been overseeing the International Arabian Horse Association. He then made his faith-based career choice — no, not to join the Salvation Army or the Mennonite Disaster Service.
Instead he opted for what the Bush administration really believed in — both in Iraq and at home. He became a high-priced consultant/lobbyist, founding in the ensuing years three consulting firms. At Blackwell Fairbanks, LLC, he teamed up with Andrew Lundquist, who led the Dick Cheney task force that produced the administration’s National Energy Policy, to “successfully represen[t] clients
Then there was the Allbaugh Company through which he represents Halliburton’s KBR as well as
Not surprisingly, the firm’s vice chairman and director, Ed Rogers
In answer to critics who claimed he and others were cashing in on their service to Bush and Cheney, Allbaugh responded, “I don’t buy
As President and CEO at Allbaugh Co. and assumedly as a former head of FEMA, not to say as close friend and mentor to FEMA’s (now departed) head and as a Presidential pal, he found himself at the front of the Katrina disaster line, apparently pushing hard (although he denied it
By September 7
Ground Zero New Orleans
On September 12, 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported, “FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have awarded six contracts, most for as much as $100 million, for recovery and rebuilding work.” It should be of little surprise that the Shaw Group landed two of these $100 million deals
These companies, however, aren’t the only ones returning from Iraq, like so many predator drones, to pick up lucrative deals. In the wake of Katrina, Intelsat, a global satellite services provider that, in Iraq, had teamed up with Bechtel on a big USAID
Along with their service in Iraq, the Katrina reconstruction companies are tied together in another important way. They tend to be particularly well linked to the Bush administration and the Republican Party. As former Oklahoma Republican Governor Frank Keating said of Allbaugh, “Joe… knows
Not surprisingly, during the 2004 election season, CH2M Hill was the top “construction services” contributor to political campaigns, sending nearly 70% of its $476,800 in contributions to Republican candidates. In fact, fourteen people on the CH2M payroll contributed to Bush’s 2004 campaign, including the company’s chairman
Meanwhile, Bechtel’s political action committee contributed 68% of its funds
Theoretically, there should be nothing more glorious than the job of healing the war-torn or rebuilding the lives of those devastated by natural disaster, nor anything more relevant to government. Unfortunately, in the case of KBR World, there’s nothing glorious about it, except the 5-star hotels for the reconstructors. Prediction is usually a dismal science for any writer. In this case, however, it’s already easy to imagine — as some Democrats
Those no-bid, cost-plus contracts already being dealt out to the usual suspects tell you what you need to know about future cost-overruns, klepto-reconstruction activities, and the like which are practically guaranteed to deconstruct the bulk of the Gulf Coast and leave New Orleans, the destroyed parts of Mississippi, and the hundreds of thousands of evacuees, not to speak of Congress, gasping for breath amid a landscape largely sucked dry, not of water, but of cash and sustenance.
George Bush’s version of capitalism is of a predatory, parasitical kind. It feeds on death, eats money, goes home when the cash stops flowing, and leaves further devastation in its wake. New Orleans, like a rotting corpse, naturally attracts all sorts of flies.
Reports have been trickling in that the private security firms — call them mercenary corporations like Blackwater USA
They first arrived in the employ of private corporations and local millionaires
Then, on September 13, the Washington Post
Today, New Orleans’ streets are under military occupation; its property is guarded by hired guns; and the corporations of the whirlwind are pouring into town. All that’s missing is the insurgency.
Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com (“a regular antidote to the mainstream media”), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project
Nick Turse works in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University and is Associate Editor and Research Director of TomDispatch. He writes for the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Village Voice and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex and the homeland security state.
Copyright 2005 Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse
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