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           Katrina's Aftermath Archives         Katrina's Aftermath [Home]
Follow the Money!
(Palm Beach Post Editorial, September 30, 2005)
Hurricane victims keeled over in the Houston heat Wednesday while FEMA, once again caught off-guard, kept them waiting in line. It's so much cooler to be a Bush administration insider who can shove to the front of the line for the $200 billion Congress may provide in disaster aid. . . . As in Iraq, Halliburton -- which Vice President Cheney once ran -- is one of the most aggressive. The Washington Post reports that Halliburton, which already is benefiting from a $500 million contract to remove debris, sponsored a Katrina Reconstruction Summit hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., to explore "opportunities for private-sector involvement." . . . Iraq is a model -- but of what not to do. There, Halliburton is accused of rampant overbilling and of poor work on such crucial projects as restoring Iraq's oil industry, for which the company has received more than $10 billion as part of a five-year, no-bid contract. Oversight of U.S. spending in Iraq has been dismal to nonexistent. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for. . . . The Bush administration might be incapable of doing things any other way. The New York Times reported that 80 percent of the first $1.5 billion in aid after Hurricane Katrina was awarded with little or no competition. AshBritt, a Pompano Beach company, got a $568 million debris removal contract. AshBritt is a client of the lobbying firm for which Haley Barbour, Mississippi's governor and a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, used to work [and is owned by a relative]. . . . The Bush administration swears that it will carefully audit spending. But it's as well prepared to do that as FEMA was to provide timely hurricane relief. In the emergency bill to provide the first $60 billion in hurricane aid, Congress expanded the administration's ability to award no-bid contracts. That came at the request of the administration's chief procurement official, David Safavian. Mr. Safavian since has resigned after being indicted [and arrested!] for lying to investigators about his ties to also-indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a great friend of also-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. . . . Mr. Safavian got his job overseeing $300 billion in annual government spending because of his ties to Mr. Abramoff and anti-tax Bush ally Grover Norquist. According to Time magazine, experts consider Mr. Safavian one of the least qualified procurement officials ever appointed. That makes him at least as qualified as former FEMA Director Michael Brown. . . . While profit motivates many pursuing easy Katrina and Rita money, ideology motivates others. As The Post reported Wednesday, the administration is pushing a plan to spend $488 million for private-school vouchers. The plan should alarm anyone familiar with Florida's voucher programs, which dole out $140 million a year with little academic or financial accountability. . . . After 9/11, the Bush administration and Homeland Security Department rushed to spend money on equipment and programs that boosted contractors' bottom lines more than they boosted national security. Those profiting in Iraq have faced even less scrutiny. Until Congress starts watching the money, hurricane victims will keep feeling the heat while well-connected profiteers have it made in the shade.

posted by Lorenzo 1:34 PM

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