Cost of the War in Iraq
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Katrina and the Contractors who loved her

On September 16th, I blogged This Article, Louisiana - The New Scam about where the katrina Relief Money approved by congress and bush will go.

Today unfortunately, I get to report the article was right on target. "Connected" companies again receiving "no-bid" contracts for federal money. Rewards for campaign contributions? Presidents before bush and senators before the current ones have also done this for a long time. It's just way more apparent and visible in the bush administration. It's like they don't care if we know they are rewarding these companies who supported their campaigns, and that are their friends and business associates.

From the NY Times; (shortened for length) The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show.

Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.

You remember Haliburton, right? The same company tied to dick cheney? The same company that he gave "no-bid" contracts to when he was working for Ronald Reagan? The same company that hired him as CEO and paid him millions of dollars after his generosity during the Reagan Administration? The same company that ended up with "no-bid" contracts totalling millions in Iraq? I'm sure you remember them.

More From the NY Times;Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details. Congress appropriated $62.3 billion in emergency financing after Hurricane Katrina struck. So far, a total of $15.8 billion has been allocated from a FEMA-managed disaster relief fund, of which $11.6 billion has been committed through contracts, direct aid to individuals or work performed by government agencies.

Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. According to Senate filings, AshBritt paid about $40,000 in the first half of 2005 to Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the Washington lobbying firm co-founded by Governor Barbour of Mississippi, who is also a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The Bechtel Corporation, awarded a contract that could be worth $100 million, is under scrutiny for its oversight of the "Big Dig" construction project in Boston. And Kellogg, Brown & Root, subsidiary of haliburton, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service.

As of last week, the federal government was spending more than $263 million a day on the recovery effort. The two most expensive services the government has signed contracts for so far are manufactured housing and debris removal, which alone have totaled $2 billion, according to contracting records. AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.

Other contracts signed elsewhere in the Gulf Coast Region are lower than $11 per cubic yard. Had competitive bidding been in place it would be quite a savings.

Basically what we have here is a disaster "industry" capable of being used to reward the cronies of whoever happens to be in power at the time. Right now, those are bush's cronies, later it will be the democrat's cronies. Even now on a smaller scale there are democrats who are rewarding their contributors, friends, and associates with lucrative contracts in return for their campaign contributions and other favors.

It's the same with bush appointing brown to be the head of fema. You help someone get elected, you get a cushy job or a lucrative contract whether you are qualified or not. Brown at fema couldn't even run an organization that dealt with arabian horses, let alone handle a disaster. Unfortunately even the people under him were cronies, so he didn't even have more qualified people than himself to fall back on.

If people don't pay attention to what is going on with these contracts and appointments, and don't speak out about it, or answer with their votes it will only get worse, if that's possible.

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