Thursday, October 27, 2005

How to get Katrina cleanup contract? Friends in high places.

Indeed, on Sept. 1, just days after Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, AshBritt hired former Mississippi lawmaker and ex-Army Corps of Engineers head Mike Parker as a lobbyist. The company listed his duties on federal disclosure forms as "federal affairs for debris removal after Hurricane Katrina."

Parker joined an AshBritt lobbying roster that already included former Louisiana Representative James Hayes (D) and the services of a Washington firm founded by Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and now governor of Mississippi.

OUT OF LOCKSTEP. Fourteen days after Parker came on the scene, the Army Corps awarded AshBritt a competitively bid contract worth $500 million to remove Katrina debris in Mississippi, with an option to increase the dollar amount to an even billion dollars. AshBritt had already been activated under a preexisting contingency contract for $56 million, rocketing it to the top of the list of Katrina contractors to date in a cleanup effort expected to total more than $100 billion.
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INTERNAL AFFAIRS. But AshBritt has been the focus for the strongest criticism since the storm clouds parted. A recent report in The Washington Post revealed that until October, AshBritt listed itself in government databases as a minority-owned, woman-owned company, even though it's run by a white man. Perkins' Cuban-American wife, Saily, was listed in Florida state records as company president, while Perkins was listed on AshBritt's Web site as managing vice-president.

Good reporting from Business Week. They're not afraid to name the names. Read the rest to learn about Trent Lott, FEMA and others. Nothing illegal here. Move along. Nothing to see.

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