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Emergency Relief: [By] Business As Usual

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With Katrina relief costs estimated to be as much as $250 billion dollars, business lobbyists have taken over the process.

First, FEMA handed out a series of no-bid contracts to Halliburton and others.

Now, the lobbyists have taken over the Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act and are handing out billions of dollars to the firms they represent.

"Lobbyists representing transportation, energy and other special interests dominated panels that advised Louisiana’s U.S. senators crafting legislation to rebuild the storm-damaged Gulf Coast.

"The Louisiana Katrina Reconstruction Act included billions of dollars’ worth of business for clients of those lobbyists and a total price tag estimated as high as $250 billion.

"One advisory panel member [Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane public health research center at LSU] who discovered that most of his fellow panelists were lobbyists called the resulting legislation ‘a huge injustice’ to the state. He said he was shut out after he voiced his concerns." [Lobbyists Advise Katrina Relief LA Times 10/10/2005 subscription] (Story links open in new windows)

Specific measure inserted by the lobbyists include:

  • Lobbyists for Entergy Corp. and Cleco Corp. consulted with senators’ staffs. The bill includes $2.5 billion to help Entergy, Cleco and similar companies. [Such aid to for-profit companies is illegal, prohibited by the Federal Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act]
  • Two members of the advisory panels were lobbyists for a controversial port canal project. The bill includes a request to prioritize building a lock along the canal for $784 million.
  • Highway lobbyists managed to get $7 billion for highway work.

As one observer said: "They are using Katrina to get funding they haven’t been able to get in the past. This is congressional looting at its worst."

It’s not all the lobbyists’ fault, though, is it?

Write your Senators and House Representative and let them know what you think about government of business, by business, for business.

They’re supposed to be your representatives, not an Überklasse.


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  • RedTard

    The figure of $250B is ridiculously large and apparently includes much waste. That much money could give the most affected 2 million people $125,000 each. A family of four could get $500,000, for example. Then let them take that money plus anything they can squeeze out of the insurance companies and do what they want. If they want to relocate, fine. If they want use it to rebuild that’s great too. A good quality 3/2/2 house can be found in most of the south for under $150,000. That would leave our family with $350,000 to buy the rest of the necessities.

    Investors, entrepeneurs, and businesses will buy up any damaged property (providing the owners with more cash) and rebuild it as an investment out of their own pocket. Because of the high land values near the ocean, the private sector would eventually rebuild the entire area without government interference (below sea level might be the exception, without some money being spent on levee upgrades, perhaps $8-10B).

    So why are we giving billions to Halliburton and friends rather than directly to the people most affected by the hurricane? Those same billions could take hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty and place them into the upper-middle class, at least in net worth.

    I am a far right person who can’t stand government handouts, but if we’re determined to spend $250B on reconstruction I would rather see it go to the victims than to corporate welfare.

  • Right on, Red.

    Our biggest problem in Washington isn’t Republicans or Democrats – it’s politicians. Left, right and center are wallowing at the trough, having sold out to their campaign contributors. They have essentially become an “uberklasse” and while they disagree on many things, the disagreements generally just boil down to who gets the biggest share of the spoils.

    The House of Representatives is astoundingly, shamefully bad, but the Senate is not without sin, either (the latest energy bill, the highway bill, signing off on the earlier “Jobs Creation Act”, the ag subsidies bill, etc.)

    Nader and his ilk are emphatically not a solution, but I don’t know what would be. Maybe just “throwing the bums out” every election would get politicians to realize that they’re supposed to represent us, not themselves.

    Here in California, throwing Democrat Grey Davis out did produce a minor improvement, although we now need to see Arnold’s redistricting plan passed so we can dump the locked-in Democratic majority in the State senate and assembly.

    Then we can take the redistricting fight to the rest of the country (e.g., Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania as egregious examples of what needs to be fixed) and finally – maybe – get slightly more representative government.

    PS: When George W. Bush took office, there were about 16,000 registered lobbyists. Today, there are more than 34,000 – and we’re seeing more government of business, by business, for business.

  • Dr. Kurt

    We really need to put aside the partisan football game and clean up our government, for the sake of our nation’s future. Here is an idea: should any elected representative, or any of her staff members, be caught having any sort of contact with a lobbyist, then s/he shall be promplty hung from a flagpole. Period. That would help!
    BTW, what’s so wrong with Colorado’s districting? Just because one party doesn’t love it doesn’t mean it is messed up. Preferably, both parties should hate it…