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?