I intended follow-up today on a previous post, but I found out that Josh Marshall beat me to it, in terms of tying together the threads I started toying with earlier concerning Michael Brown, Joe Allbaugh and the cronyism rampant of the Bush administration. And he also wound in a thread that clarifies Brown’s value to the Bush administration.
FEMA Director Michael Brown got his job as a political patronage position, with no relevant experience and the last item on his resume getting fired from a job as a manager of horse shows. Last year he was caught giving out FEMA money as political pork with an eye to the 2004 elections. But that shouldn’t surprise since people who get hired as part of patronage operations do their jobs as part of the patronage operation. That’s the idea.
Caught giving out FEMA money? Geez. That was a rock I didn’t know existed, nevermind looking under it. Brown evidently did his part to deliver Florida for Bush in 2004, and did it with FEMA funds.
Wexler cited reports in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that FEMA under Brown’s management inappropriately gave away $30 million in disaster relief funds to people in the Miami, Florida, area even though they were not affected by Hurricane Frances, which made landfall more than 100 miles away.
So, that’s $30 million for Florida residents 100 miles away from a hurricane, while emergency services for folks directly in the path of a hurricane — who were unlikely to vote Republican, by the way — were privatized to Innovative Emergency Management for some amount that I haven’t been able to track down yet. I haven’t been able to track down just what IEM did or what kind of disaster plan they devised for New Orleans either.
Marshall’s post did jog my memory, tho’. A reader linked to the previous post, asking the following question.
Seems that Michael Brown pulled something very similar to the UTIMCO scandal with Bush a few years back….can anyone confirm this?
UTIMCO? Never heard of it, or any scandal about it involving Bush. Turns out UTIMCO is the University of Texas Investment Management Company. UTIMCO was created around the time that Bush became governor of Texas, and shortly after that Bush changed the rules governing UT’s endowment, specifically the requirement to disclose all details about investments and income earned. With that little change in place, the good ol’ boy network kicked in.
After Ann Richards was defeated in 1994 by George W. Bush, Hicks shifted his heavy donations to Bush. Hicks gave $146,000 to Bush in both of his gubernatorial campaigns. In return for the gratitude, Bush approved legislation to form UTIMCO in 1995. Hicks had used a full-court press strategy, spending between $50,000 to $110,0001 in lobbying and using with the powerful lobbying team Vinson and Elkins, who represents several Texas business interests, to achieve this dream.
Conveniently for both men, Bush appointed Hicks as the first chair to UTIMCO, which began the tradition of tit-for-tat management and good-ol’ boy favoritism that has defined the relationship between UTIMCO and Texas politics since. In 1998, Hicks would make Bush a multi-millionaire by purchasing the Texas Rangers.
Soon "Bush Pioneers" and other politcal patrons were winning investment deals and control over shares of UTIMCO’s $12 billion in assets. UTIMCO, of course, denied any poltiical considerations in their decisions about where to place the University’s oil-well money. (Hicks, by the way, eventually stepped down and went on to become Clear Channel’s vice chairman.) Probably in much the same way Brown and the Bush administration would almost certainly deny political considerations in deciding where to place FEMA’s money, even it was placed 100 miles from the nearest hurricane back in 2004.
UTMICO was perhaps the first taste of the Bush brand of privitization, which might sound familiar now.
All of this showed Mr. Bush’s characteristic style. First there’s the penchant for secrecy, for denying the public information about decisions taken in its name. So it’s no surprise that the proposed Homeland Security Department will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act and from whistle-blower protection.
Then there’s the conversion of institutions traditionally insulated from politics into tools for rewarding your friends and reinforcing your political control.
In Bush’s signature mix of cronyism and privatization millions in essentially public funds flowed into the wallets of Bush political patrons and supporter (and most likely from there into Republican campaign coffers). Yesterday it was UTIMCO. Today it’s FEMA. Who knows what’s next?
Marshall wraps up his post by noting how Houston (pretty much the capitol of Bush Country) will experience a business boom from Katrina’s aftermath, in a way that can’t help but benefit "Bush Pioneers" and other loyal patrons, and underscores how the GOP gravy train — on tracks greased by well placed Bush cronies — will keep right on going.
The White House is already laying the groundwork for centralizing all authority over contracting within the executive branch, which for all intents and purposes means the White House. No oversight. No transparency. Halliburton ready at the trough.
Like a friend of mine said earlier this evening, it really is going to be the biggest slush fund of all time.
Indeed, if Bush can survive the political fallout from Katrina and the response failure, he may very well "hit the trifecta" again.