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This is interesting, here we have a former Clinton FEMA director taking a no bid contract, and it seems the Democrats have no problem with it.

In Louisiana, he cut his usual hourly fee to $275 from $500 for the no-bid state contract and declined to take on any other business there, despite what his partners say are numerous requests. Just one day after his news conference with Allstate, he backed away from his lobbying work for the insurer to avoid conflicts with his advisory role to the state.
Now, I have no problem with people making money at all. I do have a problem with bitching and moaning about no bid contracts, and then an over look of one.

Here is the entire article:
http://tinyurl.com/e2dp8
 

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I don't approve of ANY no-bid contracts and was unaware of this one. (BTW - can't see the article so I am having to take your word for it...I don't want to subscribe just to read one article.)

Katrina Contracts Will Be Reopened
No-Bid Deals Questioned on Hill

By Jonathan Weisman and Griff Witte
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 7, 2005; Page A01

Lawmakers from both parties sharply questioned nearly every aspect of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina yesterday, focusing their discontent on suspect contracts and eliciting a pledge that hundreds of millions of dollars in deals awarded with no competition would soon be put up for bid.

Nine House and Senate panels held hearings on hurricane relief, with a sense of frustration frequently bursting to the surface. Several members chastised administration officials, citing tales of small businesses in the Gulf states losing work to giants such as Halliburton Co. Others challenged administration stances on tax breaks and health care for the displaced.

Under questioning about the agency's reliance on contracts that lacked full and open bidding, R. David Paulison, the acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said, "I've been in public service a long time, and I've never been a fan of no-bid contracts."

Asked by Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) why the agency did not hold competitions before Katrina struck, Paulison replied that "all of those no-bid contracts, we are going to go back and rebid. We're in the process of re-bidding them already."

A FEMA spokeswoman later said the new bidding process affects only the four largest no-bid deals. Those are $100 million contracts awarded to the Shaw Group, Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp. to find and engineer sites for temporary housing for displaced residents.

Paulison told the panels that his agency had delivered nearly 85 million liters of water, more than 4 million meals and nearly 176 million pounds of ice by Oct. 3, while registering more than 1.7 million victims for disaster assistance. He also announced a higher estimate of Katrina homeless, from 300,000 to "between 400,000 and 600,000 households."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, decried "a trail of missteps that calls into question what has been done during the last four years and that continues to plague the recovery even today."

Paulison's pledge to rebid some Katrina contracts showed a willingness to reexamine some of those decisions, though the actual impact of the move could prove limited.

The agency said yesterday that it has no plans to compete numerous other deals signed in the wake of Katrina with little or no competition. Also, FEMA has already committed a large amount of money to the four firms doing the housing site work -- $49.2 million in the case of Bechtel. And there is no timeline for how quickly the competition will proceed. All of the firms said yesterday that they will continue to work in the meantime.

The day's events indicated the administration has yet to regain its footing since its slow response to the hurricane's initial onslaught more than a month ago.

In a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) called the Department of Homeland Security "dysfunctional" and suggested that Congress should rescind half the more than $60 billion it has provided for the relief effort unless FEMA can better document how it is spent.

Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Michael P. Jackson responded that the department will be watching the money closely. "The opportunity to go awry here is large, and we must be extremely diligent in preventing fraud and waste," he said.

Members of both parties raised doubts that President Bush's proposed business tax breaks would lure employers and employees back to the Gulf Coast. Meanwhile, a continuing dispute over health care for Katrina evacuees led Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) to sharply rebuke Treasury Secretary John W. Snow. For weeks, the administration has blocked legislation that would temporarily expand Medicaid eligibility rules and raise federal health care reimbursement rates to states affected by the hurricane.

"Tell the White House to back off our bill," Grassley told Snow. "There are people hurting down there, and we want to get them help."

Lawmakers indicated they would also challenge Bush's proposal to create a vast, tax-favored Gulf Opportunity Zone, stretching from Louisiana to parts of Florida. Under the proposal, much of the cost of business investments would be tax-deductible.

"The energy of the private sector will be unleashed and ignited" by the plan, Snow told the Senate Finance Committee. "These are tried and true measures. They've worked. We've seen them work."

But a Congressional Research Service study presented to the committee appeared to indicate otherwise.

A "significant body of empirical studies focused mainly on state enterprise zones" in large part "have not found evidence of effects on growth or employment," the CRS found.

The Gulf Coast's situation is unique, said Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), since much of the workforce has simply left. "You can incentivize all the businesses you want to relocate in a depressed area, but you have to have a workforce to make those businesses work," he said.

Meanwhile, the incentives working now appear to be favoring large contractors at the expense of local companies, lawmakers charged.

Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said union maintenance workers at New Orleans's Superdome and convention center have been replaced with out-of-state workers earning lower wages without benefits. And he charged that a Mississippi modular classroom maker was rebuffed in its bid to supply 300 classrooms when the Army Corps of Engineers turned to an Alaska firm charging more than twice the price.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) again assailed FEMA's $236 million contract with Carnival Cruise Lines, which has provided three ships to house evacuees and relief workers. Under that contract, Senate investigators have determined that Carnival will earn nearly 50 percent more per berth than the company would have normally.

Carnival spokeswoman Jennifer de la Cruz said Carnival's contract price includes the cost of canceling the cruises of more than 120,000 passengers; paying travel agents' commissions on those lost cruises; loss of onboard revenues such as shore excursions, casinos, spas, alcoholic beverages and gift shops; loss of tips for crew members; and the cost of income taxes that otherwise would not have been paid.

Paulison defended the Carnival contract, saying the ships are now "almost completely full" and, at a cost of $168 a day per person, are proving "very cost-effective."
 

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I'm a bit confused as to where this is an overlook of democrats.

From the article . . .

Mr. Witt is hardly the first insider to trade on his government experience. Administration officials generally are barred from lobbying their former agency for one year after leaving. Still, some critics find Mr. Witt's business troubling.

"James Lee Witt is giving his seal of approval to some companies, and I question whether that is appropriate as you leave government," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, which studies government contracts. "He is lending his credibility as a public official to help companies advance in Washington."
I too agree that giving out this type of work, especially after a disaster, without accepting bids, and getting the best price is wrong.

But regardless of who was in office when James Lee Witt was in charge of FEMA, that really has nothing to do with what is going on now. So not really sure how this is a "Oh Democrats are willing to turn the other cheek on this one . . . " type of thing.
 

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What bothers me more is that Bush suspended the Davis-Bacon Act - which in the long run will make the company's more money and allow them to pay the already demorilized and desperate New Orleans and Gulf Coast workers less than they normally should be making....

Bush Suspends Pay Act In Areas Hit by Storm

By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 9, 2005; Page D03

President Bush yesterday suspended application of the federal law governing workers' pay on federal contracts in the Hurricane Katrina-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The action infuriated labor leaders and their Democratic supporters in Congress, who said it will lower wages and make it harder for union contractors to win bids.

The Davis-Bacon Act, passed in 1931 during the Great Depression, sets a minimum pay scale for workers on federal contracts by requiring contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region. Suspension of the act will allow contractors to pay lower wages. Many Republicans have opposed Davis-Bacon, charging that it amounts to a taxpayer subsidy to unions.

In a letter to Congress, Bush said he has the power to suspend the law because of the national emergency caused by the hurricane: "I have found that the conditions caused by Hurricane Katrina constitute a 'national emergency.' "

Bush wrote that his decision is justified because Davis-Bacon increases construction costs, and suspension "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney denounced the Bush announcement as "outrageous."

"Employers are all too eager to exploit workers," he said. "This is no time to make that easier. What a double tragedy it would be to allow the destruction of Hurricane Katrina to depress living standards even further."

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, accused Bush of "using the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to cut the wages of people desperately trying to rebuild their lives and their communities."

Miller said: "In New Orleans, where a quarter of the city was poor, the prevailing wage for construction labor is about $9 per hour, according to the Department of Labor. In effect, President Bush is saying that people should be paid less than $9 an hour to rebuild their communities."
 

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pdoel said:
I'm a bit confused as to where this is an overlook of democrats.

From the article . . .



I too agree that giving out this type of work, especially after a disaster, without accepting bids, and getting the best price is wrong.

But regardless of who was in office when James Lee Witt was in charge of FEMA, that really has nothing to do with what is going on now. So not really sure how this is a "Oh Democrats are willing to turn the other cheek on this one . . . " type of thing.

Is that what the article is about...hell - Bush's first FEMA head is with Haliburtan doing the exact same thing and "Brownie" was on his way to doing the job if he could have slid through without incident on his clock.
I think the main issue is who actually is worth doing the work after their life working for the government and who gets the job because of cronyism...I don't think that our government should be a training ground for the presidents friends so they can profit once he sends them through "his" system.
 

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Whether the President is Democrat or Republican matters not.

No-bid contracts are a Very Bad Thing
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I didn't realize the article wouldn't show up.
FEMA Director Under Clinton Profits From Experience

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By LESLIE WAYNE and GLEN JUSTICE
Published: October 10, 2005
Correction Appended

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 - Not long before Hurricane Katrina made landfall, James Lee Witt, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and his colleagues called officials on the Gulf Coast to offer their help.

Skip to next paragraph

Lori Waselchuk for The New York Times
James Lee Witt's disaster consulting firm has landed contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.




HOW TO HELP A partial list of relief organizations and other information on the Web.

YOUR STORY Share your experiences via e-mail or in this forum. Soon after the storm hit, the State of Louisiana signed up with Witt Associates, a disaster consulting firm. Within days, Mr. Witt had become a fixture at the state's emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, advising the governor and sleeping in a trailer. He even figured out a way for FEMA to reimburse the state for his firm's fees, which the company estimates at $4 million to $6 million over the next year.

In Mississippi, Witt Associates swung into action to assist employees of Pinnacle Entertainment, whose Casino Magic Biloxi had been blown off its moorings and into a parking lot. Days later in New York, Mr. Witt appeared at a news conference with another client, the Allstate Corporation, to promote creation of a catastrophe fund to ease the financial burden on insurers.

In rushing into trouble when others were running away, Mr. Witt displayed the energy that won him wide praise for his service as the nation's top emergency official - and the nickname Master of Disaster. The much-criticized performance of FEMA after Hurricane Katrina hit has only enhanced his reputation. But as he applies his skills as a consultant, Mr. Witt is having to step deftly to avoid being perceived as a disaster profiteer.

"I just don't want anyone to say that we used this as a way to profit or to try to get new business," he said. "I just don't want that."

In Louisiana, he cut his usual hourly fee to $275 from $500 for the no-bid state contract and declined to take on any other business there, despite what his partners say are numerous requests. Just one day after his news conference with Allstate, he backed away from his lobbying work for the insurer to avoid conflicts with his advisory role to the state.

Mr. Witt is hardly the first insider to trade on his government experience. Administration officials generally are barred from lobbying their former agency for one year after leaving. Still, some critics find Mr. Witt's business troubling.

"James Lee Witt is giving his seal of approval to some companies, and I question whether that is appropriate as you leave government," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, which studies government contracts. "He is lending his credibility as a public official to help companies advance in Washington."

Thanks to his résumé and his Rolodex, Mr. Witt - his friends call him James Lee - has taken a once-obscure area of expertise and turned it into a multimillion-dollar business. He has turned his old job on its head, now advising others on how to deal with the agency he once led.

"It's all been built on relationships." Mr. Witt, 61, said in an interview. "People know who you are and they trust you."

Former President Bill Clinton helped enlist as partners former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander and Democratic presidential candidate. Former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin reviewed the business plan. Former Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, said he put in a good word for Mr. Witt with Louisiana officials. And former FEMA officials, with their own networks of contacts, are on his payroll.

Started in 2001 with a $300,000 loan and a borrowed office, Mr. Witt's business has grown to include 25 employees and had revenues of about $7 million last year. Nextel, the telecommunications giant, hired him to market its products to safety officials, while the Whelen Engineering Company, which makes sirens, paid him to push for FEMA regulations that would benefit the company. His client list includes universities and cities seeking help on disaster plans.

The World Bank and the State Department have hired him as a consultant at $1,000 a day. He is also paid $300,000 as the chief executive of the International Code Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes stronger building codes.

"James Lee Witt brings to the table a track record of success," said Donald Kettl, a natural disaster expert at the University of Pennsylvania. "He's got the franchise. He's got star power."Some jobs undertaken by the onetime FEMA chief, though, could raise questions about his new role. After 9/11, his firm was paid more than $970,000 by the State of New York and concluded that evacuation plans at the Indian Point nuclear plant, plans FEMA had approved under Mr. Witt's watch, were inadequate. Last year, his company helped Louisiana officials respond to a FEMA audit, saying they had mishandled federal disaster money.

Skip to next paragraph



HOW TO HELP A partial list of relief organizations and other information on the Web.

YOUR STORY Share your experiences via e-mail or in this forum. And when FEMA contracted last year to conduct a disaster-response exercise called Hurricane Pam for New Orleans, Witt Associates was identified as a subcontractor but ultimately was not asked to do any work because its fees were too high.

Mr. Witt's experience with disaster started when he was young. The son of an Arkansas sharecropper, he grew up in Wildcat Hollow, which is near Dardenelle, in east-central Arkansas, in a house without indoor plumbing. His childhood home was once knocked down by a tornado; it later burned to the ground.

Tall and trim with striking blue eyes, Mr. Witt speaks with an a twang that reveals his country roots. He never went to college but ran a small construction business and became a county judge, a position that does not require a law degree. He met Mr. Clinton, who installed Mr. Witt as Arkansas's disaster chief and later named him FEMA head.

"He had a very strong personal relationship with the president," said Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who served in the Clinton cabinet alongside Mr. Witt. "He never missed an opportunity to talk about disasters and needs of his agency with the president. The guy was relentless."

His years at FEMA contrast sharply with stumbles by the Bush Administration, which replaced its chief disaster official just days after Hurricane Katrina hit. Mr. Witt won wide praise from both Republicans and Democrats for FEMA's response to disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing and the devastating earthquake in the Northridge section of Los Angeles, as well as the 1993 Midwest floods. After years of slogging through mud and debris, Mr. Witt's reputation among local disaster officials is unparalleled.

He rode a Greyhound bus through the night, sitting next to the bathroom, to get to the Midwest floods when no plane was available; another time, he stopped long enough to marry two evacuees from Hurricane Marilyn. Even President Bush singled Mr. Witt out for praise in the 2000 presidential debates.

"A lot of people in our own office of emergency preparedness started mentioning his name," Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana said in an interview. "People would say, 'If you can get James Lee Witt, get him.' "

Mr. Witt became the governor's primary consultant for dealing with FEMA, advising Ms. Blanco on what programs and opportunities were available and how the state should respond.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Witt accompanied Mr. Clinton on a visit to Louisiana. The former president had played matchmaker in helping bring together the big-name partners in the firm, who are all from his native Arkansas. General Clark recalls answering his cellphone in a Washington parking garage one night to hear Mr. Clinton advising him to join Mr. Witt. Mr. Slater said he received a similar call. Today, General Clark, Mr. Slater and Mr. Clinton appear in the company's marketing brochures.

The firm's first client was Nextel Communications, now Sprint Nextel, which enlisted Mr. Witt to help sell its communications systems to public safety officials. Nextel sponsored workshops around the country for local officials, featuring Mr. Witt, and later his partners.

The result? "Most safety officials have a Nextel on their belt," Mr. Witt said.

His company sees helping to sell disaster-related products as one of its core missions. "We would like to be like Consumer Reports for this stuff, to have the Witt seal of approval," said Mark Merritt, a partner in the firm.

For Whelen Engineering, based in Chester, Conn., Mr. Witt helped draft FEMA regulations requiring municipalities to alert residents with a voice siren, a Whelen product, which does not just sound but tells people where to go. Though the regulations have yet to be adopted, John Olson, the company's president, is pleased.

"We're up here in the boonies, and we approached him to get meetings in Washington," Mr. Olson said. "He's introduced us to all the main players in the process."

Mr. Witt's on-again-off-again work with one client, Allstate, demonstrates the potential conflicts he faces. Mr. Witt represented the insurance company in its efforts to set up a national catastrophe fund, which would allow insurers to set aside money that would grow tax-free in a special fund to cover future insurance losses in disasters.

Critics say such tax breaks for the industry will deprive the government of needed revenues. Mr. Witt has since recused himself from the Allstate assignment, saying his work in Louisiana could consume his time and put him in conflict with private insurers. Both he and Allstate officials say they will continue their work later.

Mr. Witt's colleagues, meanwhile, are deployed around the hurricane-battered region, serving current clients and signing new ones.

"We are making some money here," said Mr. Merritt, the Witt partner. "But our reputation has been cemented."
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm a bit confused as to where this is an overlook of democrats.
Just change all of those "D"s with "R"s and think about how big that story would be.
Don't get me wrong here, I have no problem with what the guy is doing, or how he got the job.
 

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73standard said:
Just change all of those "D"s with "R"s and think about how big that story would be.
Don't get me wrong here, I have no problem with what the guy is doing, or how he got the job.
I think you assume way too much.

People have been complaining about the favoritism when handing out these bids. From the posts I've read so far on this thread an others, I don't think people care if it's democrats or republicans who are handing out bids, or who are profiting. Either way, it sucks and it is wrong.

Seems to me like you're making the big issue out of it, assuming that democrats are fine with it when it helps their own, and only complain if a republican does this.

That is not the case.
 

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73standard said:
Just change all of those "D"s with "R"s and think about how big that story would be.
Don't get me wrong here, I have no problem with what the guy is doing, or how he got the job.
Again, Democrat or Republican matters not.

I do have a problem with companies getting no-bid contracts.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
pdoel said:
I think you assume way too much.

People have been complaining about the favoritism when handing out these bids. From the posts I've read so far on this thread an others, I don't think people care if it's democrats or republicans who are handing out bids, or who are profiting. Either way, it sucks and it is wrong.

Seems to me like you're making the big issue out of it, assuming that democrats are fine with it when it helps their own, and only complain if a republican does this.

That is not the case.
I'm sure all democrats are not fine with this. But it would seem that the media, and those in charge in the areas reported have no problem with it.
But just imagine if this were Texas for example, or Florida. How much bigger do you think this story would be?
 

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73standard said:
I'm not saying you do, and that wasn't my point. My point is in the post before this one.
Right.

You are trying to say that because James Lee Witt worked under Clinton, that he is getting a pass. However, Halliburton is not, because Bush is President, or more relavently, Joe Allbaugh because he worked for Bush, and is now getting no-bid contracts from the Bush administration.

I however, am just reiterating that I don't care if James Lee Witt single-handedly guaranteed the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, and re-election in 1996.

No-bid contracts are bad, regardless of which government agency hands them out, or who receives them. Or which President that person worked for, or which President handed them out.

The fact that the NY Times reported this, kind of belies the argument that it is being ignored because he worked for Clinton.
 

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73standard said:
Haliburton I have no problem with, even when it was getting no bids under Clinton. They are the only company that does what it does.
What does Halliburton do, that no other company does?

Deliver sailboats to Baghdad, because in that case you are correct.

If you are talking about other service that Halliburton provides, then tell us what services you are referring to.
 

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73standard said:
I'm sure all democrats are not fine with this. But it would seem that the media, and those in charge in the areas reported have no problem with it.
But just imagine if this were Texas for example, or Florida. How much bigger do you think this story would be?
So really, your problem is with the media, not with democrats. In which case, in your first post, you should have said that, instead of making it sound like the democrats have a double standard.

Don't transfer your frustration with the media onto the democratic party. Thanks.
 
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