Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out ... Wait ... In?
Posted by Brooke Shelby Biggs on June 15th, 2006
Thank you PR Watch for noting, via O'Dwyer's PR Daily, the increasingly obscene revolving-door scenarios in Washington:
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's lobbying firm, the Ashcroft Group, has been hired by General Dynamics to represent it on "trade and defense issues," reports O'Dwyer's PR Daily. Working on the account are Juleanna Glover Weiss, Vice-President Dick Cheney's former press secretary; Lori Day Sharp, who worked under Ashcroft at the Justice Department; and Willie Gaynor, a former Commerce Department official who was western finance director for the 2004 Bush campaign. The Washington Times reports that General Dynamics "received a $30.7 million U.S. Navy contract last week and was selected -- along with Lockheed Martin in Bethesda -- to submit a bid to design and implement part of the government's Integrated Wireless Network. ... The steady stream of orders from the U.S. Army -- which now total about 25 percent of the company's sales -- provides a solid base that will continue for years. ... The defense contractor's net sales have more than doubled since 2000 to $21.24 billion last year."
Some Jokes Are Too True To Be Funny
Posted by Brooke Shelby Biggs on May 17th, 2006
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson may think he's Steven Colbert, but his blunt brand of "humor" is a little too, er, observational for a laugh.
The secretary was at a forum in Dallas earlier this month and told this hilarious story of an advertising contractor who had just been selected to receive a contract from HUD:
"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years. He made a heck of a
proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we
selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he
said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'
"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President
Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the
president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the
contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the
president, don't tell the secretary.'
"He didn't get the contract. Why should I
reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to
try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the
contract. That's the way I believe."
Jackson later said the conversation had never happened, that it was a joke, and that political leanings do not figure into the contract award system. Qualifications and competitiveness of bids are the only criteria, he insists.
He needs to work on his delivery.
Damn the Hurricane - Full Lobbying Ahead!
Posted by Brooke Shelby Biggs on May 10th, 2006
More emails to and from former FEMA heavy Michael "Brownie" brown have emerged from the week of Hurricane Katrina's landfall, illustrating just how much non-Katrina business was going down as Brown fluffed his hair and the devil bore down on New Orleans. We checked out The Center for Public Integrity's analysis ...
Among the missives was one -- hours after the hurricane made landfall -- from former Arkansas Senator Tim Hutchinson, brother of GOP Congressional power-broker Asa Hutchinson. It said:
"I am certain you are overwhelmed by the situation regarding Hurricane
Katrina. I apologize for bothering you at this critical time and for
going directly to you about this," wrote former Sen. Tim Hutchinson
(R-Ark.) "I would very much appreciate being able to bring the
President of Blu-Med Response Systems, Gerritt Boyle, in to meet with
you as soon as your schedule permits."
While Blu-Med indeed supplies emergency health facilities and might have been of use in the immediate crisis, that was not what this urgent meeting was about. It was, instead, scheduled to be a face-to-face whine about the fact one of Blu-Med's competitors had won a non-Katrina contract Blu-Med itself had wanted, and they were using their friendly ties with Hutchinson to push the issue.
How Bush Rolled Back Mine Safety
Posted by CorpWatch on January 6th, 2006
With the same logic that dictates that logging is good for trees, the 5 years of the Bush Administration has rolled back regulations on mine safety at the bidding of mining corporations.
The head of the Mining Healthy and Safety Administration is himself a former mining executive. A New York Times article in August 2004 noted:
In all, the mine safety agency has rescinded more than a half-dozen proposals intended to make coal miners' jobs safer, including steps to limit miners' exposure to toxic chemicals. One rule pushed by the agency would make it easier for companies to use diesel generators underground, which miners say could increase the risk of fire.
The policy of the Bush Administration from the first has been to kowtow to energy interests, allowing them to tinker with the nation's energy policy, labor codes, and environmental protections in exchange for huge financial contributions to campaign coffers. Only today, in the wake of the Sago mine tragedy, we see how such policies can actually kill. And to think that West Virginia is a blood red state; perhaps not for long.
Bechtel Fox in the Nuclear Henhouse
Posted by Brooke Shelby Biggs on December 22nd, 2005
The news today that the federal government had awarded the Los Alamos National Laboratory to the UC-Bechtel team should give us all pause.
After all, as CorpWatch noted when Bechtel was amassing huge no-bid contracts to rebuild Iraq (see "Profiting From Destruction"), the company's record with nukes is not exactly sparkling:
San Onofre, California, has a 950-ton
radioactive problem: a nuclear reactor built by Bechtel that nobody
wants. The unit was shut down over a decade ago in 1992 by its owners,
Southern California Edison, who preferred not to spend $125 million in
required safety upgrades.
The only place that will accept the reactor is a dump in South
Carolina but railway officials refused to transport the cargo across
the country. The next suggestion was to ship it via the Panama Canal
but the canal operators said no. So did the government of Chile when
the power plant owners asked for permission to take it around the Cape
of Good Hope.
The only option left is to ship it all the way around the world,
although even that is looking unlikely as harbor officials in
Charleston, South Carolina, are already suggesting that they may deny
the reactor entry. Edison officials are currently desperately looking
for a port that might accept the toxic cargo before the dump shuts its
doors in 2008. [...]
The local environmental costs continue to
mount every day as the plant sucks in huge quantities of plankton, fish
and even seals with the water to cool the reactors. It is destroying
miles of kelp on the seabed by discharging water that is 25 degrees
Fahrenheit warmer than ocean temperature, according to Mark Massara,
director of the Sierra Club's coastal program. [...]
Several former employees at the plant who have
developed cancer have also sued Bechtel and plant owner Southern
California Edison for exposure to radiation. It's a story that has
become depressingly familiar for dozens of communities living downwind
from nuclear plants that are seeing alarming increases in cancer.
Bechtel was also the contractor responsible for the biggest construction boondoggle in American history: Boston's Big Dig. Errors by Bechtel in planning and execution lead to massive cost overruns. As the Boston Globe observed at the time, "Yet, even as Bechtel's errors helped drive up the Big Dig's cost, the
company never paid for any of its mistakes. Instead, it profited."
Is this really the kind of company we want watching over the most sensitive and dangerous of projects?
While the award of the Los Alamos contract to UC and Bechtel surprised some, the company's long record of coziness with those in high government places even outpaces its rival for the contract, Lockheed Martin (which was to partner with the University of Texas to run the lab).
The Presidential Pipeline
Posted by Brooke Shelby Biggs on December 21st, 2005
The Pultizer Prize-winning and yet still oddly underappreciated Toledo Blade
ran a penetrating series this week on how specific Bush fundraisers
have seen their investments in the cadidate reap profitable policies.
It's worth a read as a primer on exactly how corporate executives and
lobbyists buy influence legally ... and sometimes not-so-legally.
example, Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim is chairman of Texas-based Pilgrim's
Pride, the country's second biggest poultry processor, and a Bush
"Pioneer" (meaning he has raised over $100,000 for Bush. He freely
admits he asked the president directly for a favor in 2002. And quite a
favor it was: Pilgrim asked Bush to speak to Russian president Vladimir
Putin about dropping that country's ban on chickens imported from the
United States. Shortly thereafter, Russia opened its markets to
American chickens. Pilgrim's company has also collected $60 million in
federal monies since Bush took office for selling his birds to the
Department of Agriculture.
then there's MBNA, the massive credit-card company which eclipsed Enron
last year as the largest corporate patron of Bush's entire political
career. The company regularly let the Bush campaign use its corporate
jet. It was MBNA's generosity in Bush's campaigns that may have
persuaded the president to push through a revamping of the nation's
personal bankruptcy laws. The result: $380 million a year annually
toward MBNA's bottom line. (See CorpWatch coverage of MBNA here.)
Read the whole series:
- Presidential Pipeline: Bush's Top Fund-Raisers See Spoils of Victory
- Presidential Pipeline: Bush Money Network Rooted in Florida, Texas
- Presidential Pipeline: Kerry Backers Still Feel Sting of Losing 2004 Presidential Contest