Joe 'Funeralgate' Allbaugh Destroyed FEMA

  • Bob Fertik's picture
    Bob Fertik
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After Bush stole the White House in 2000, he put his close crony Joe Allbaugh in charge of FEMA.

Allbaugh had been Bush's chief of staff when Bush was Texas Governor, and then served as Campaign Manager in the 2000 election. He was the least well known of the powerful "Iron Triangle" - Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, and Joe Allbaugh.

When Allbaugh was put in charge of FEMA, he was still at the center of a whistleblower lawsuit brought by Eliza May, the former executive director of the Texas Funeral Service Commission. The scandal became known as "Funeralgate":

Eliza May was head of the Texas Funderal Services Commission when it began receiving complaints about unlicensed embalmers being used by Service Corporation International (SCI), the world's largest funeral services company.

In one case, the mother of a popular newscaster went to lay flowers at her son's mausoleum. She was horrified to find it was "infested with gnats, and a malodorous maroon-colored fluid oozed out of her son's crypt," according to Newsweek.

May launched an investigation of SCI. But instead of receiving praise for defending the interests of Texas citizens, she was called into the Governor's office where Joe Allbaugh, Bush's Chief of Staff, was waiting with Robert Waltrip, the owner of SCI - and major Bush campaign contributor. These officials tried to pressure May into stopping her investigation - and George W. Bush stopped in to help them.

May refused to buckle under, and ultimately imposed a $445,000 fine.  Soon thereafter, May was fired.  May then filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Bush, Waltrip, and SCI. 

May's lawsuit made its way slowly through the courts. On June 8, 2001, while serving as FEMA Director, Allbaugh was scheduled to testify under oath. Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, was expected to follow. May's lawyers also intended to subpoena Bush himself, to explain his prior perjury in the case. Naturally, lying under oath a second time, while serving as President, could have exposed Bush to the same punishment as Bill Clinton - impeachment.

On November 9, 2001, the State of Texas and SCI decided to settle May's lawsuit. Texas taxpayers paid her $155,000, and SCI paid her $55,000. Naturally, Bush's lawyers imposed a gag order on Eliza May as a condition of the settlement, so little is known about the settlement.

Allbaugh went to FEMA with a mission to turn the agency over to disaster profiteers, as Jon Elliston described in 2004:

Some FEMA veterans complained that Allbaugh had little experience in managing disasters, and the new administration's early initiatives did little to settle their concerns. The White House quickly launched a government-wide effort to privatize public services, including key elements of disaster management. Bush's first budget director, Mitch Daniels, spelled out the philosophy in remarks at an April 2001 conference: "The general idea -- that the business of government is not to provide services, but to make sure that they are provided -- seems self-evident to me," he said.

In a May 15, 2001, appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Allbaugh signaled that the new, stripped-down approach would be applied at FEMA as well. "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management," he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

As a result, says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, "We have to compete for our jobs -- we have to prove that we can do it cheaper than a contractor." And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations.

William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, warns that the rise of a "consultant culture" has not served emergency programs well. "It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities," he says. "Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities."

The push for privatization wasn't the only change that raised red flags at FEMA. As a 2004 article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management would later note, "Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration's organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation."

In February 2001, for example, the Bush administration proposed eliminating Project Impact, a move approved by Congress later in the year. (On the very day the White House proposal was submitted, a magnitude 6.8 earthquake rocked Washington state, which was home to several communities where Project Impact had sponsored quake mitigation efforts.) Ending the project and trimming other FEMA programs, the White House argued, would save roughly $200 million. In its place, FEMA instituted a new program of mitigation grants that are awarded on a competitive basis.

The administration also made a failed attempt to cut the federal percentage of large-scale natural disaster preparedness expenditures. Since the 1990s, the federal government has paid 75 percent of such costs, with states and municipalities funding the other 25 percent. The White House's attempt to reduce the federal contribution to 50 percent was defeated in Congress.

Allbaugh also appointed his college chum Michael Brown as General Counsel of FEMA - after he was fired from the International Arabian Horse Association, where he was called "an unmitigated, total fucking disaster" - and put him in charge of FEMA when he left.

The rest, as they say, is history.


The cronyism and corporate

The cronyism and corporate pandering by this administration is beyond belief. They make corrupt Third-World politicians look like amateurs.


  • sammin's picture
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Are ther some decent Republicans in Congress that will come to the aid of their country?

Why FEMA Was Missing in Action

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Why FEMA was missing in action

From LA Times

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff acknowledged in interviews Sunday that Washington was insufficiently prepared for the hurricane that laid waste to New Orleans and surrounding areas. But he defended its performance by arguing that the size of the storm was beyond anything his department could have anticipated and that primary responsibility for handling emergencies rested with state and local, not federal, officials.

"Before this happened, I said … we need to build a preparedness capacity going forward," Chertoff told NBC's "Meet the Press." He added that that was something "we have not yet succeeded in doing."

Under the law, Chertoff said, state and local officials must direct initial emergency operations. "The federal government comes in and supports those officials," he said.

Chertoff's remarks, which echoed earlier statements by President Bush, prompted withering rebukes both from former senior FEMA staffers and outside experts.

"They can't do that," former agency chief of staff Jane Bullock said of Bush administration efforts to shift responsibility away from Washington. "The moment the president declared a federal disaster, it became a federal responsibility…. The federal government took ownership over the response," she said. Bush declared a disaster in Louisiana and Mississippi when the storm hit a week ago.

"What's awe-inspiring here is how many federal officials didn't issue any orders," said Paul C. Light, an authority on government operations at New York University. [...]

Blanco Requests Federal State of Emergency

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Tracking Katrina: Blanco Requests Federal State of Emergency
Saturday, August 27, 2005

From the NewsChannel 6 Storm Spotting Team:

Governor Blanco requested $9,000,000 and a federal state of emergency declared Saturday. She sent the following letter to President Bush:

Dear Mr. President:

Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

In response to the situation I have taken appropriate action under State law and directed the execution of the State Emergency Plan on August 26, 2005 in accordance with Section 501 (a) of the Stafford Act. A State of Emergency has been issued for the State in order to support the evacuations of the coastal areas in accordance with our State Evacuation Plan and the remainder of the state to support the State Special Needs and Sheltering Plan.

Pursuant to 44 CFR § 206.35, I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments, and that supplementary Federal assistance is necessary to save lives, protect property, public health, and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster. I am specifically requesting emergency protective measures, direct Federal Assistance, Individual and Household Program (IHP) assistance, Special Needs Program assistance, and debris removal.

Preliminary estimates of the types and amount of emergency assistance needed under the Stafford Act, and emergency assistance from certain Federal agencies under other statutory authorities are tabulated in Enclosure A.

The following information is furnished on the nature and amount of State and local resources that have been or will be used to alleviate the conditions of this emergency:
. Department of Social Services (DSS): Opening (3) Special Need Shelters (SNS) and establishing (3) on Standby.
. Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH): Opening (3) Shelters and establishing (3) on Standby.
. Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (OHSEP): Providing generators and support staff for SNS and Public Shelters.
. Louisiana State Police (LSP): Providing support for the phased evacuation of the coastal areas.
. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (WLF): Supporting the evacuation of the affected population and preparing for Search and Rescue Missions.

Mr. President
Page Two
August 27, 2005

. Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD): Coordinating traffic flow and management of the evacuations routes with local officials and the State of Mississippi.

The following information is furnished on efforts and resources of other Federal agencies, which have been or will be used in responding to this incident:
. FEMA ERT-A Team en-route.

I certify that for this emergency, the State and local governments will assume all applicable non-Federal share of costs required by the Stafford Act.

I request Direct Federal assistance for work and services to save lives and protect property.

(a) List any reasons State and local government cannot perform or contract for performance, (if applicable).

(b) Specify the type of assistance requested.

In accordance with 44 CFR § 206.208, the State of Louisiana agrees that it will, with respect to Direct Federal assistance:

1. Provide without cost to the United States all lands, easement, and rights-of-ways necessary to accomplish the approved work.

2. Hold and save the United States free from damages due to the requested work, and shall indemnify the Federal Government against any claims arising from such work;

3. Provide reimbursement to FEMA for the non-Federal share of the cost of such work in accordance with the provisions of the FEMA-State Agreement; and

4. Assist the performing Federal agency in all support and local jurisdictional matters.

In addition, I anticipate the need for debris removal, which poses an immediate threat to lives, public health, and safety.

Pursuant to Sections 502 and 407 of the Stafford Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5192 & 5173, the State agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the United States of America for any claims arising from the removal of debris or wreckage for this disaster. The State agrees that debris removal from public and private property will not occur until the landowner signs an unconditional authorization for the removal of debris.

I have designated Mr. Art Jones as the State Coordinating Officer for this request. He will work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in damage assessments and may provide further information or justification on my behalf.


Kathleen Babineaux Blanco