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Jeb Bush involved in Carnival Cruise Lines issue

President Bush's brother Jeb was involved in helping Carnival Cruise Lines get their massive contract to provide ship-side housing for evacuees. Most of that housing went unused but was still paid for by FEMA.
Rep. Henry Waxman has written a letter to Jeb:

I am writing to request information about your role in the award of a $236 million federal contract to Carnival Cruise Lines in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This boondoggle contract, which comes to an end this week, has cost federal taxpayers an enormous amount to provide temporary six-month housing aboard Carnival's ships...
Emails recently provided to Congress by Michael Brown, the former FEMA Director, indicate that you intervened at a key moment to support the efforts of Carnival to win this lucrative federal contract. These emails reveal that you forwarded to Mr. Brown on August 31 an email from Ric Cooper about the Carnival proposal. Mr. Cooper is an advertising executive who represents Carnival. He is also a major political donor to the Florida and national Republican parties. According to the Florida Division of Elections, Mr. Cooper donated $65,000 to the Republican Party of Florida in advance of the 2002 gubernatorial election in which you were running for reelection.[2] In addition, Mr. Cooper contributed $50,000 to the Republican National Committee in advance of the 2004 presidential elections in which your brother was running for reelection.[3]
Apparently, Mr. Cooper sent you an email proposing that Carnival ships be used to provide housing to hurricane evacuees. At 6:18 p.m. on August 31, two days after Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, you responded: "thank you Ric. I will pass on to Mike Brown. I can't believe they haven't asked as of yet but Mike will respond quickly. Jeb." You copied Mr. Brown on this email...

Henry Waxman: are we overpaying Carnival Cruise Lines?
Carnival Cruise Lines defends FEMA contract
The 10 biggest FEMA contracts, and the contractors' connections

FEMA aid fraud: 40% might be duplicates

From Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid:

Thousands of applicants for federal emergency relief money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita used duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or bogus addresses, suggesting that the $2.3 billion program was a victim of extensive fraud, a Congressional auditor will report Monday.
The examination of the so-called Expedited Assistance program determined that the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to take even the most basic steps to confirm the identifies of about 1.4 million people who sought expedited cash assistance, leaving the program vulnerable to the "significant fraud and abuse," the Government Accountability Office intends to report.
The auditors did not try to estimate the total dollar amount of fraudulent claims. But the report says that FEMA itself had found that 900,000 of the 2.5 million applications for all forms of individual assistance were "potential duplicates."

Senate approves additional $29 billion bill for relief, rebuilding

WASHINGTON (AP) - Overwhelming Senate passage of a bill bearing $29 billion to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina has put the massive aid package a step away from being sent to President Bush for his signature.
Nearly four months after the maelstrom devastated New Orleans and much of the nearby Gulf Coast, the House was expected to vote Thursday on a final defense bill containing the storm assistance. The aid is mostly for reconstructing damaged buildings and aiding battered businesses and homeowners.
The Senate approved the measure 93-0 Wednesday night after the aid became entangled with - and then finally disengaged from - a fight over an unrelated effort to open oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge.
Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., reminded lawmakers of victims living in tents and trailers after losing nearly all possessions in the Aug. 29 storm...

Haley Barbour niece-in-law gets million dollar contract

The affirmative action-supporting NYT reports in "Governor's Relative Is Big Contract Winner":

Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party.
She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.
To some contract watchdogs, this could be an example of how the federal government responsibly reached out to give a piece of the billions of dollars in federal hurricane-recovery work to a small Mississippi-based company owned by a Latina. Mrs. Barbour, 39, who was born in Guatemala but now lives in Jackson, Miss., is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner.
But the $6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism.
Federal records show that the company has won at least 10 separate contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the General Services Administration to install and maintain showers for relief workers and evacuees, to deliver tents, and to provide laundry equipment. The most valuable were awarded in September and October without competitive bidding, the records show.
According to a review of federal contracts awarded since Hurricane Katrina, her company ranks seventh in total contracts out of 88 Mississippi-based concerns that have received deals worth $100,000 or more...

Little damage in Jackson, lots of damage payouts

From Storm Hit Little, but Aid Flowed to Inland City:

When the federal government and the nation's largest disaster relief group reached out a helping hand after Hurricane Katrina blew through here, tens of thousands of people grabbed it.
But in giving out $62 million in aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross overlooked a critical fact: the storm was hardly catastrophic here, 160 miles from the coast. The only damage sustained by most of the nearly 30,000 households receiving aid was spoiled food in the freezer...

Alaska keeps $452 million to spend as wishes

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is getting to keep the $452 million. And, there are now no restrictions on how the money has to be spent: they could build the controversial bridges, or they could spend it on other things.
Oddly enough:

Stevens said he has no choice but to live with his colleagues' decision.
"We're getting attacked from too many sides, and I think (the compromise) is just a necessary thing," he told Alaska reporters a few hours before a House-Senate panel he is on approved the bridge rescission. "I don't like it, but you should hear some of the alternatives that were brought to us."

FEMA wants $3.7 billion from Louisiana for services rendered

FEMA has sent LA a bill for "its share of hurricane relief". Governor Kathleen Blanco says she can't pay it.

...Staffers for the governor "about fell over" Wednesday night when they received the Federal Emergency Management Agency's estimate of the state's costs for hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Mark Merritt, a consultant working for Blanco.
FEMA projects that it will spend a total of $41.4 billion in Louisiana, about $9,000 per resident. Federal law requires state and local governments to pay a portion of disaster relief costs. That share can be as much as 25%. The $3.7 billion estimate is roughly 9% of FEMA's projected costs in Louisiana.
The $3.7 billion represents just under half of the $8 billion the state spends per year and comes as the extensive flooding around New Orleans has severely undercut tax revenue. The state is in the midst of heavy cost-cutting to whittle down a projected $1 billion shortfall...
Merritt is a former FEMA official who now works with former FEMA director James Lee Witt, an adviser to Blanco on hurricane recovery. Merritt said the scope of the disaster far exceeded anything envisioned when the relief agency was created. He called the costs "astronomically unprecedented..."

Bush is required to get the money out of the states, but Congress can (and probably will) waive it.

Carnival Cruise Lines defends FEMA contract

Carnival Corp... defended its $236 million U.S. government contract to provide ship-based housing after Hurricane Katrina, telling lawmakers on Wednesday the firm was charging only what it would have earned from its regular cruise business.
...Terry Thornton, vice president of marketing planning at Carnival Cruise Lines, told the U.S. House of Representatives Committee investigating the government's response to Hurricane Katrina that it was a competitively bid contract.
"From the outset of the charter negotiations, Carnival informed the government that its objective was to charge only what it would have otherwise earned from the vessels operating in a post-Katrina marketplace," he said in testimony.
...Thornton said Carnival pay U.S. taxes on the money it earned from the contract.
The contract includes charges to cover U.S. taxes and also has provisions allowing the firm to recoup costs if it is determined its international work force is subject to the U.S. taxes and minimum wages, Thorton testified.
...Thornton said the company had incurred substantial loss of business because of the contracts. The company had to cancel reservations for 120,000 customers and provide full refunds to them. He said the company also paid commissions to travel agents who had booked the canceled vacations.

More in Winners of Katrina contracts defend deals.

Mississippi to get by with $3 billion less

From Recovery Costs May Be Less Than First Anticipated:

Gov. Haley Barbour said an initial estimate of federal money needed to recover from Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi is less than expected.
He said the request for $38 billion has been decreased to about $33.5 billion by "fine tuning."
Nothing was removed from the recovery package, Barbour said that the amount decreased because some recovery estimates were less than first anticipated...

He was in Washington doing some lobbying last week, and he says that Congress has already allocated $62 billion for AL, MS, and LA. And:

The governor said he will ask Congress to authorize Mississippi to spend part of that money to help people who don't have flood insurance, but whose homes were damaged or destroyed by Katrina.
Barbour said the federal government should take some responsibility because they determine what is considered a flood zone.

"Hurricane Katrina funding...for Alaska"

Townhall has the scoop:

Capitol Report has learned about a provision tucked away in the Senate Budget Reconciliation Bill that would direct Medicaid money intended for Katrina affected states (Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana) to Alaska.
The Budget Reconciliation package (PDF) contains $71.4 billion in new savings but it also spends $32.4 billion. Portions of that new spending were intended to be Katrina relief funds, but it seems Alaskan interests have once again succeeded in redirecting funds (PDF) to the state which has become famous for its "Bridge to Nowhere."
...the provision will provide an additional $130 million in federal Medicaid funding for Alaska...


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