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"Women of the Storm" want more money for New Orleans

Sharply accessoried with bright blue umbrellas - the same color as the tarps that were installed by a partially-illegal workforce indirectly receiving federal money - 140 New Orleans women calling themselves the "Women of the Storm" visited Capitol Hill on Monday. They were inviting Congress members to visit their city and requesting more money for rebuilding.
They'd pick up the costs for the visit and:

Among those who made the trip on the group's chartered flight were Olivia Manning, the mother of football stars Peyton and Eli and wife of former New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning; Verna Landrieu, mother of Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu; and Carol Bebelle, head of the Ashé Cultural Arts Center...
The group said 55 representatives and 30 senators have visited New Orleans in the five months since Katrina...

11/16: Kenyon stops collecting bodies; history of their involvement

As of mid-November, the number of recoveries had dwindled to a one or two a week, and Kenyon International Emergency Services' contract to do collections ended around that time.
The backstory is in this story from 11/16:

Kenyon... first arrived in the storm-ravaged region Sept. 7 as a short-term contractor for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Six days later the company signed a contract with the state after nearly pulling out of Louisiana entirely because of what a top executive characterized as government "roadblocks" that thwarted recovery teams' ability to maintain professional standards.
The deal was sealed amid cries from Gov. Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, that too few people were handling the dead, some of whose bodies lay exposed in the streets. FEMA policy prohibited tens of thousands of National Guard troops and municipal police officers on the ground at the time from touching the bodies, except to tag them and report their locations to higher authorities.
Since mid-September, Johannessen said he has not fielded any complaints about Kenyon, which worked at the World Trade Center site in 2001 and retrieved the bodies of Australian citizens in Thailand after last year's tsunami. He said the state expects to be fully reimbursed by the federal government for the cost of Kenyon's contract.
The company collected more than 800 bodies, mostly from Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes, and brought them to St. Gabriel, state officials said. As of Nov. 9, the tally of hurricane deaths had reached 1,056, with 883 bodies examined at St. Gabriel...

Sen. Mary Landrieu's in-your-face approach

The LAT offers "Image Problem Is Costing Louisiana" about how not too many DC politicians want to go out of their way for LA because of LA's reputation and because of Sen. Mary Landrieu's "in-your-face approach":

After battling in Congress for months to get more federal money for their hurricane-ravaged state, some Louisiana officials have come to believe they are up against something more than concerns about the budget deficit or conflicting visions of reconstruction.
Maybe, they speculate, their colleagues just don't trust them.
Maybe they are right...

When asked about past and current corruption in their state, LA officials play a mean game of tu quoque, bringing up Tom Delay, Bill Frist, and Jack Abramoff. But:

But some lawmakers say the Louisiana delegation has only itself to blame for the mounting tension over the federal government's obligations for rebuilding Louisiana.
They single out Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), who has made angry speeches on the Senate floor and kept the chamber in session overnight in October, holding up other legislation, as she pressed her colleagues for more aid. Some Republicans say her tone, which they describe as "shrill," has alienated her colleagues and undercut her efforts.
Privately, lawmakers unfavorably compare Landrieu's in-your-face approach to that of the senators from the other heavily Katrina-damaged state, Mississippi. Republicans Thad Cochran and Trent Lott have gotten high marks for working quietly behind the scenes to steer resources to their constituents.
Some Louisiana officials, however, contend the key difference between their state and Mississippi is political. Mississippi is a heavily Republican state, and its GOP governor, Haley Barbour, has close ties to the White House. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco is a Democrat, and the wrecked city of New Orleans is a Democratic stronghold...

For her part:

Sen. Landrieu said she did not believe that her actions, or those of anyone else in the state's congressional delegation, were to blame for what she saw as the federal government's failure to respond to Louisiana's needs.
"I'm not sure it was ever the intention of this administration to really help," she said. "I would say that really it's a pattern of this administration to promise a lot and deliver very little - to pretend like you care, but when it comes down to really putting your money where your mouth is, it doesn't happen."
Months after the hurricane, many survivors still are living in hotels and other temporary shelters, and many remain financially devastated.
"I'm ready to start a revolution," said former Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.). "This is an absolute outrage. Here we are in Month 4 of a terrible, terrible tragedy, and other than hotel rooms and meals-ready-to-eat and some reconstruction, we haven't gotten squat."

And, Louisiana Recovery Authority Vice Chairman Walter Isaacson says LA isn't asking for $250 billion any more. It's now a more miserly $50 billion.

Sen. Ted Stevens builds bridge to New Orleans' heart

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) visited New Orleans on Sunday and toured the area together with Sens. David Vitter (R-LA) and Craig Thomas (R-WY), stopping in at a Lakeview home where he got into a candid chat with the homeowners:

"He said, 'Why would we want to rebuild these homes in an area below sea level?' and said that in Alaska, when a disaster of this magnitude occurs, they relocate the town," Stafford said.
"But people have their businesses here," [one of the homeowners] said. "People have their lives here."


Norma Jane Sabiston, chief of staff to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who arrived at the Stafford house about 5 minutes after the committee bus left, said both Vitter and Landrieu are attempting to bring as many members of Congress as possible to the New Orleans area to see the damage, in hopes of winning support for more aid for the city and support for the Category 5 hurricane protection proposal and for coastal restoration efforts.
She said the difficulty facing the state's congressional delegation is convincing senators like Stephens that there is a reason to rebuild in New Orleans.

Dick Morris: Mary Landrieu sidetracked money for levees

From this:

...on Nine News Thursday morning, the former advisor to former president Bill Clinton named names.
Dick Morris says over the last few years, Washington funded hundreds of millions of dollars to strengthen the levee system, but some of our senators spent it on something else.
Dick Morris: "The congress and the White House voted 750 million dollars for levee repair and strengthening. It's Landrieu and the rest of the delegation out there, not counting Vitter because he just got there, but Landrieu who sidetracked the money and spent it on this stupid canal that was an economic development project. As opposed to the leee where there were no votes and no campaign contributions."
Pat Simon Q: "Now we do have some Republicans in our congressional delegation as well, on the house side."
Dick Morris: "Right. But the key movers and shakers in that I think were Landrieu and Breaux. Breaux is out of politics now. But you know I used to work for Buddy Roemer here, Roemer said I love Louisiana but I hate Louisiana politics and this is an instance where your politicians let you down because there were no votes in repairing the levee and there were no campaign contributions in doing it, so they spent the money where the pork would do them good, not where it would do New Orleans good."
A spokesman for Senator Landrieu says Dick Morris' accusations are just silly. He says the entire Louisiana delegation, democrats and republicans have worked consistently to repair and strengthen Louisiana's levee systems and that the Bush and Clinton administrations never fully funded levee funding requests.

Louisiana leaders reject LA's corrupt reputation; play tu quoque

From this:

The struggle was never more evident than last week when Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appeared before congressional committees asking for help to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in a series of speeches that each included a defense of the state.
With several members of Congress openly suggesting since Katrina that Louisiana isn't trustworthy enough to handle billions of dollars in disaster relief aid, Blanco pledged accountability in spending.
She said the state was hiring a nationally recognized accounting firm to review the flow of federal dollars through Louisiana and that she would hire another accounting firm to audit those first auditors.
"I want to emphasize that the financial affairs of Louisiana will be transparent and wide open. I believe that we will stand well to expected scrutiny by the public, the Congress and the media," she told a meeting of House subcommittees that oversee the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA and other agencies crucial to Louisiana's recovery.
"I expect to account for every single penny of federal money that is received by the state of Louisiana," she said.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin urged the lawmakers to Google his record.
"You will see that since I have been in office almost four years, my whole focus has been on reform of government, honesty and integrity," he said...
"All manner of ugly words have been used to describe us by people sitting in their ivory towers. We have moved a million miles, but our old reputation continues to haunt us," Blanco said earlier this month.
And Landrieu was particularly straightforward when he appeared before the U.S. House committees with Blanco and Nagin.
The lieutenant governor said Louisiana doesn't corner the market on public corruption, noting that seven states with members on those subcommittees had more public corruption convictions than his state did.
In a letter he submitted to the subcommittees, Landrieu said New York, Illinois and Florida have twice as many federal public corruption convictions than Louisiana, and California has three times as many.
He said in the past decade, governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio and Alabama all have been indicted - though he failed to mention that Louisiana's former four-term governor, Edwin Edwards, also is behind bars for a corruption scheme.
"I question the political tactics of basically 'kicking our state' while it is down," he wrote. "Now, we come to Congress - the voice of the American people to seek help. And yet, in the media, at the office water cooler, at the family dinner table and even in the hallways of the Capitol, we have been made to feel corrupt, selfish and unworthy of aid."
The problem is Louisiana officials have gone to jail over the years. One of its congressmen currently is under investigation. Federal prosecutors set up shop before the hurricanes in the Orleans Parish school board offices. Jefferson Parish judges have been convicted recently as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation...

More Mary Landrieu and alleged illegal aliens employed by Halliburton subcontractor

Landrieu says illegal workers hurt La.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is asking the Bush administration to send immigration enforcement officers to the Gulf Coast to investigate whether federal contractors are hiring undocumented workers to do Katrina recovery work.
"While my state experiences unemployment rates not seen since the Great Depression, it is unconscionable that illegal workers would be brought into Louisiana aggravating our employment crisis and depressing earnings for our workers," Landrieu said in a statement.
Landrieu cited testimony this week by electrical workers who had been employed at the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station. The workers said they were replaced Oct. 1 by contractor BE&K of Birmingham, Ala., with workers willing to work for significantly lower wages. The displaced workers were doing electrical work on the base, some related to wiring a tent city for Hurricane Katrina relief workers.
It was unclear, Landrieu said, whether the replacement workers are here legally.
Two of the displaced workers told Democratic senators conducting a hearing Monday on hurricane relief efforts that about 75 electricians from New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lake Charles lost their jobs at Belle Chasse. The culprit, the workers said, was the Bush administration's decision to exempt hurricane relief work from a federal law requiring all government contractors to pay prevailing wages and benefits...

BE&K denies the charges, but: while the Bush administration almost completely refuses to enforce immigration laws against employers, those employers who they've pursued end up having used contractors, labor suppliers, and the like.
See also Did a Halliburton subcontractor hire illegal aliens to work on a Navy base?

Did a Halliburton subcontractor hire illegal aliens to work on a Navy base?

Bear in mind we aren't just talking about alleged illegal aliens taking jobs that should go to those Americans affected by the storm. We're also talking about them working on a U.S. Navy base, so there's that little extra kick in the teeth.
Dateline Alabama

Immigration agents detained a large number of illegal immigrants working for a Halliburton subcontractor hired to do Hurricane Katrina recovery work, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's office said on Thursday.
The workers - numbering possibly more than 100 - were involved in setting up a tent city at a Navy base just outside New Orleans when they were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Wednesday, according to Landrieu's office.
Landrieu's office claimed that the alleged illegal workers were employed by BE&K. The Birmingham, Ala.-based subcontractor acknowledged that immigration officials descended on its work site, but said none of its employees were detained. Susan Wasley, a BE&K spokeswoman, said that about 136 workers from a different company on the project were detained. She would not name the other company.
She added that all BE&K's workers have valid work documents and that only about three of the 150 workers at the Navy base are green-card holders.
BE&K was awarded the work by Halliburton, which won contracts after Katrina to repair several military bases in the hard-hit Gulf Coast region, said Adam Sharp, a Landrieu spokesman.
"It is a downright shame that any contractor would use this tragedy as an opportunity to line his pockets by breaking the law and hiring a low-skilled, low-wage and undocumented work force," Landrieu said in a statement.
The Democratic senator sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Tuesday urging him to investigate allegations that the use of illegal workers was becoming "chronic" in rebuilding of the Gulf Coast region.
Immigration officials would not confirm nor deny that illegal workers were detained at the Belle Chasse Naval Air Station.
"The federal government must ensure that every company, no matter how big, follows the law and provides Gulf Coast residents with the jobs they deserve," Landrieu said.
Wasley said 75 percent of the workers at Belle Chasse were from the hurricane-hit states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas.
Allegations that illegal workers might be employed at the Navy base surfaced during congressional testimony given by Louisiana electrical contractors with Knight Enterprises who said they were hired by BE&K to build a 7,500-person tent city at the base.
Al Knight, the general manager of Knight Enterprises, testified that his 75 workers were fired after they trained the low-wage, out-of-state BE&K workers. BE&K denies that allegation, Wasley said.
The tent city was built to house military personnel involved in the rebuilding. Wasley said BE&K has also worked on the base's electrical systems, air conditioning and a temporary shower facility.

Some Americans are not.
See also: "More Mary Landrieu and alleged illegal aliens employed by Halliburton subcontractor"

Mary Landrieu can't get enough... money

Mary Landrieu: It's Never Enough has all the facts and figures on how much Louisiana gets from the federal government:

...As illustrated by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, federal income taxes collected from residents and businesses in Louisiana have only increased by 11 percent in the period from 1997 through 2003. Yet, at the same time, federal receipts for the entire nation grew by 23 percent, meaning that Louisiana's contribution to the federal government since Landrieu was elected is growing at a 52 percent slower rate than the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, what Landrieu's state takes from federal coffers has by no means experienced such a slow rate of growth. On the contrary, during this same period, Louisiana's take of federal funds has increased by 44 percent, or an astounding four times the rate of growth in its federal income taxes collected. At the same time, federal spending for the entire country only increased by 38 percent.
Taking this further, before Landrieu was elected, the average person in Louisiana received $992 more in funds and/or services from the federal government than was paid in federal income taxes by the state per capita. That number exploded to $2,691 in 2003 - an outlandish 171 percent increase. As a result, Louisianans have gone from receiving $1.28 per capita in federal funds for every dollar of federal income taxes they paid before Landrieu was elected to a 2003 level of $1.47 - a 15 percent increase...

More on the Pelican Commission, pork, and lobbyists

The LAT article "Lobbyists Shape Gulf Coast Rebuilding" has more on just how much say corporations got in Louisiana's rebuilding plan. Bear in mind, that article is about the state's plan, the one they want $250 billion for. See "Louisiana wants $40 billion; stuffed with pork" for previous coverage.
From the LAT:

..."I was basically shocked," said Ivor van Heerden, director of a hurricane public health research center at Louisiana State University. "What do lobbyists know about a plan for the reconstruction and restoration of Louisiana?"
Van Heerden is the first participant in any of the senators' working groups to provide such a detailed and scathing account of the process. He said he was shut out after he voiced his concerns.
The result, he said, was a lost opportunity "to come up with something innovative, something the people of Louisiana and the nation could really endorse."
Among the lobby-supported interests with a stake in the relief and recovery bill:
Energy utilities: Entergy Corp. and Cleco Corp...
...Supporters of a controversial industrial canal project for New Orleans: Among those on advisory panels were two officials of Jones Walker, a New Orleans-based firm that lobbies in Washington for the canal project...
...Highway advocates Among those on a transportation working group were lobbyists for highway projects seeking funds, including one from a firm headed by former Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.)...


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