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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.)...

Pelican Commission could distribute $40 BILLION in pork

The AP rounds up Louisiana's plan to get billions of dollars from the feds in "$40B La. Protection Plan Sparks Debate":

A $40 billion plan to hurricane-proof the Louisiana coast has ignited a battle over how best to prevent a repeat of this year's double flooding of New Orleans.
Endorsed by the state's congressional delegation, the proposal would create a nine-member independent commission that would give Louisiana a large say in how the federal money is spent.

That's the "Pelican Commission".

The huge sums involved and the measure's plan to waive federal environmental laws underscore the dramatic steps that Louisiana lawmakers say is needed to help the state recover from one of the country's worst natural disasters.
The commission with at least five members from Louisiana would have final say over Army Corps of Engineers projects to protect New Orleans from the most potent type of hurricanes, known as Category 5, and to restore the coastline, control flooding and improve navigation.
Normal congressional processes for authorizing projects and spending money would be bypassed entirely under the proposal. Environmental laws would be waived once the commission signs off on the work plan, which the corps would have to develop in just six months.
Such an unprecedented transfer of power and money from Washington to a state usually would stand little chance of winning federal approval. Louisiana lawmakers, though, are hoping the catastrophic drubbing from hurricanes Katrina and Rita will force Congress and the White House to take a serious look at the proposal. It has been introduced as part of a broader reconstruction bill.

Translation: Our president is trying to spend his way back to some degree of popularity, so maybe we can get him to further open the wallet.

"The whole purpose is to give this a sense of urgency," said Sen. David Vitter, R-La. "We need to break out of the bureaucratic mentality where everything is studied to death."

OTOH:

"They're asking for a $40 billion blank check," said Steve Ellis, a vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It is a huge amount of money that would be essentially front-ended as appropriations, and then driven independent of Washington oversight."

Because of the following, I considered putting this under 'humor' as well:

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the proposal was "just a suggestion" and that she never intended to waive environmental laws. What is needed, she said, is a way to streamline the process so hurricane protection work can be done quickly.
"It is not our intention to loot the treasury," she said. "It is our intention to get support and help from the federal government."

You can download a copy of the legislation from Cute Little Baby Fat's site. Another download is an overview of only a couple pages and is basically all you need to know. Just look at all the dollar signs to be allocated to just about every conceivable group. They basically want to buy everyone's support.

WaPo: LA's legislators like really bad looters

According to the WaPo editorial "Louisiana's Looters", the Louisiana government's plan for a pork-stuffed "Pelican Commission" funded by $250 billion puts them in the really bad looters category. They aren't just the looters that grab a couple TV sets, they're the type that grab more than they could ever use. Further:

...The Louisiana delegation has apparently devoted little thought to the root causes of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. New Orleans was flooded not because the Army Corps of Engineers had insufficient money to build flood protections, but because its money was allocated by a system of political patronage. The smart response would be to insist that, in the future, no Corps money be wasted on unworthy projects, but the Louisiana bill instead creates a mechanism by which cost-benefit analysis can be avoided. Equally, Katrina was devastating because ill-conceived projects have drained coastal wetlands and caused their erosion, destroying a natural buffer between hurricanes and human settlements. The smart response would be to insist that future infrastructure projects be subject to careful environmental review. But the Louisiana delegation's bill would suspend the environmental review process...
...Congress should ignore the Louisiana bill and force itself to think seriously about the sort of reconstruction that makes sense. Katrina has exposed mistakes of policy: water-infrastructure programs that made flooding more likely, and levees and insurance schemes that encouraged human settlement in dangerous places. Now that Congress is getting ready to spend tens of billions on reconstruction, it must seize the opportunity to correct those past errors...

Louisiana wants $40 billion; stuffed with pork

That alone should raise suspicions, but, as previously reported that's only part of what they want: Landrieu, Vitter want $250 billion.
WaPo offers "Louisiana Goes After Federal Billions":

Louisiana's congressional delegation has requested $40 billion for Army Corps of Engineers projects in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, about 10 times the annual Corps budget for the entire nation, or 16 times the amount the Corps has said it would need to protect New Orleans from a Category 5 hurricane...
...The bill, unveiled last week, would create a powerful "Pelican Commission" controlled by Louisiana residents that would decide which Corps projects to fund, and ordered the commission to consider several controversial navigation projects that have nothing to do with flood protection. The Corps section of the Louisiana bill, which was supported by the entire state delegation, was based on recommendations from a "working group" dominated by lobbyists for ports, shipping firms, energy companies and other corporate interests...

I don't think they learned this from Bush, I'm sure it's more innate than that.

"This bill boggles the mind," said Steve Ellis, a water resources expert at Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Brazen doesn't begin to describe it. The Louisiana delegation is using Katrina as an excuse to resurrect a laundry list of pork projects."
Aides to Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) helped shape the bill. The governor yesterday asked for $31.7 billion in federal funds for her state's infrastructure, including $20 billion for hurricane protections -- which aides described as a down payment on the larger sum.

BTW, "Pelican" stands for "Protecting Essential Louisiana Infrastructure, Citizens and Nature". I wonder how much they paid to come up with that.

...The 440-page bill also includes $50 billion in open-ended grants for storm-ravaged communities and $13 billion for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, along with mortgage assistance, health care, substance abuse treatment and other services for hurricane victims. It also includes hefty payments to hospitals, ports, banks, shipbuilders, fishermen and schools, as well as $8 million for alligator farms, $35 million for seafood industry marketing, and $25 million for a sugar-cane research laboratory that had not been completed before Katrina...
...The coastal protection section may be the most contentious part of the bill, overturning a slew of Corps precedents, but Louisiana officials say that past practice has failed to protect their state. They say their communities do not have the money to pay the standard 30 percent local share for Corps hurricane protection, or the time to wait several years for standard Corps studies...
...Vitter and Landrieu tapped John M. Barry -- author of "Rising Tide," the definitive history of the 1927 flood -- to lead the working group on the Corps response to Katrina. Almost all the other members of the group were lobbyists from firms such as Patton Boggs, Adams & Reese, the Alpine Group, Dutko Worldwide, Van Scoyoc Associates, and a firm owned by former senator J. Bennett Johnston (D-La.). There was a lobbyist for the Port of New Orleans, a lobbyist for Verizon, and three lobbyists who were former aides to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska).
Internal notes from the working group obtained by The Washington Post suggest that hurricane protection was by no means its sole preoccupation. A list of "outstanding issues" from a Sept. 15 conference call mentioned the possibility of authorizing at least six unrelated navigation projects, and included questions such as "Are there other things we can do to boost our ports?" and -- perhaps a joke -- "How much can I bill my client?"
"My concern was that the focus was not on protecting Louisiana," said Ivor van Heerden, the deputy director of Louisiana State University's Hurricane Center and one of the few non-lobbyists on the working group...

Landrieu, Vitter want $250 billion

Maybe the $50 billion amount that their proposal exceeds the already phantasmagoric figure proposed by Bush is intended to be bargained down. Let's split the difference, eh?

Louisiana's Senators, Mary Landrieu (D) and David Vitter (R), have proposed legislation to provide about $250 billion in federal aid to help their state rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. The massive, 10-year plan, contained in a bill introduced on Sept. 22, includes about $180 billion in direct federal spending, Vitter said. The rest would represent the cost of various tax breaks.
But Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and several other GOP colleagues want at least some of the federal hurricane relief spending to be offset with spending cuts. Among their suggestions: a 5% across-the-board cut in discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security; and rescinding $24 billion in earmarked highway projects in the recently enacted highway and transit authorization bill...
...The Landrieu-Vitter package would draw most of its funds from federal appropriations, but they also are seeking 50% of the revenue from oil and gas leases off their state's coast. Vitter says that 50% share of lease payments recently has ranged between $3 billion and $4 billion annually. Those revenues would go for restoration of coastal wetlands and barrier islands as well as infrastructure.
The energy bill signed into law in August provides Louisiana with $135 million in oil and gas lease revenue annually for four years to be used for coastal restoration work...

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