Notes on Cashing In After Katrina

WASHINGTON, D.C.-While George Bush promises to take “responsibility” for the disastrous government response to Hurricae Katrina, his friends and former colleagues are racing to cash in on the storm. First out of the gate was Cheney's old firm Halliburton.

The Navy hired it to restore electric power, repair roofs, and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi. The company will also do damage assessments at other naval installations in New Orleans. Joe Allbaugh, former head of FEMA, is registered to lobby for Halliburton's Brown Root subsidiary, and he hurried down to New Orleans to get things rolling. (More on how to cash in here.

Halliburton made the news recently when Bunnatine Greenhouse, a civilian manager at the Pentagon who oversaw the Corps of Engineers contracts, lambasted a multibillion contract between the Corps and Halliburton as an example of ”the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed.” She was demoted for “poor performance.”

The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington nonprofit, reports the government is opening up the contracting spigots by authorizing rules that permit government procurement officials to forget bidding procedures and authorize deals on their own say-so of up to $250,000. Normally they can only go as high as $2,500. In the past, federal funds released under such discretion have gone for such things as escort services and breast implants.

And on Thursday, Bush signed an executive order permitting federal contractors working on hurricane related deals to pay wages at below the prevailing rate due to the “national emergency.”

Additional reporting: Isabel Huacuja

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