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"Unholy Trinity: Katrina, Allbaugh and Brown"
Award-winning investigative journo Russ Baker publishes an exclusive on his new site, realnews.org -- The Real News Project -- on the Bush-Allbaugh-Brown relationship:

When Allbaugh brought Brown to Washington, he presented him as a lifelong associate of high character and substantial credentials. “I hired him solely on his ability as a strong ethics attorney,” Allbaugh said in an official FEMA press release at the time. “He is very experienced, knowledgeable, and professional and will be a great asset to the agency and to myself.”

The truth, RealNews has learned, is that the relationship between the two rests on a decades-long hidden partnership designed to advance both men's business and personal interests. By all appearances, that relationship drove Allbaugh's decision to ask Bush to let him run FEMA, and his decision to turn the place over to Brown so he could profit from their ties.

A few key points:

-Once in Washington, Allbaugh and Brown characterized themselves as long-time friends, and were content to leave the impression that they knew each other from college and Republican circles. But lifelong associates of both men say that is untrue. Indeed, the association between the two appears to have been a largely covert one, based less on selfless brotherhood than on mutual self-interest, as represented by a series of murky business ventures.

-Both Brown and Allbaugh were accused in the past of fiduciary malfeasance. Before coming to Washington, both were known to associates and creditors not as rising stars but as ethically-challenged, and frequently failed, entrepreneurs.

-In one business venture, Allbaugh worked for Brown, as a lobbyist. In another, Allbaugh partnered with Brown’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law. That business involved mysterious, large amounts of cash that upset Allbaugh’s then-wife, and contributed to their divorce. One Allbaugh business partner would later be convicted of mail and wire fraud and serve time in a federal prison.

-Allbaugh persuaded an elderly widow who was a frequent GOP donor to personally loan him money; he defaulted on the loan.

-Allbaugh and his second wife declared bankruptcy, unloading nearly $300,000 in debt, but failed to report this – as he was required to do – to the Senate on disclosure forms during his confirmation process. Legal experts say this may constitute a felony.

-Allbaugh accepted a personal loan guaranteed by a large contractor doing business with the state of Oklahoma while he was a top aide to the governor; he never repaid the loan.

-Brown, who was brought into FEMA initially by Allbaugh to run the legal operation, has a history as a failed low-level lawyer, replete with discontented clients, unhappy employers and damaging lawsuits.

-Brown was fired from his longest-held position, his principal job preceding his hiring at FEMA, for obtaining a personal loan from a prominent horse owner under false pretenses. When an official of the horse association confronted him, Brown tried to make a deal with the man to make the matter go away.

-Although it has been reported that Brown exaggerated some of his accomplishments, he actually exaggerated many more, creating a misleading impression about his qualifications and his credibility as he was confirmed to his high federal position.

-The hard-luck Brown has received multiple assists from well-connected Republicans. His long-time lawyer, who has helped him through scrape after scrape, is a friend of Clarence Thomas and former regional director of the influential and secretive Federalist Society.

-Brown and Allbaugh had apparently agreed on Brown’s role in the Bush administration well in advance. For six months prior to Bush’s election in 2000, Brown was telling incredulous associates that he expected to land a high position in Washington.

-Both Allbaugh and Brown appear to have withheld negative personal financial information from the Senate during their confirmation process – information that would have cast doubt on their fitness for high office and that, by law, they were required to disclose. Allbaugh, notably, failed to disclose his 1990 bankruptcy.

-At FEMA, Allbaugh launched a purge, forcing out many of the most experienced officials. Allbaugh and Brown also abandoned a recent agency tradition of hiring experienced professionals and filled high FEMA positions with political operatives lacking familiarity with emergency disaster management.

-Allbaugh edged out his #2, one of the most experienced men in government, in order to replace him with Brown.

-Under Brown, during the 2004 presidential election, FEMA handed out tens of millions of dollars in disaster aid in parts of the politically crucial Florida that had experienced little damage.

-Allbaugh has had extremely close ties with Vice President Cheney – including vetting Cheney for the vice presidency, buying his house, serving on Cheney’s secretive energy task force, and then becoming a consultant to Cheney’s former company, Halliburton.

-Under Allbaugh and Brown, FEMA changed the way in which the agency handled contracts, awarding them to numerous firms with political connections but little in the way of corporate infrastructure to handle the work. Some of these recipients were merely Enron-style shell corporations that subcontracted all the work to others, keeping a sizable share of the profits.

-When Allbaugh left FEMA, he immediately began setting up a network of lobbying interests to benefit from his connections. His clients were selected by FEMA under Brown, and by other agencies, for major contracts.

-FEMA shifted abruptly in 2003 from dealing directly on a non-exclusive basis with large bottled water suppliers, to issuing a sole-source contract to a tiny, politically connected firm that had to turn to other companies to supply water. This arrangement is blamed for substantial problems with deliveries of water following Hurricane Katrina.

The entire 9,000 word article is here.

Posted by aalkon at February 6, 2006 1:27 AM

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