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oe Allbaugh: 'Disaster Pimp'/ War Profiteer Joins

Rudy Giuliani adds war/disaster profiteer Joe Allbaugh to campaign staff


by Bill Berkowitz

The former head of FEMA who gave America "Brownie" and helped disembody the agency will be senior advisor on homeland security issues

On October 30, Joseph Allbaugh was named Senior Advisor to Rudy Giuliani's presidential campaign. According to a Giuliani campaign press release, Allbaugh "will advise the campaign on general strategy and homeland security."

"Rudy Giuliani is the only candidate who will keep America on offense in the Terrorists' War on Us," the press release quoted Allbaugh as saying. "The leadership he showed after 9/11 was an inspiration not only to New Yorkers but to the country. He knows what it takes to keep America safe, and as President, he will ensure that our country never goes back on defense in this war."

Giuliani said that the two of them had "worked closely together in the aftermath of 9/11 to ensure that everything possible was being done to help victims and their families. He has significant experience in emergency management and I will look to him for sound advice and expertise."

The Politico reported that "The endorsement is valuable ... because it gives the former New York mayor additional entrée to the Bush-Cheney organization. Allbaugh was one-third of the 'Iron Triangle' of Allbaugh, Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, the powers-that-be in the president's original Austin-based presidential campaign."

Both Giuliani and Allbaugh are disaster profiteers.

"Giuliani himself has parlayed his own fame in connection with 9/11 into lucrative consulting deals with his own private security firm," Sheldon Rampton, Research director with the Center for Media and Democracy told Media Transparency in an e-mail exchange.

In addition, media reports have pegged his earnings from speeches about the threat of terrorism at more than $10 million.

In May of this year the Washington Post reported that over a five year period starting in early 2002 Giuliani Partners (website) "earned more than $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the firm's financial information is private. And that success helped transform ... [him] from a moderately well-off public servant into a globe-trotting consultant whose net worth is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars."

The Washington Post pointed out that Giuliani chose as his partners longtime associates, including a former police commissioner later convicted of corruption, a former FBI executive who admitted taking artifacts from Ground Zero and a former Roman Catholic priest accused of covering up sexual abuse in the church."

"Given that Giuliani's private company has a history of hiring people with questionable character and serving shady clients, it's not surprising that he would hire a profiteer like Allbaugh to advise him on homeland security," Rampton noted.

"Allbaugh has shown proficiency at private deal-making, but there's no evidence that he knows how to serve the public good. There's certainly no evidence that his time at FEMA prepared the agency to respond effectively to subsequent disasters like Hurricane Katrina, although Allbaugh and his clients evidently made quite a bit of money from it."

Over the past few years, Allbaugh's enterprises have raked in money from both the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina.

The last we heard about Allbaugh he was heading down to the post-Hurricane Katrina Gulf Coast. However, he wasn't going to help the victims of the hurricane - he was there to drum up business for his corporate clients.

Allbaugh, George W. Bush's longtime Texas pal and the campaign manager of his 2000 presidential campaign, is probably best known for being the man who gave the American people "Brownie" -- Michael Brown, the former head of the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA) -- a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado -- who Allbaugh brought into Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and who later succeeded him as head of the agency. Brown's disastrous tenure at FEMA is only one of the FEMA-wrecking projects on Allbaugh's resume.

After his appointment as FEMA chief, Allbaugh, who had no previous experience in emergency management, took a Rumsfeldian approach to the agency, setting about to make it leaner and meaner, all the while putting privatization front and center.

In September 2004, Jon Elliston reported in the Independent Weekly that Allbaugh had ominously testified before Congress in May 2001 that "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program and a disincentive to effective state and local risk management. Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

According to Elliston's report titled "A Disaster Waiting to Happen," "As a result [of Allbaugh's efforts], says a disaster program administrator who insists on anonymity, 'We have to compete for our jobs--we have to prove that we can do it cheaper than a contractor.' And when it comes to handling disasters, the FEMA employee stresses, cheaper is not necessarily better, and the new outsourcing requirements sometimes slow the agency's operations."

William Waugh, a disaster expert at Georgia State University who has written training programs for FEMA, told Elliston that the "consultant culture" was not a positive development. "It's part of a widespread problem of government contracting out capabilities," Waugh said. "Pretty soon governments can't do things because they've given up those capabilities to the private sector. And private corporations don't necessarily maintain those capabilities."

By the time Allbaugh handed in his resignation in December 2002, FEMA was well on its way to becoming part of the newly created gargantuan Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Elliston reported that "Analysts in and out of government warned against subsuming the emergency agency's vital functions in a new super-department. 'There are concerns of FEMA losing its identity as an agency that is quick to respond to all hazards and disasters,' the agency's inspector general noted in a memo to Allbaugh. Congress' Government Accountability Office judged the merger to be a 'high-risk' endeavor for FEMA, and the Brookings Institution, a leading Washington centrist think-tank, cautioned in a report that such a move could hobble the agency's natural disaster programs. 'While a merged FEMA might become highly adept at preparing for and responding to terrorism, it would likely become less effective in performing its current mission in case of natural disasters as time, effort and attention are inevitably diverted to other tasks within the larger organization.'"

Albaugh's college friend Michael Brown, who served as FEMA's general counsel, was named head of the agency which had become part of the DHS's Emergency and Response Directorate. "When the reorganization took effect on March 1, 2003," Elliston reported, "Brown assured skeptics that under the new arrangement, the country would be served by 'FEMA on steroids' -- a faster, more effective disaster agency."

A 2004 article in the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management pointed out that "Allbaugh brought about several internal, though questionably effective, reorganizations of FEMA. The Bush-Allbaugh FEMA diminished the Clinton administration's organizational emphasis on disaster mitigation."

Elliston noted that after Allbaugh left the agency in March 2003, he was expected to again play a major role in the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. Instead "he set about creating a string of lobbying firms, including New Bridge Strategies [where he became Chairman and Director], which helps U.S. companies win reconstruction contracts in Iraq. [In the summer of 2004] he started [Blackwell Fairbanks, LLC], another consulting company with Andrew Lundquist, the former director of Vice President Dick Cheney's secretive energy policy task force. The firm's first client was Lockheed Martin, one of the country's largest defense contractors."

Early on, the website of New Bridge Strategies maintained that "The opportunities evolving in Iraq today are of such an unprecedented nature and scope that no other existing firm has the necessary skills and experience to be effective both in Washington, D.C., and on the ground in Iraq."

Two plus years later, in early September 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and New Orleans, Joe Allbaugh's boots hit the ground in Louisiana; this time as a private citizen. No longer representing the government, Allbaugh was there for one thing and one thing only: to drum up business for corporate clients of The Allbaugh Company, LLC (website) -- a firm he co-founded with his wife, Diane -- which advises companies how to get in on lucrative disaster relief projects.

Based in Washington, D.C. with offices in Austin, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, The Allbaugh Company's website points out that it "is uniquely able to create new opportunities and expand competitive advantage."

In a report dated September 1, 2005 and titled "Joe Allbaugh, Disaster Pimp," Slate's Timothy Noah pointed out that Allbaugh is "a lobbyist and a consultant who's been cashing in on his close ties to President Bush since 2003."

"Now." Noah wrote, "Allbaugh is the man to see if you want a contract in Iraq, or a piece of the action on homeland security, or, apparently, a shot at rebuilding New Orleans. 'I don't buy the 'revolving door' argument," Allbaugh told the National Journal [in 2004.] 'This is America. We all have a right to make a living.'"

"If Joe Allbaugh's advice is the basis for Giulani's approach to national security, I think we can expect that a Giuliani presidency would see further erosion of the government's ability to actually respond to disasters, coupled with more profiteering and ineffectual posturing when disasters happen," the Center for Media and Democracy's Sheldon Rampton pointed out.

*************

For more please see the Bill Berkowitz archive.
Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column Conservative Watch documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right.

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