Wednesday, April 26, 2006

That's Got To Be Embarrassing

April 7, press release from Republican congressman Chip Pickering:

Gulfport based Necaise Brothers Construction to lead on debris removal

Congressman Chip Pickering praises the Corps of Engineers today for awarding a new competitively bid federal contract for debris removal to a Mississippi contractor in compliance with the Stafford Act. The Corps will announce that Gulfport based Necaise Brothers Construction will lead on debris removal as the prime contractor.

April 21, Pickering Press Release:

New law codifies geographic set asides for disaster recovery federal contracts

Thursday night, President George W. Bush signed Congressman Chip Pickering's "Local Community Recovery Act of 2006" (HR4979) into law. The act clarifies the Stafford Act to ensure Mississippi companies can receive significant prime federal contracts and in the future, contractors in disaster areas across our country may be given preference through geographic set-asides of federal contracts.

April 22, Jackson Clarion-Ledger article:

Firm loses cleanup contract

By Joshua Cogswell

Necaise Brothers Construction of Gulfport lost its $150 million debris-removal contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Friday.

The corps cited inevitable delays resulting from protests filed by three competing companies as a reason for canceling the contract. One of those companies is the current contractor, AshBritt Inc. of Pompano Beach, Fla.

AshBritt Inc. will continue the cleanup, which is expected to be completed by May 31, according to the corps

Interesting paragraph in Pickering's official biography:

Chip served as George W. Bush’s Co-Chairman of Mississippi for Bush 2000 and Bush 2004. Chip’s ever growing record of achievement has earned him a reputation as an effective voice for Mississippi’s interests, a rising star in the Congress, and champion for the changes that are transforming America’s economy in this century and beyond.

If Necaise Bros. had a heavy hitter like Pickering in its corner, one has to wonder how AshBritt held on to the contract:

AshBritt earlier this year hired the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers, which was founded by Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and paid the firm $40,000 to lobby the Army Corps and Congress, according to Senate records.

Barbour's approval ratings have improved considerably since Katrina. Judging by recent history, I doubt this will have any effect at all. At least this time the state's largest paper has noticed:

AshBritt: How much Katrina money is enough?

AshBritt, the Florida-based company that's been in charge of debris removal on the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, just can't get enough of making a profit from the misery of Mississippians.
But the bottom line is that a Florida company with strong political and/or business ties to President Bush and Gov. Haley Barbour monopolized the debris removal business when Mississippi companies needed the work.

AshBritt danced with the ones who brought them - and wrung every drop of Katrina money it could get out of hurricane-ravaged Mississippi in the process.

I doubt it will affect Barbour's (or the Republican Party's) popularity in Mississippi.

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