What do Louisiana and New Jersey have in common besides having governors who yearn to be president and who share the character traits of a bully who will seek vengeance against perceived opponents and throw subordinates under the bus?
No, it’s not that the governors are the back-to-back chairmen of the Republican Governors Association or that neither one looks very good in a suit, though those would be good guesses.
Try what the Wall Street Journal calls cronyism and contract abuse.
Accounts of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s questionable contracts and nefarious deals are fast approaching the status of legendary, from the giveaway of LSU hospitals, to the CNSI debacle; from Magellan to Alvarez and Marsal; from the SAS Institute contract by the director of the Office of Workers Compensation three weeks before his resignation and the subsequent hiring of that same director by SAS to several contracts with IT firms that have experienced major problems in other states and in some cases, had those contracts cancelled after repeated delays and cost overruns. There are others but the list quickly becomes tedious.
And now both MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal have begun focusing attention on a Louisiana firm with more than $200 million in contracts with both the Chris Christie and Jindal administrations for federally-funded relief to hurricane victims.
Hammerman & Gainer, Inc., or HGI, of Lutcher, was awarded a $68 million contract in May of 2013 to oversee two programs distributing $780 million in federal money to Sandy victims. That contract was cancelled only six months later, on Dec. 6, 2013, because of mounting complaints about delays in processing claims. http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/purchase/noa/contracts/g8043_13-r-23132.shtml
New Jersey homeowners say they have been unable to get answers, paperwork has been misplaced and HGI employees, most of whom are temporary employees, could not be reached by phone and that the company’s recovery centers change rules midstream and that no reconstruction program grants to thousands of applicants already approved have yet been awarded. http://www.njdems.org/cronyism_exposed_in_christie_contracts
HGI also just happens to hold a $60 million contract with the Louisiana Office of Community Development’s Disaster Recovery Unit to administer the state’s Road Home Program. That contract began on March 20, 2012, and ends on March 19, 2015. Prior to that contract, HGI had a similar contract for $83.3 million which ran from March 20, 2009 to March 19, 2012. The $83.3 million contract replaced a $912 million contract with ICF Emergency Management Services of Baton Rouge.
One must wonder just how long that Road Home is, how long will it take to disperse federal funds to begin recovery from a hurricane that occurred more than eight years ago, in 2005. Or will the program continue to languish so that firms contracted to oversee the federal grant money can extract as much money for themselves as possible?
In New Jersey, HGI hired Glenn Paulsen, former chief of the Burlington County Republicans, as its legal counsel when it submitted its bid to run the two Sandy relief programs. Paulsen’s law firm Capehart Scatchard, made a $25,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association which Christie now heads.
In Louisiana HGI eschewed the middle man and contributed $15,000 to Jindal in three equal contributions in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The company also gave $7,500 to Robert Wooley ($2,500 in 2003 and $5,000 in 2002), $5,000 to the Republican Party of Louisiana, $5,000 in 2011, to New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin in March of 2006, only months after Hurricane Katrina, and $7,500 to his successor Mitch Landrieu in equal contributions of $2,500 in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In addition, HGI President Larry Oney gave $5,000 to Jindal’s campaign in 2008.
Two New Jersey Democratic congressmen on Wednesday called upon the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan to investigate New Jersey’s dealing with HGI. In a Jan. 29 letter to Donovan, Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. and Frank Pallone said, “We respectfully request that your department investigate the circumstances surrounding the termination of this contract and appoint an official within the Department of Housing and Urban Development to independently monitor New Jersey’s usage of (Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery) funds.”
Their letter said there had been a “lack of transparency” with the selection criteria and distribution process of CDBG-DR funded programs administered by HGI.
In Louisiana, no one has requested a federal investigation…yet, but the Legislative Auditor’s review of 24 loans to property owners through the state’s Small Rental Property Program has indicated that the state could be on the hook for at least $116 million and possibly as much as $600 million in improperly received or misspent disaster aid following Katrina and Rita. http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/830C07388A1CA59886257B49006AE5FE/$FILE/00031C15.pdf
So perhaps John McCain was correct in hyping a ticket of Christie-Jindal to head the GOP presidential ticket in 2016. The way each has managed federal hurricane recovery funds makes them perfect for the Republican Party.