Some of the Bush administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina have been awarded to companies with ties to the administration.
At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, have been given huge contracts to start recovery work in the Gulf Coast states hit by hurricane Katrina.
One of the companies is Shaw Group Inc. and the other is Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice President Dick Cheney is a former head of Halliburton.
On Friday, Kellogg Brown and Root received $29.8 million in Pentagon contracts to begin rebuilding Navy bases in Louisiana and Mississippi. A Halliburton spokesman said the work was covered under a contract that the company negotiated before Allbaugh was hired.
FEMA also selected Bechtel National Inc., a unit of San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., to provide short-term housing for people left homeless by the hurricane. President Bush named Bechtel's CEO to his Export Council and put the former CEO of Bechtel Energy in charge of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
Experts say it has been common practise in both Republican and Democratic administrations for policy makers to take lobbying jobs once they leave office. Many of the same companies seeking contracts in the wake of Huricane Katrina have already received billions of dollars for work in Iraq.
Halliburton alone has earned more than nine billion dollars. Pentagon audits released by the Democrats in June showed $1.03 billion in "questioned" costs and $422 million in "unsupported" costs for Halliburton's work in Iraq.
The web of Bush administration connections is attracting renewed attention from watchdog groups in Washington. Congress has already appropriated more than $60 billion in emergency funding as a down payment on recovery efforts that are projected to cost over $100 billion.
The executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, Danielle Brian, said, "The government has got to stop stacking senior positions with people who are repeatedly cashing in on the public trust in order to further private commercial interests."