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Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts. One is an EXPLOSIVES EXPERT

 
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09/14/2005 08:01 AM
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Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts. One is an EXPLOSIVES EXPERT
Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts

Reversing an eight-year crusade to rid the now-embattled Federal Emegency Management Agency of political patronage, a newly elected George W. Bush in 2001 named two key players in his Florida recount fight to important FEMA posts.

Neither man, Jacksonville attorney Reynold Hoover (pictured at left) and Miami lawyer Mark Wallace, had any experience in emergency management before they were named by the Bush administration to FEMA, now under fire for its botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

Hoover, a longtime "explosives expert" with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who became a lawyer in 1996, is still with FEMA as its director of national security coordination. Wallace left the Bush administration in 2004 to become deputy manager of the president´s re-election campaign, and is now a lobbyist.

They are two more names to add to the list of political appointees and out-and-out hacks at FEMA. Many are calling for the firing of agency chief Michael Brown, the ousted head of a horse association who was hired at FEMA in 2001 along with his college roommate, top Bush advisor Joe Allbaugh. And it was reported yesterday that FEMA´s No. 2 and No. 3 officials, Patrick Rhode and Scott Morris, are also former campaign aides.

Consider this quote:

"FEMA is widely viewed as a ´dumping ground,´ a turkey farm, if you will, where large numbers of positions exist that can be conveniently and quietly filled by political appointment," the preliminary report said. "This has led to a situation where top officials, having little or no experience in disaster or emergency management, are creating substantial morale problems among careerists and professionals. "

Appropriate in the wake of the agency´s bungled efforts over the last 10 days in Louisiana and Mississippi? Yes -- but the above quote is from 1992, during the administration of George H.W. Bush. It came from a preliminary report from the staff of the House Appropriations Committee, and it was written before FEMA came under fire that year for a tardy response to Florida´s Hurricane Andrew. (Note: Any article not linked came from the Nexis search engine.)

The Andrew debacle was one of many factors in the first President Bush´s failed re-election bid. They say that good government is good politics, and so when Bill Clinton arrived at the White House in 1993, he made a serious effort to rid FEMA of political hackery.

Clinton hired a professional, James Lee Witt, to run the agency and that May Witt told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, according to a Washington Post article, "that FEMA ´will not be doing business as usual´ and that he was committed to making his organization ´one of the most respected agencies in this nation.´

Did he succeed? Here´s what the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote in a January 1996 editorial:

FEMA has developed a sterling reputation for delivering disaster- relief services, a far cry from its abysmal standing before James Lee Witt took its helm in 1993.

How did Witt turn FEMA around so quickly? Well, he is the first director of the agency to have emergency-management experience. He stopped the staffing of the agency by political patronage. He removed layers of bureaucracy. Most important, he instilled in the agency a spirit of preparedness, of service to the customer, of willingness to listen to ideas of local and state officials to make the system work better.

But if Clinton and Witt stopped the staffing of FEMA by political patronage, George W. Bush re-started it within days of taking the oath of office -- rewarding some of the people who´d helped him become president in the grueling 2000 Florida recount.

One of those was Wallace (pictured at left) -- a young lawyer who, according to a July 14, 2002, article by the Miami Herald´s Carol Rosenberg -- "fought on behalf of the GOP in Palm Beach County during the butterfly ballot brouhaha." He was hired in 2001 as FEMA´s general counsel and was the chief lawyer for the agency on its Sept. 11 recovery effort. After his 2004 stint as a top official in the Bush campaign, he was hired in March as a D.C. lobbyist for a Florida-based law firm, Akerman Senterfitt.

Hoover, the former ATF agent turned attorney, was active in the Duval County GOP at the time of the Florida recount, and because a point man in the Jacksonville area. He initially served as FEMA´s chief of staff for a time, but he´s currently listed on the agency´s organizational chart as director of the Office of National Security Coordination.

Of course, we all know that Bush has rewarded a number of people who went to bat for him in Florida in 2000 with plum jobs. One of those is his new UN ambassador John Bolton, who -- as the Herald article reminds us -- "[burst] into a Tallahassee library on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign to stop a recount of Miami-Dade County ballots." Another was recently picked by Bush to become chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts.

What´s more, Wallace and Hoover -- and Brown and Rhodes and Morris -- aren´t the only political hires at FEMA. Indeed, the officials tasked with the response to Hurricane Katrina -- Dan Craig, the director of the recovery division -- is another. As his bio notes, "Craig worked as a campaign advisor, and political fundraiser and research analyst" and was also a lobbyist. At the risk of stating the obvious by this point, he did not have emergency management experience.

He was the key player in a 2004 FEMA controversy that may get some new scrutiny in light of recent events. From a May 15, 2005, Knight-Ridder article:

As Hurricane Frances made landfall 100 miles north of Miami-Dade County in September, a top official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared the county a major disaster area with no evidence of damage and contrary to a presidential order, federal auditors have found.

That decision allowed more than 12,000 Miami-Dade residents, many with minimal or no damage, to collect $31 million and brought unprecedented scrutiny to the federal disaster aid program...

On Sept. 5, as the storm continued its trek into central Florida, FEMA added to the declaration Miami-Dade and the other 12 counties originally requested by Gov. Jeb Bush. The decision was made by FEMA´s recovery division director in Washington. The report did not name him, but Nicol D. Andrews, FEMA spokeswoman, identified him as Dan Craig.

The ruling came just two months before the 2004 presidential election, with Florida the top battleground state.

Also in 2004, up the Gulf Coast, FEMA was involved in a mock drill called Hurricane Pam, in which a hurricane with 120 mph winds topped the levies of New Orleans. FEMA´s chief representative at the drill was its regional director at the time, Ron Castleman.

"We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts," said Ron Castleman, FEMA Regional Director. "Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies."

When the very real Hurricane Katrina struck last month, Castleman had already moved on to a job in the private sector. Would his presence have helped? We don´t know.

We can only tell you Castleman´s immediate job before he became FEMA´s top person in the Gulf region. He had been the chief administrative officer -- for the 2000 Bush-Cheney campaign.


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09/14/2005 08:27 AM
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Re: Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts. One is an EXPLOSIVES EXPERT
All the bush´s are dirty. Always have been. Always will be. May their souls always carry with them the putrid stench of the dead in their wake.
Anonymous Coward
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09/14/2005 10:37 AM
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Re: Two Bush 2000 Florida recount aides were rewarded with top FEMA posts. One is an EXPLOSIVES EXPERT
Of course, we all know that Bush has rewarded a number of people who went to bat for him in Florida in 2000 with plum jobs. One of those is his new UN ambassador John Bolton, who -- as the Herald article reminds us -- "[burst] into a Tallahassee library on behalf of the Bush-Cheney campaign to stop a recount of Miami-Dade County ballots." Another was recently picked by Bush to become chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts.

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