Senate Democrats

The Bush Administration: A Culture of Cronyism and Corruption

Washington, D.C. - Jim Manley, Senator Reid’s Spokesman, released the following statement and document today detailing the Bush Administration’s culture of cronyism and corruption:

“In the Bush Administration, it’s not about know-how, it’s about know-who. Partisan Politics trumps practical experience, and top jobs are rewarded for loyalty, not merit. After FEMA’s gross incompetence, most Americans know about Brownie, but he’s just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout Washington, top jobs that should have been filled by highly qualified public servants have gone to Bush cronies instead. And as we saw with Katrina, it is the American people who pay the price when the federal government becomes the Job Corps for the president’s friends.”

Fact Sheet follows:

Cronyism in the Bush Administration is Systemic: a Look at the Rogue’s Gallery

FEMA

Michael Brown – still working for FEMA. Monday night, CBS reported that Michael Brown remains on the FEMA payroll. Brown replaced another Bush crony, former Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh, on the job. And, “CNN’s Ed Henry has learned that Michael Brown, the former FEMA chief who stepped down after being relieved of his post leading the disaster effort, continues to receive pay from FEMA so that, according to a FEMA spokesman, “he can help assess what went wrong” in a consulting role.” (CNN, Morning Grind, 9/27/05). At least this time he brings some first-hand experience to the job.

OMB

David Safavian – arrested for lying and obstructing a criminal investigation. Safavian “didn’t have much hands-on experience in government contracting when the Bush Administration tapped him in 2003 to be its chief procurement officer. A law-school internship helping the Pentagon buy helicopters was about the extent of it. Yet as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Safavian, 38, was placed in charge of the $300 billion the government spends each year on everything from paper clips to nuclear submarines, as well as the $62 billion already earmarked for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. It was his job to ensure that the government got the most for its money and that competition for federal contracts–among companies as well as between government workers and private contractors–was fair. It was his job until he resigned on Sept. 16 and was subsequently arrested and charged with lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s dealings with the Federal Government.” (Time, 9/26/05)

The Pentagon

Joseph Schmitz, the Pentagon’s former inspector general, has left for the private sector but remains the target of a Congressional inquiry. “Schmitz, who worked as an aide to former Reagan Administration Attorney General Ed Meese and whose father John was a Republican Congressman from Orange County, Calif., quit his post at the Pentagon following complaints from Senate Finance Committee chairman Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa.” (Time, 9/26/05)

  • Schmitz distinguished himself by his fascination with the army’s first inspector general, Baron Friedrich Von Steuben, a Revolutionary War hero. “Shortly after taking office, Schmitz made Von Steuben’s legacy a focus. He spent three months personally redesigning the inspector general’s seal to include the Von Steuben family motto, ‘Always under the protection of the Almighty.'”(The Nation, 9/25/05)

The FDA

Scott Gottlieb, named deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, had extensive financial ties to the drug industry. “His official FDA biography notes that Gottlieb, 33, who got his medical degree at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, did a previous stint providing policy advice at the agency, as well as at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and was a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. What the bio omits is that his most recent job was as editor of a popular Wall Street newsletter, the Forbes/Gottlieb Medical Technology Investor, in which he offered such tips as “Three Biotech Stocks to Buy Now.” . . . . .. Jimmy Carter–era FDA Commissioner Donald Kennedy, a former Stanford University president and now executive editor-in-chief of the journal Science, [says] Gottlieb breaks the mold of appointees at that level who are generally career FDA scientists or experts well known in their field. “The appointment comes out of nowhere. I’ve never seen anything like that,” says Kennedy.” (Time, 9/26/05)

Katrina Contracting:

More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by FEMA for Katrina work were awarded without bidding or with limited competition. (New York Times, 9/26/05)

Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, and the Shaw Group have both been represented by Joe Allbaugh, President Bush’s former campaign manager and the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – although Mr. Allbaugh says he does not help any of his clients obtain federal contracts. Kellogg, Brown & Root is the company that came up with those $100-per-bag laundry bills for work in Iraq. (New York Times, 9/27/05)

AshBritt, is a Pompano Beach, Fla., company with ties to Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour – the former chairman of the Republican National Committee. AshBritt has nabbed $568 million in contracts for trash removal. (New York Times, 9/27/05)

Whistle Blowers Pay the Price in the Bush Administration

Frederick A. Black, veteran prosecutor reassigned after investigating Jack Abramoff. “The Justice Department’s inspector general and the F.B.I. are looking into the demotion of a veteran federal prosecutor whose reassignment nearly three years ago shut down a criminal investigation of the Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, current and former department officials report.” (New York Times, 9/26/05)

Lawrence Greenfeld, demoted for highlighting racial profiling. “The Bush administration is replacing the director of a small but critical branch of the Justice Department, months after he complained that senior political officials at the department were seeking to play down newly compiled data on the aggressive police treatment of black and Hispanic drivers.” (New York Times, 8/24/05)

Bunny Greenhouse, demoted after whistle-blowing. “A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday…” [New York Times, 8/29/05]

Colleen Rowley, FBI whistle-blower, retried from the FBI in 2004. “Like no other document to emerge from the current firestorm over the mistakes and missed signals that led to Sept. 11, the Rowley memo casts a searing light into the depths of government ineptitude.” (Time, 6/3/02)

General Shinseki, forced into retirement for questioning the war in Iraq. “Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz criticized the Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, after Shinseki told Congress in February that the occupation could require “several hundred thousand troops.” Wolfowitz called Shinseki’s estimate ‘wildly off the mark.'” (USA Today, 6/2/03)

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