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Home Publications Blogs Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch Impatient to Profit from Disaster

Impatient to Profit from Disaster

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Thursday, 14 October 2010 10:11
Months ago we reported on disaster capitalists that were setting themselves up to profit from the relief and reconstruction in Haiti, among them were many of the same contractors who found themselves surrounded in controversy after Hurricane Katrina. Yesterday The Hill reported on the use of lobbyists by many of these same companies:
A number of construction and disaster-response firms have hired Washington lobbyists to help navigate the contracting process for rebuilding Haiti.
The article reports on the companies' eagerness for U.S. reconstruction funds to be disbursed, not, apparently, out of any humanitarian concern (as no such sentiments are voiced in the article), but because the contractors are eager to make a profit.

Two companies that we have written about previously are Ashbritt and CH2M Hill. CH2M Hill hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in July and is being represented by a former Democratic congressman from Idado, Larry LaRocco. CH2M Hill and three other companies received no-bid contracts through FEMA after Hurricane Katrina to provide housing to hurricane victims. While each company had a contract ceiling of $100 million, the total amount ended up being over $3 billion. A government investigation found over $45 million in wasteful spending.

Ashbritt is another company with a history of controversy around disaster-relief contracts. In February we wrote:
AshBritt found itself involved in controversy after Hurricane Katrina, when "some questioned whether AshBritt's political donations or lobbyists paved the way for its fat federal contracts." The Miami Herald reports that these questions led to Congressional hearings which:

[A]ired objections that local contractors were passed over in favor of AshBritt. A 2006 congressional report examining federal contract waste and abuse noted AshBritt used multiple layers of subcontractors, each of whom got paid while passing on the actual work to others.
The Hill reports that Ashbritt’s lobbying contract with ML Strategies has already expired, but also notes that “David Leiter, former chief of staff for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), was one of many lobbyists working for the company,” and that “lobbyists helped set up meetings between AshBritt executives and key officials at USAID and the World Bank.”

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