Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Familiar Theme from New Jersey: Follow the Money

A New Jersey news site, www.newsworks.org has picked up an interesting tidbit of behind the scenes contracts between former Gov. Haley Barbour and Chris Christie. The full piece (which can be found here) encourages New Jersey's citizens to "follow the money," a phrase you've read from Cottonmouth a time or two.

So we felt that it was just as important to tell this story in Mississippi as it is for it to be heard in New Jersey.

From NewsWorks:
A debris removal company ripping-of New Jersey towns was suggested to Gov Chris Christie by Haley Barbour, who helped Christie get elected and is throwing a fundraiser for him at the end of this month.  Wasn't Christie elected to stop this type of nonsense?

During Chris Christie's successful run for Governor in 2009, Haley Barbour was Governor of Mississippi, and head of the Republican Governors Association. The two became good friends and Barbour directed $7.5 million in spending towards Christie campaign, a move Christie said was "probably one of the primary reasons that I'm governor of New Jersey."

Fast forward to October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated the New Jersey shore. Barbour, now a partner at BGR Group, the lobbying firm that represents Florida debris removal company AshBritt, told Christie if he checked with AshBritt, they could start working in New Jersey the next day, due to an existing 2008 contract to clear debris in Connecticut that could be "piggybacked" in New Jersey. 

Hurricane Sandy struck on October 29. By October 31, AshBritt had a multi-million dollar contract in New Jersey. Days after that, AshBritt donated $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association now headed by Chris Christie.

And round and round we go on a carousel where money buys influence, secures contracts and gets politicians reelected, all at the expense of taxpayers at home...

This is New Jersey business, for sure. But follow the money. It would be wrong to wonder if another hurricane-prone state with connections to Barbour (like, you know...Mississippi) might have this troublesome deal...



Unknown said...

please tell me what is wrong with this? Barbour recommended a debris removal company that works throughout the country, has a good reputation, and can provide needed services to the citizens of the State of NJ. Somebody - probably several different companies - were going to have to be contracted with to do this work. Barbour is a registered lobbyist (I assume) and represents this company. Other lobbyists represent other companies, and they probably have received contracts in NJ also. Ashbritt worked in MS after Katrina, as did several, several other debris companies.

OK - Barbour knew Christie. Barbour supported Christie. Barbour is a lobbyist and represents Ashbritt. Barbour contact Christie and gave him a way to get cleanup started immediately.

And you don't like it because it is a Republican representing his clinet.

Get over it.

Unknown said...

AshBritt had one of the four Corps of Engineers $500 million Katrina cleanup contracts. I represented an unpaid subcontractor against AshBritt to the tune of $89 million in federal court in south Mississippi, and quickly learned a lot about Randy Perkins' political ties. He contributes big money, and then receives bigger money in return.

Unknown said...

What's the matter, CM? You only post comments that reflect your point of view? Didn't like the one questioning your premise on this post?

Matt Eichelberger said...

Naw, Fred, just moving. Haven't had much time to moderate comments. I saw Dorsey's because I happened to check my blog email account at the right time. Otherwise, his would have been buried in the avalanche of emails just like yours was.

As for the contents of your comment, it's wrong because it is no-bid, insider dealing.

Based on the tone of your comment, I assume you're a Republican. I also assume that as a Republican, you have on more than one occasion decried government waste. You and I would have common ground there. I'd like to think that we'd both agree that taxpayers should get the best available rates for services such as debris removal.

That's why this is interesting. There was no bidding process whatsoever on the AshBritt contract. And it appears that the AshBritt services are absurdly priced. From the article that generated this post: "A total of 43 towns have operated under the AshBritt contract, and those towns have paid rates that were sometimes more than three times as much than neighboring towns that decided to contract with a different company."

My question to you, and others who would come to the defense of Barbour and Christie, is this: Is it permissible to spend taxpayer funds in this fashion?

Unknown said...

be glad to discuss if you would bother to post my comments. Otherwise, it is a one-sided conversation.

Unknown said...

OK, never mind. Once i sent that last comment, my earlier post showed up. Sorry.

Unknown said...

Matt, generally in "emergency" situations, all contracts are done on a no-bid basis. I would bet - don't know because I'm not there - that all the "surrounding towns" contracs were done on a 'no-bid' basis. And would further bet that most of the companies that are doing work were also represented by a lobbyist.

Ashbritt's prices, as are all the others, have to be approved by FEMA prior to their being reimbursed by FEMA. Actually if times haven't changed, there is a FEMA price schedule for each of the functions of debris removal that the unit prices have to be within.

Don't know where you get your "appears that they are absurdly priced" comment. Based on my experience with this (which is somewhat extensive, although dated back to the 90'2, oftentimes the prices vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending on several factors - method of disposal, materials to be disposed, distance to disposal sites, local conditions such as infrastructure, commercial vs residential damage, hazardous wastes, local ordinances, etc.

The main problem with your position is that it would not have been Christie's call for this work - it would be up to each of the local jurisdictions to select their debris contracts. Cities and counties could/do have differing contractors. Fact of the matter is that there are several national companies that are 'storm-chasers' equipped to respond immediately. They generally hire local truckers and their dump trucks based on local community 'requirements'. Knowing NJ's reputation, there surely is a lot of home cooking involved in all of these communities.

Matt Eichelberger said...

Fred, there's more information in the articles linked in this newer post: http://cottonmouthblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-barbour-christie-connection.html

Thoughts on that?