Monday, April 02, 2007

Roadblocks on the Road Home to New Orleans

Is this a story? A Virginia company is contracted by the State of Louisiana to disperse Federal funds appropriated to rebuild Katrina ravished homes for $756 million (plus a $19.1 million travel allowance). Residents who applied for aid quickly found the company to be unresponsive, often forced to leave voice mails that went unreturned. Just over one percent of applicants, 1,300 of 109,000 as of late February, have actually seen any funds. Many applicants complain they were unfairly rejected for aid, or received low-ball figures that were hopelessly inadequate. When pressed, the company offered excuses about “a period of time in October and November where we were seeing that our databases weren’t lining up, and we weren’t getting good information.” Oh, and the executives of the company in question have a history of donating the Democratic Party.

ICF’s stewardship of Louisiana’s The Road Home program has received some bad press (on the PBS News Hour for instance), and deservedly so, but imagine the reaction if their execs had a record of donating to the GOP. However, ICF officials have been much more generous to Democrats than Republicans.

Chairman & CEO Sudhakar Kesavan gave $6,000 to Democratic campaigns and a $1,000 keep-the-lines-of-communication-open donation to the local GOP congressman.

Executive VP & COO John Wasson gave $1,000 to Democrats—nothing for Republicans.

Sr. VP Douglas Beck gave $3,500 to Democrats—nothing for Republicans.

Sr. VP Isabel Reiff $1,500 to Democrats—nothing for Republicans.

One executive VP gave $1,000 to a Republican before she joined the company. Another gave $200 to John Warner back in 2001 before his company was acquired by ICF. Political donations from ICF executive leadership found on-line have broken down $12,000 Democrat to $2,200 Republican ($1,000 of which was actually given while with ICF). A search of the FEC data, which can’t be saved via permalink, shows donations from all ICF employees skewing to the Democrats.

Those figures are chump change in DC, but one has to wonder, why is a consulting firm in Virginia doing this business for the State of Louisiana? Just how was this contract bid out? If a firm led by executives with a record of Republican giving had performed as ICF has in the early stages of its contract, would the press play up that angle?

The Road Home was supposed to be the tent pole of “Gov.” Blanco’s recovery program. However, for those homeowners interviewed by the News Hour, it represents bureaucratic futility. During a Congressional hearing Blanco offered up excuses:

“It’s maddening. I am on the phone every day pushing for solutions. The company promises us that, by the end of the month, we will see a rapid increase.”

At least, the Road Home program has accomplished something. It performance surely contributed to the “Governor's” decision not to seek re-election.