Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Another question I'm hoping someone can provide more information on.

To assist with the recovery and disposition of the victims of Katrina, FEMA has hired Kenyon Worldwide Disaster Management, a Houston-based company which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI), another Houston-based corporation, which bills itself as the "dominant leader in the North American death care industry."

SCI is not only closely associated with the president (which is not surprising since the company is based in Houston), they were also at the center of what is probably the best-known scandal during Bush's six years as governor of Texas: the so-called 'funeralgate' case.

What's more, Joe Allbaugh -- President Bush's Chief of Staff in Texas and later his first FEMA Director -- was the central figure in that scandal, or at least the guy whose job it was to take care of the mess SCI had gotten into.

The last we heard, you'll remember, now-lobbyist Allbaugh was in Lousiana "helping coordinate the private-sector response to the storm."

One Tennessee mortician, Dan Buckner, who was on stand-by as a volunteer as part of the Department of Homeland Security's DMORT program told a local paper that morticians from around the country were available to do this work as volunteers. (DMORT works in conjunction with the National Funeral Directors Association).

"There's no telling how many dollars they'll spend on that contract," he told the paper.

Once SCI got the contract, the NFDA sent out a notification to their members which read in part ...

The company that FEMA has chosen to outsource the recovery work in Louisiana is Kenyon, a worldwide disaster management company, wholly owned subsidiary of Service Corporation International. Kenyon asked us to share the names and phone numbers of NFDA members and funeral directors who are interested in a paid three-week employment situation. If you have already volunteered with NFDA, we'd like to let you know about this paid option to help.

When questioned about the matter, a Nenyon spokesman said his company had had a contract with FEMA since 1997. And this list of catastrophes they've done work on does include several US passenger jet crashes from the late 1990s, i.e., before the beginning of the second Bush administration.

Still, companies based in Houston and/or companies with close ties to Joe Allbaugh do seem to be snapping up a whole lotta contracts. So perhaps someone out there can look into this a bit further.

CNN: "Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans."

Fat times in Crony-ville!

From Reuters: "Companies with ties to the Bush White House and the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the administration's first disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

Don't talk about the boss ...

A state agency lawyer quoted in a nationally-circulated news story as questioning Karl Rove's eligibility to vote in Kerr County is out of a job and feeling twice burned.

Elizabeth Reyes said she was fired Tuesday as an attorney in the elections division of the Texas secretary of state's office because she appeared in a Washington Post story Saturday about the presidential adviser.

The article, which was reprinted in papers across the country, quoted Reyes as saying Rove's ownership of Kerr County property may not qualify him to vote there.

San Antonio Express-News.

Seattle Times ...

John Pennington, the official in charge of federal disaster response in the Northwest, was a four-term Republican state representative who ran a mom-and-pop coffee company in Cowlitz County when then-Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn helped him get his federal post.

Before he was appointed regional director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Pennington got a degree from a correspondence school that government investigators later described as a "diploma mill."

Pennington, 38, says he worked for his degree and he is qualified for the FEMA job.

Read the rest.

CNN files lawsuit against government agencies seeking to bar press coverage of victim retrieval process.

From a bad novel? Actually from the WSJ: "Ten U.S. Army recruiters are offering volunteer help for Katrina evacuees at Houston's Astrodome. But the recruiters, struggling to keep enlistment up during Iraq war, are also available with options for the jobless. "Our intent is to approach the evacuees at the right time for them,'' says Army spokesman Douglas Smith."