Newsweek has the latest on the "Katrina Goldrush" of contractors hoping to cash in on the disaster. It has a few new pieces of information, such as the fact that the Shaw Group, which recieved a $100 million no-bid contract, is now under investigation by the SEC for possible "accounting irregularities."
The primary qualification for Katrina contractors, it appears, is that they are companies that landed lucrative deals in Iraq's troubled "reconstruction." One of those is Fluor Corp., a construction company whose story leads off the Newsweek piece.
A California-based engineering firm, Fluor has been one of the government's biggest go-to contractors for overseas engineering work, accumulating contracts worth $8.5 billion from 1990 to 2002. Iraq was no exception, where they pointed to their long history in the region (mostly Saudi Arabia) to land over $1.6 billion in contacts for rebuilding Iraq. According to an August 2004 report in the Los Angeles Times, they also had the right political connections:
Suzanne H. Woolsey is a trustee of a little-known arms consulting group that had access to senior Pentagon leaders directing the Iraq war. In January, she joined the board of Fluor Corp. Soon afterward, Fluor and a joint-venture partner won about $1.6 billion in reconstruction contracts in Iraq.
Woolsey's husband, the former CIA director, R. James Woolsey, a leading advocate for the war, also serves as a government policy adviser. He, too, works for a company with war-related interests.
The Woolseys' overlapping affiliations are part of a pattern in Washington, in which individuals play key roles in organizations advising officials on major policy issues, whileinvolving themselves with businesses in related fields.
What's their work record? Like many of the politically-connected contractors, Fluor keeps landing contracts despite a long rap sheep of scandal and abuse, including repeated claims of overcharging and gouging taxpayers. Among the most recent include charges of falsely claiming millions of dollars in costs on DoD contracts in 2001 (the company settled for $8.5 million), and in 2002 being sued for $24 million for "numerous design and construction failures" at the Refugio Mine in northern Chile.
And their work state-side? In 1994, Fluor paid a $3.2 million fine for "submitting heavily padded repair bills for work on Navy bases after hurricane Hugo." We've been warned.