Report Faults FEMA on Aid
Homeland Security Audit Finds Millions in Poorly Documented Payouts
By Mimi Hall, USA TODAY
The federal government gave $31 million in disaster relief for Hurricane Frances to 12,000 Florida residents who were not directly hit by the hurricane last fall and may not have deserved any money, government auditors say in a report to be released Wednesday...So far, 14 people have been indicted for making false claims.
The storm hit in September, not long at all before the election.
November 3, 2004
Charles Mahtesian is the editor of the Almanac of American Politics. This article is adapted from his "Political World" column in the Nov. 1 issue of Government Executive.
How FEMA delivered Florida for Bush
By Charles Mahtesian
Now that President Bush has won Florida in his 2004 re-election bid, he may want to draft a letter of appreciation to Michael Brown, chief of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Seldom has any federal agency had the opportunity to so directly and uniquely alter the course of a presidential election, and seldom has any agency delivered for a president as FEMA did in Florida this fall.
In 1992, the last time a major hurricane pummeled Florida in the homestretch of a presidential election, FEMA was caught with its pants down. Its response to Hurricane Andrew was disorganized and chaotic, leaving thousands without shelter and water. Cleanup and resupply efforts were snarled in red tape. After watching the messy relief efforts unfold, lawmakers questioned whether FEMA was a Cold War relic that ought to be abolished....
By the end of September, three hurricanes later, the agency had processed 646,984 registrations for assistance with the help of phone lines operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fifty-five shelters, 31 disaster recovery centers and six medical teams were in operation across the state. Federal and state assistance to households reached more than $361 million, nearly 300,000 housing inspections were completed, and roughly 150,000 waterproof tarps were provided for homeowners, according to FEMA figures.
So, nearly 10% of the assistance was given to people who were not hit by the hurricane in a crucial state a few weeks before an election.
One of the things Mahtesian forgets is the reason FEMA performed so miserably in 1992 was that it had become a dumping ground for Bush I cronies.
But in any event, it's hard not to see the disaster assistance as vote buying.