Report: Governor’s Allies Won Big After Katrina

By Justin Rood

Aug 16, 2007 1:08pm

Hurricane Katrina was a disaster for hundreds of thousands of residents of the Gulf Coast. But for some family and friends of Mississippi governor and GOP power broker Haley Barbour, it was quite profitable, according to a new report by Bloomberg News. In particular, Barbour’s nephew and the governor’s former lobbying firm saw turns of good fortune from work connected to rebuilding Mississippi after the catastrophic storm, the news service reports. There is no evidence the governor or his nephew have violated the law. "Katrina brought in a tide of money. Some benefited," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that watchdogs government spending. "It looks like the folks close to the governor did very well." The governor’s office declined to comment for this story. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Nephew Henry Barbour, a state lobbyist and former campaign adviser to his uncle, saw his income more than double after the storm hit, Bloomberg’s analysis found. Firms paid large fees for his services, and his uncle made him executive director of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal. Two of Henry Barbour’s clients won business with the state for tasks recommended by Governor’s Commission, the news service reported. Henry Barbour told Bloomberg he had taken "a leave of absence" from lobbying while he served on the panel, for which he received no pay. During that time, his annual lobbying income grew from $183,000 to $379,000, Bloomberg reported. The federal government later recognized him and his fellow panelists with a "Gulf Guardian Award" for their efforts. Finance company Government Consultants paid Henry Barbour’s firm $65,000 from July 2005 through 2006, according to records reviewed by the news service. Bloomberg reported the company earned at least $400,000 in fees for issuing Katrina-related bonds for Mississippi — issuances that were recommended by the Governor’s Commission. The firm did not return a request for comment from ABCNews.com. A Massachussetts-based engineering firm, Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), paid Henry Barbour’s firm $15,000 in lobbying fees, Bloomberg found. Later, the state chose it to work on a $3 million study of water management systems in six counties. Another client of Henry’s firm, Waggoner Engineering, also worked on the project, according to Bloomberg. Henry Barbour told Bloomberg he played no role with state bond issues, and his firm had decided not to accept new recovery-related clients after Katrina hit.  A phone message left with his firm Thursday was not returned. Henry Barbour managed his uncle’s gubernatorial campaign in 2003. Senior executives at both Government Consultants and CDM contributed thousands of dollars to the governor’s re-election campaign in 2006, the news service found. Former colleagues at the governor’s old Washington, D.C. lobbying shop also benefited from the storm, Bloomberg revealed. Barbour Griffith & Rogers — the firm retains the governor’s name, although he no longer works there — was paid $160,000 by a New York buyout firm to help it win a liquor license for the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, Miss., which it had just purchased. "We encouraged" state panels "to expedite" the process, the lobbying firm’s chief of staff Charlie Williams told Bloomberg. "And they did." The buyout firm, Leucadia National, declined to comment to ABCNews.com. The lobbying firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The firm’s principals have said Barbour no longer receives money from the lobbying group, but Barbour said recently the firm pays him "retirement." Unlike previous Mississippi governors, Barbour has declined to release his personal income tax returns. Do you have a tip for Brian Ross and the Investigative Team?

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