Nonprofit ProPublica teamed up with The Washington Post to release a scathing report Wednesday on coastal communities that took part in extreme post oil spill price gouging and local governments that were less than prudent when spending BP money — and it sure didn’t sit well with some blogs that have since responded.
The article, posted online at The Washington Post’s website, begins with the headline “‘Spillionaires’ are the new rich after BP oil spill payouts,” and largely focuses on St. Bernard Parish administrators and how they handled the cleanup contracts and money flow following the spill:
Documents show that companies with ties to parish insiders got lucrative contracts and then charged BP for every possible expense. The prime cleanup company submitted bills with little or no documentation. A subcontractor billed BP $15,400 per month to rent a generator that usually cost $1,500 a month. Another company charged BP more than a $1 million a month for land it had been renting for less than $1,700 a month. Assignments for individual fishermen also fell under the control of political leaders.
In some ways, parish residents seemed to view the disaster and BP’s culpability as an opportunity to recover from earlier blows. St. Bernard bore the brunt of Hurricane Katrina, which flooded almost every home in August 2005. Population dropped almost in half, from about 67,000 in 2000 to 36,000 in 2010, largely because people didn’t go back after Katrina and the hurricanes that followed. Before the spill, the parish slashed its budget by 11 percent, cutting garbage collection, the fire department and mosquito control. There was just no money.
The spill changed that. Fishermen were paid to lay out protective booms to try to corral the oil. Contractors were hired to manage the cleanup and provide security. Claims money began flowing to people who said their lives had been upended by the crisis.
By Wednesday night, Kevin Allman, managing editor of New Orleans’ Gambit newspaper, had responded to the ProPublica investigative report with his own headline posted on Gambit’s website: “Who needs Rush Limbaugh when you’ve got ProPublica?”
Allman countered that in all the months ProPublica reporters may have spent in South Louisiana digging for corruption documents, they perhaps failed to interview the thousands of residents who truly have suffered from the spill, those “whose claims haven’t been processed and are now bankrupt-aires and broke-aires.”
Victimizing BP and making Gulf Coast residents the antagonists of the saga could understandably incite feelings of outrage among Louisianans, but lest we forget we’ve heard of those poor New Orleans waiters and waitresses cashing in on upwards of $10,000 from BP during a time when the Crescent City experienced record tourism numbers. (One New Orleans waiter I know received two $5,000 BP checks following the spill; he works at a chain restaurant that doesn’t even use Louisiana seafood.)
But Allman also points out that ProPublica, a nonprofit journalism organization, has itself been at the center of controversy regarding compensation:
If we’re going to talk ridiculous compensation, we can go back to 2009, when the journalism world was buzzing about the top salaries at the nonprofit ProPublica, where the top editor made $570K a year and senior reporters were pulling down more than $200K in salary and compensation. Their prerogative, of course, but I’d wager that’s a bit more than the average fisherman or boat owner in Plaquemines has ever pulled down — before or after the oil disaster.
I wonder if Barker’s reporting took her to Grand Isle to see the For Sale signs on every other house, or if she talked to any of the Raceland “spillionaires” Alex Woodward met last weekend, ailing “spillionaires” who can’t work or get medical treatment despite some pretty scary chemical exposure symptoms. Would you call them “spillionaires” to their faces?
JUNE 17 If anyone ever wonders why Saints fans hate Atlanta with a capital H, here's a good indication. Radio "professionals" at an Atlanta station created an entire segment around making fun of former Saints player Steve Gleason, who is now paralyzed by ALS. Listen, nobody's ever accused DJs of being rocket scientists. But how could someone think it is amusing to pretend to ask a man with a degenerative, fatal disease if he will be alive next week? The DJs have been fired, and are now whining about how gutless their former bosses are. Wow.
JUNE 18 Here's the latest from the Advocate on the fatal hit-and-run accident allegedly involving the president of the Livingston Parish School Board. He's accused by police of hitting a 21-year-old man on a highway early Sunday and driving away. The man died at a hospital later. On Monday, police seized the president's truck and towed it away. But he's available for board meetings: apparently a $500 bond is sufficient for this type of thing over in St. Helena Parish.
JUNE 18 Former broadcast journalist Griffin Scott has posted this plea on his blog for financial assistance from his readers. Scott, who says he was fired after he wrote something fairly innocuous (for Facebook) on his wall, is suing a media giant for his job back. He's framed himself as David going after a bloated media giant, and he's probably not far off.
JUNE 18 Here's a fairly absurd column posted on DIG Magazine about the completely absurd practice of naming killer storms. Tornadoes don't have names. Blizzards don't have names. But hurricanes do, and there's a big process to bestow them, Jacques Cormery writes. He's right about the crazy assemblage of names -- this year, there's everything from Tanya to Humberto -- and his idea that we don't waste good names on killer storms is a good one.
JUNE 17 Political columnist John Maginnis has some advice for Louisiana Republicans: grow up. After the schism that occurred in this past session - fiscal hawks teaming up with Democrats to spank the Republican "majority" and hand Gov. Jindal his, er, aspirations for continued solon control -- they need to figure out how to get along with each other, Maginnis writes.
JUNE 17 Here's the Picayune's obit story for Dorothy 'Miss Dot' Domilise, the lady who made poboys at the uptown restaurant that bears her name. Miss Dot moved to New Orleans during World War II, where she met and married her husband Sam. When she passed away Friday she was 90, and had spent more than 60 of those years working at the restaurant on Annunciation Street.
JUNE 17 This editorial in the Advocate speaks in favor of the consent decrees that have federal judges overseeing police operations and the sheriff's parish prison in New Orleans. Mayor Landrieu and Sheriff Gusman can't get along, so outside forces, like the Inspector General and the judges, are needed to make sure things run right, the editorial opines.
JUNE 18 Here's a post from Manny Schewitz on Forward Progressives that is good for a chuckle. Manny had an epiphany back in November, and is sharing it with us today: he believes that Fox "News" is killing the GOP by pandering to right wing nuts. Now, don't get it twisted: Manny's not broke up about it. He says he enjoys watching the downward spiral with a shot of whiskey and "a schadenfreude chaser."
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.