Joseph AllbaughStarting out as an GOP “go-fer”, Allbaugh rose to “go-to” guy for George W.Bush’s campaign contributors, then along with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, completed George W. Bush’s “Iron Triangle” of political advisors. In 2001, he was named head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA). Soon after, Allbaugh started making really serious money.
In 2003, just before leaving office, Allbaugh arranged an extraordinary, but little known boon for a Friend Of George (FOG). He delivered a sole source $146 million contract for the nation’s emergency water supply, the first of its kind, to a Georgia family firm named Lipsey, with no emergency water delivery experience and only 14 employees.
The Lipsey family however, is also the nation’s 2nd largest gun wholesaler, a major GOP fundraiser, and head of both the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers.
When Hurricane Katrina hit two years later, at New Orleans’ Convention Center alone, nearly twenty thousand people went without water for up to four days, followed by conflicting official explanations. A Congressional committee found that Lipsey had overcharged the government at least $8 million for the work.
Businessman Allbaugh also found fortune in Katrina’s aftermath. As partner in a Washington total access lobby firm, he helped funnel contracts worth hundreds of millions to clients such as Halliburton, and, suddenly converted GOP benefactor The Shaw Group construction company.
The big money flowed however, as it still does, from Iraq war contracting.
Allbaugh started his career in the Oklahoma GOP. Early on he was also lobbyist for a neighbor’s startup company. The neighbor’s name was Michael Brown, later Allbaugh’s replacement as FEMA director.
Perhaps as portend of things to come, Brown’s startup company, despite young Allbaugh’s lobbying efforts, failed.
Allbaugh himself faced lawsuits alleging financial misconduct in the ‘80s. In’88 he was given a job with notorious billionaire Jackson Stephens, who helped bailout George W’s failed oil companies.
Returning to his political climbing career, Allbaugh rose to be Oklahoma’s Deputy Secretary of Transportation, while managing several federal and state GOP campaigns.
Early in 1994, Bush hired Allbaugh to work on his Texas gubernatorial campaign. Allbaugh then became Gov. Bush’s Chief of Staff.
In 1998, he was centerstage in the Texas “funeralgate” scandal. Eliza May, director of the state’s Funeral Services Commission, charged he pressured her to drop a license investigation into SCI, the world's largest funeral company, and major Bush contributor. Instead, she fined the company $450,000, and was soon fired. May sued for wrongful discharge, and eventually won a settlement.
In 2000 Allbaugh became the Bush-Cheney national campaign director. Cheney and Allbaugh reportedly grew so close that, after the elction, Cheney sold his opulent Washington townhouse to Allbaugh, for just $690,000. That same year, Bush appointed Allbaugh director of FEMA. During his tenure, Allbaugh slashed the professional staff, and turned over much of FEMA’s work to private contractors
The year before Allbaugh took over FEMA, his wife, Diane, lobbied on behalf of several disaster-relief companies.. Four years earlier in Texas, Diane’s lobbying sparked a scandal when she got $250,000 in contracts just months after her husband became the Governor Bush’s Chief of Staff. This time, the year before 911, Diane’s lobbying for disaster relief companies went unnoticed.
When Allbaugh stepped down from FEMA in ‘03, he installed former neighbor Michael Brown, (“Brownie, you’re doin’ a heck of a job”) as Director. Allbough had hired Brown as FEMA general counsel in ’01.
Absent from Brown’s resume was that he’d just been fired from his last job, commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. He’d reportedly tried to pay off an Association attorney who’d been looking into certain of Brown’s transactions.
In 2005 Brown was forced to resign another post, this time as FEMA Director, following his clueless performance during the Hurricane Katrina disaster.
Private citizen Allbaugh’s disaster relief involvement was quite profitable. He’d opened a second lobbying firm with his wife. Called the Allbaugh Group, it focused on getting US Government contracts. Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, hired the firm, as did construction conglomerate The Shaw Group.
Shaw landed two Katrina contracts of up to $100 million each to rebuild housing and levees in the Gulf Coast. KBR was hired to repair Gulf Coast naval facilities and provide facilities for FEMA workers in New Orleans. It also landed Katrina contracts to pump floodwater and build a temporary morgue.
Looking back, those successes, and much larger ones to follow, seem predestined.
Allbaugh had also become a partner of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (former head of the GOP) in an interlocking group of firms headed by Bush White House alumni, cadre and family.
In 2003, Allbaugh and Barbour opened a lobbying firm called New Bridge Strategies, funded by the BGR group, named for Barbour and former President HW Bush assistants Lanny Griffiths and Ed Rodgers. BGR had also delivered many $100s of millions in Katrina contracts for its clients, including $568 million for Florida firm Ash-Britt, one of Jeb Bush’s big fans.
Allbaugh is Board Chairman of New Bridge Strategies. Its CEO is Jamal Daniel, a longtime benefactor of President Bush’s oft-scandalized brother Neil. Neil himself is listed as a Consultant to New Bridge Strategies.
Jamal Daniel, whose father was a founder of the Syrian Baath Party, also co-chairs other companies with brother Neil, including Crest Investments, Ignite and Silvermat.
New Bridge Strategies’s website trumpets is ability to secure contracts in Iraq.
The firm is also a principal shareholder in military contractor Diligence LLC, with Allbough as its Deputy Chairman. Diligence’s mideast subsidiary is owned by Mohammed Al-Sagar, chairman of the Kuwait Parliament’s foreign relations committee.
Diligence, much like Blackwater, provides security for corporate executives and companies in Iraq. Even more so than Blackwater, Diligenc’s Board and officers are comprised of former CIA and State Dept officials.
New Bridge Strategies and Diligence share staff and office space in the Barbour Griffith & Rodgers’ offices.
In 2004, Allbaugh teamed up with Andrew Lundquist, former director of Vice President Cheney's energy policy task force and a Republican staff director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, to form a third group called Blackwell Fairbanks. The firm’s first client was Lockheed Martin.
- Washington Monthly, Sept 1, 2005: http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_09/007023.php
- “K Street: Allbaugh Is Just Making a Living,” The National Journal,” 7/3/04.
- “Muckraker Katrina,” The Texas Observer, 10/7/2005.
- “Texas Monthly Talks; Joe Allbaugh,” Texas Monthly, 8/1/06.
- “Joe Allbaugh: Big Man on Campaign,” The Washington Post, 1999.
- “Who Is Joe Allbaugh?” Slate, 11/1/00.
- “Joe Allbaugh, Disaster Pimp" Slate, 9/7/05.
- “Firms with Bush-Cheney ties clinching Katrina deals,” Reuters, 9/10/05.
- “The Funeral Scandal Time Line,” Salon, 8/20/99.
- “Lobbyists Set Sights On Money-Making Opportunities in Iraq,” Washington Post, 10/2/03.