The Art of the No-Bid

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Earlier this afternoon, FEMA chief David Paulison admitted that just a wee bit of waste, fraud, and abuse might have somehow insinuated themselves into the early rush to hand out post-Katrina reconstruction contracts:

Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery that were hurriedly awarded after little or no competition will be rebid, FEMA chief R. David Paulison told a Senate committee today.

Paulison, testifying before a Senate panel investigating the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to the devastating hurricane, said he has never “been a fan of no-bid contracts.”

Well, who is? Besides the companies winning them, of course. As Paulison goes on to say, no-bid contracts have some value; especially when the federal government needs to do something in a hurry, sometimes it’s just plain easier—and far more helpful—to hand out contracts to large corporations that have experience rather than haggling over every last dollar. On the other hand, the fact that many of the post-Katrina contracts are now set to undergo a second bidding indicates that speed and efficiency weren’t of primary concern here. Plus, there’s no reason why FEMA couldn’t have held biddings for many of these contracts beforehand—not unreasonable given that, you know, a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of its three major doomsday scenarios—and had these contracts “pre-positioned”. Not that we want to play the blame game or anything.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

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Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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