Katrina Relief: Haley Barbour is not Happy

I used to think of Mr. Barbour as just another Republican that read straight from the talking points. But my estimation of this man has just shot up enormously given this:

WASHINGTON (AP) – Congressional failures to approve emergency funding for roads, schools and housing construction have stalled Mississippi’s efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, the state’s Republican governor testified Wednesday. Without such help, Mississippi businesses are unable to decide where to relocate and rebuild – potentially costing the state jobs and chilling its economy, Gov. Haley Barbour told a House panel investigating the government’s Katrina preparations and response. “We are at a point where our recovery and renewal efforts are stalled because of inaction in Washington,” said Barbour, a strong ally of House Speaker Dennis Hastert and former Republican National Committee chairman.

Update: Via Daniel Gross comes this story:

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss., Dec. 6 – Rosemary Barbour happens to be married to a nephew of Mississippi’s governor, Haley Barbour. Since the Reagan administration, when Mrs. Barbour worked as a White House volunteer as a college student, she has been active in the Republican Party. She also happens to be one of the biggest Mississippi-based winners of federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts. To some contract watchdogs, this could be an example of how the federal government responsibly reached out to give a piece of the billions of dollars in federal hurricane-recovery work to a small Mississippi-based company owned by a Latina. Mrs. Barbour, 39, who was born in Guatemala but now lives in Jackson, Miss., is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner. But the $6.4 million in contracts received by her company, Alcatec L.L.C., have also elicited questions about possible favoritism. Federal records show that the company has won at least 10 separate contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the General Services Administration to install and maintain showers for relief workers and evacuees, to deliver tents, and to provide laundry equipment. The most valuable were awarded in September and October without competitive bidding, the records show. According to a review of federal contracts awarded since Hurricane Katrina, her company ranks seventh in total contracts out of 88 Mississippi-based concerns that have received deals worth $100,000 or more. “This case should be scrutinized to ensure those awards were based on merits and ability to return value to the American taxpayer rather than favoritism to a politically connected contractor,” said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group in Washington. Mrs. Barbour, as well as spokesmen for FEMA and for Governor Barbour, all said in interviews Tuesday that Mrs. Barbour’s family and political links to the Republican Party and the governor, as well as President Bush, did not play a role in her selection for the work. “The governor had no knowledge whatsoever of Rosemary even receiving that contract,” said Pete Smith, Mr. Barbour’s press secretary.

Daniel is not buying this comment from Mr. Smith. Thanks to AB reader Steve for this, which has notched down my new found faith in Governor Barbour just a bit.