by Max Brantley
Ah, those were the days. Katrina had hit. New Orleans was underwater. People were dying. Emergency help was not arriving. We've commented before about how Asa Hutchinson, a former top aide at Homeland Security, under whose umbrella FEMA lodges, rushed onto Hardball to boast about the federal government's excellent response. Well, we know how all that turned out. Heckuva job, Brownie.
But, hey, maybe Brownie had some excuses. Like interruptions from people who, too busy making a living on K Street as lobbyists, didn't give much of a flip about people drowning in New Orleans. One's name would be Hutchinson. Tim Hutchinson. The former senator. The brother of Asa!
The good government/investigative reporting group, Center for Public Integrity has been rooting through former FEMA director Michael Brown's e-mail. In the midst of the madness (Brownie getting his hair done, looking for a good place for dinner in Baton Rouge, etc.) came this, an e-mail from Tim Hutchinson, the former Arkansasa senator turned lobbyist, on the afternoon of Aug. 29, the day the hurricane hit. He was following up an earlier request for a meeting and, apparently, hurricane or no hurricane, he was going to get the job done: The typos are from the e-mail. Please note the reference to Bro. Asa!
I am certain your are overwhelmed by the situation regarding Hurricane Katrina. I apologize for bothering you at this critical time and for going directly to you about this but I understand Patrick Rhode has been out. I am forwarding the e-mail that I sent to him. I alao contacted Brooks Altshuler last week but haven't heard from him yet. I would yery much appreciate being able to bring the President of Blu-Med Response Systems, Gerritt Boyle, in to meet with you as soon as your schedule permits.
Asa always spoke Very highly of your leadership at FEMA. and I appreciate your service.
The record compiled by Public Integrity has no response e-mail from Brownie.
UPDATE: A good reader found the story link from the Center for Public Integrity about the Hutchinson overture. Contrary to what one reader surmised, Hutchinson was working on a deal unrelated to the hurricane and it couldn't have hurt to have his brother, the would-be governor, go on national TV to praise the agency with which Tim wanted to do business.
As for Hutchinson, the former senator who tried to contact Brown during the storm, he was not available for comment this week.
But in an interview Monday, his client company's president Boyle said he was hoping for a meeting to resolve his concern that a lucrative contract was being unfairly steered to a competitor. The issue had been percolating since 2004 and continues to this day.
Boyle noted the irony that his lobbyist tried at that moment to reach Brown: the FEMA head would soon fall from grace as he became the public face of a massive federal failure.
"After that there was no point in meeting with Mr. Brown," Boyle said.