We’ve been trying to figure out the answer to this question more or less all weekend long so as to provide some perspective, and we couldn’t come up with anything.
Neither could any of our sources, and certainly our contacts on Rep. Garret Graves’ staff were at a loss. Here was the press release Graves put out on Friday…
Congressman Garret Graves (R – Capital Region) announced today that the state of Louisiana will receive word this afternoon that HUD is releasing $1.65 billion for flood recovery. This amount is the sum of the $438 million and $1.22 billion approved by Congress in September and December 2016. Per the state’s request, HUD held $438 million until the agency could approve the state’s spending plan for $1.22 billion – delaying financial assistance to flood victims.
Reacting to the news that the state requested HUD to hold the $438 million, Congressman Graves stated: “This is a blatant violation of the honor code.”
Interestingly, the state’s mainstream media seems rather incurious about the holdback of that $438 million. For example, here’s how the Associated Press wrote up the dispute between Graves and Edwards over the holdback…
The speed — and availability of the money — is the subject of an ongoing dispute between Republican U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, who represents hard-hit Baton Rouge, and the Democratic governor.
Graves repeatedly has accused the Edwards administration of moving too slowly to distribute aid, claims the congressman’s office again made Friday. Edwards responded that Graves is misleading people about the money’s availability.
“We should expect more from members of Congress than statements intended to mislead their own constituents,” the governor said in a statement.
Word of the latest HUD approval provoked criticism from Graves’ office because Louisiana doesn’t have a contractor in place to manage the recovery program. Two weeks ago, the Edwards administration scrapped its first effort to hire a firm and restarted the bid process, after issues were raised about the first round of proposals.
“If the money is available today or available six days from now, is the governor going to spend the money? Are they ready?” Graves spokesman Kevin Roig said in an email.
Edwards pushed back, saying the second round of soliciting bids will be fast-tracked and no delays are expected in starting the homeowner aid program in April. He said Graves “is reckless, irresponsible and flat out wrong to suggest to homeowners that funds will be available today.”
That’s great. So in other words, this is just a petty partisan political fight between Graves and Edwards. Which is the same ho-hum attitude the Baton Rouge Advocate took – it’s just politics – when Jeff Landry objected to convicted Larry Bankston’s contract to serve as executive counsel and write legal opinions for the State Licensing Board for Contractors last year, and last month Landry’s objection was vindicated when Bankston blew up a $250 million winning bid for the contract, under what looks like sketchy circumstances at best, to administer the aid at issue between Graves and Edwards.
Nothing in that AP story contains any indication from Edwards’ camp as to why the $438 million was held back until the $1.2 billion was also awarded.
Question: do you think the guy in Denham Springs FEMA told wouldn’t need flood insurance and thus didn’t have it, and now has no home, gives a damn about politics between Graves and Edwards? Wouldn’t you expect he’s a lot more interested in knowing the substance of why in the hell there was $438 million in federal money available to help him and yet for some unknown reason John Bel Edwards didn’t want it sooner?
Nobody at the AP, or the rest of the state’s media, seems to care. That’s an item of as much concern as Edwards’ holding back those funds from his constituents.
And when the distribution of the full $1.6 billion is delayed because of the fighting over the bid Bankston invalidated, which is inevitable…will the mainstream media become curious then?