"Gov’t Official’s Associates Got Big Contracts After the BP Oil Spill"

"Last month, Craig Taffaro Jr., the president of Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish, lambasted a ProPublica story while testifying before a congressional committee.

The story, published in April, described how some local powerbrokers and others, aided in part by Taffaro, cashed in after the BP oil spill, winning lucrative jobs related to the cleanup effort and earning the nickname 'spillionaires.' The story also showed how some who profited from the spill then donated to Taffaro's campaign. On June 2, Taffaro told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that the story was 'a hatchet job' with 'no factual data.'

New documents obtained by ProPublica, however, show that BP's auditors repeatedly questioned bills submitted by St. Bernard contractors, including three with ties to Taffaro, based on suspicions that they had overcharged or charged for permanent parish improvements unrelated to the spill.

Other reporting shows that six of Taffaro's associates got BP work last summer potentially worth millions of dollars. A seventh, Taffaro's biggest campaign donor, loaned money to help the parish's main spill contractor—a company picked by Taffaro. These seven men subsequently joined Taffaro's re-election committee. One, an old friend of Taffaro's who landed the BP catering job, solicited others working on the spill for donations to Taffaro's campaign, according to an email sent on the man's behalf."

Kim Barker reports for ProPublica July 18, 2011.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011