After dismally failing to adequately respond to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA Director Mike Brown must now prepare to weather the full fury of the MSM. The Boston Herald struck first, corroborating my post that reported Brown was forced to resign from his job at the International Arabian Horse Association. And now Knight-Ridder further exposes the stunningly unqualified Brown with a scathing bio that is sure to hit sunday papers across the US.
From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted “czar” of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown’s background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.
“He’s done a hell of a job, because I’m not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm,” said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. “The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience.”
As Josh Marshall explains in his coverage on Talking Points Memo, Brown’s main qualification for the post — perhaps his only — is the fact that he was a college roommate of former FEMA head and Bush political fixer Joe Allbaugh. And as Knight-Ridder points out, Brown’s prior experience with disaster was a disastrous run for Congress.
Brown ran for Congress in 1988 and won 27 percent of the vote against Democratic incumbent Glenn English. He spent the 1990s as judges and stewards commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association. His job was to ensure that horse-show judges followed the rules and to investigate allegations against those suspected of cheating.
“I wouldn’t have regarded his position in the horse industry as a platform to where he is now,” said Tom Connelly, a former association president.
“He just wouldn’t follow instruction,” said Bill Pennington, another former association president. “Mike was bullheaded and he was gonna do it his way. Period.”
It was Pennington who confirmed to the Herald that Brown was indeed asked to resign, and even Connelly, who speaks positively about him, calls Brown “abrasive.” This is consistent with emails I’ve received from a number of horse breeders — even those who respect him — who call Brown a “tough bastard” with a quick temper.
No doubt Brown had many enemies at the IAHA, and while there are conflicting stories as to the direct circumstances surrounding his resignation, he clearly fell victim to inside politics. Some say Brown was forced out by breeders angry at strict rules and enforcement, others say it was the burden of costly litigation. But the most convincing explanation I received was this inside report:
To help pay our mounting legal bills, there were people raising money for the IAHA Legal Defense Fund. Mike was suppose to be helping to raise some of the money. Mike it seems was trying to raise money for his own legal defense fund as well as IAHA’s and some people were willing to donate to him. There were two major problems with this. First, ALL of Mike’s legal bills including any personal ones were to be paid by IAHA. So he had NO legal bills so there was no reason for him to need this money to pay legal bills. Second, Mike was in a position that he needed to be seen as never playing favorites or having any loyalty to any individual. Many felt that taking this money would look very bad.
I was not personally at the IAHA Board of Directors Meeting when this occurred however I have been told about it by several people that were there and they all give the exact same story. There are many other things that people did not like about Mike’s job performance at IAHA but this is why he resigned.
Essentially, Brown was raising money from the very breeders he was charged with regulating, and that was the straw that broke the horse’s back.
But I don’t think the reason behind his resignation really matters. The point is, nothing in his IAHA tenure prepared him for running FEMA. Indeed, the fact that he fell victim to the inside politics of a horse breeders association, calls into question his ability to function amidst the high stakes political gamesmanship of the nation’s capitol.
The other issue that has become abundantly clear is that the misleading reference to the Olympics that was in the White House press release announcing Brown’s nomination was no accident. The transcript of Brown’s confirmation hearing shows virtually the identical wording used in the opening statement from Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Prior to his current job, from 1991 to 2000, Mr. Brown was the Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, an international subsidiary of the National Governing Organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Yet a number of IAHA/AHA members have made it abundantly clear that the organization is not in any way associated with the Olympics. Indeed, Arabians are not part of any Olympic competition. This was clearly an attempt by the White House to gussy up the resume of a man lacking the experience necessary to lead a major disaster relief effort… a lack of experience Brown has shown in his mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina.
More to come. The Denver Post is preparing a piece for Sunday, and the NY Times is working the story as well.
[Cross-posted to Daily Kos]
The NY Times article is online… third paragraph:
Mr. Brown has come under fire from critics of the federal government’s hurricane response, who describe him as a political appointee who had no disaster experience before joining FEMA.
Though he once worked as a municipal official in Edmond, Okla., Mr. Brown’s major previous job was as commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, from which he resigned under pressure in 2001 after a controversial 10 years.
Not much, but it makes the point that Brown was a political appointee who had no disaster experience.
The LA Times has a nice lead:
The leader of the U.S. government’s much-criticized handling of hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf Coast came to Washington in 2001 with scant background in dealing with natural disasters. But he had an important connection: His new boss was an old friend who had managed George W. Bush’s successful campaign for the White House.
Michael D. Brown left his job in Colorado supervising horse-show judges to work for Bush’s longtime political aide, Joe Allbaugh, who was heading the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the new administration.
Brown had been a lawyer active in Republican politics whose most relevant emergency response experience was a stint supervising police and fire departments as assistant city manager in an Oklahoma City suburb.
But within two years, he rose from FEMA’s general counsel to deputy director and, when Allbaugh left, he moved to the agency’s top spot.
That’s the MSM’s take on this story: cronyism. And it’s a pretty good take.
The Denver Post weighs in, and with new information!
Former association board member Karl V. Hart of Florida alleges that in 2000 Brown improperly accepted a check for nearly $50,000 from a prominent breeder and put it toward his own legal defense for his work as commissioner. Board members thought this was improper because Brown already had protection, from the association’s legal team, Hart said.
Because of the money dispute, Brown was asked to resign, Hart said.
One of my sources had hinted at this, but was not a board member and only had hearsay, so I couldn’t use it. Nice reporting by Jeremy Meyer to follow this up.
And finally, my favorite take on this story comes from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:
So let me see if I understand this. Brown’s a Republican from the southwest. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress when he was thirty-three. Then he bounced from job to job, finally getting into the sports business in mid-life, before getting canned. And then he used connections to land himself a high-powered position in the federal government for which he had no apparent experience at all.
How could such a fellow possibly be in the Bush administration?