Saturday, October 18, 2008

Red, Whiteout & Blue

What role did political connections have in the Bush White House's glaring omission from their White House Lessons Learned report on Hurricane Katrina? Frances Townsend left out the hospital with the highest patient death toll post landfall. She also left out the building with a combined 34 deaths.

Did political connections contribute to Fran's whitewashing? The private equity owner of the hospital with 24 deaths is but blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The Carlyle Group purchased LifeCare Hospitals weeks before Katrina sideswiped New Orleans.

But how did Tenet Healthcare get a free pass? They rented space to the private equity underwriter (PEU). Somehow, neither Tenet nor LifeCare could find the phone HCA used to get 20 medical evacuation helicopters to move patients from dead hospitals.

It turns out Tenet has a political heavyweight on their Board of Directors. Senator Bob Kerrey served as a 9-11 Commissioner. The Democrat has deep political connections. Whether he used those to minimize any mention of Memorial or Tenet, I have no clue. However, Bob has roughly 150,000 shares of Tenet stock. While the total was closer to 100,000 when Katrina struck, Kerrey's equity interest in the hospital company is significant.

The graphic above shows Jeb Bush as the Republican counterweight to Kerrey. Bob joined the Board in 2001, long before Katrina struck. Jeb's appointment came in 2007, the year after Fran's report hit the tubes. My imagination has a grateful Tenet naming George W.'s brother to a corporate governance role.

Sorry investigations and cushy corporate directorships, related or not? It's hard to tell without a real investigation. Neither Bush nor Congress had the stomach for it, when the American public was outraged. Constrained and twisted studies have become the norm, much to the detriment of real America, the one envisioned by our founding fathers.

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