Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fran Townsend Lands Advisory Role with U.S. Chamber

It's been an exciting week for ex-White House Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend. It began with Politico reporting Fran would become a commenter on CNN and ended with an announcement that Mrs. Townsend had been hired to advise and consult with U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donahue.

If anyone paid attention to Fran's work around Hurricane Katrina, they might question both offers of employment. Sure, Mrs. Townsend had to do what her boss ordered, but flying to Saudi Arabia when thousands of people were stranded in New Orleans hospitals? That ranks up there with Condoleezza Rice's shoe buying while offers of aid poured in from governments around the world (in Burmese like fashion). What are Fran's Saudi friends doing for us today? They have the capacity to pump another 1.5 to 2 million barrels a day, but ignore Mrs. Townsend's old boss and his pleas for a price break.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ditched their local jobs multiplier several years back. It estimated the number of times a dollar circulated through the community as the result of new employment. While jobs went overseas, it shifted to promoting a cheap goods multiplier. It implied access to inexpensive products made things more affordable and thus people better off. With commodity inflation and record oil prices, that twin edged blade now slices the other way. Fran's advice will be needed as the Chamber is on the bad end of both of its historic multipliers, jobs and prices.

Unfortunately, Fran's record on "robust" reports doesn't always include the "ro." After returning from Saudi Arabia, President Bush tapped Mrs. Townsend to do the White House Lessons Learned report on its Hurricane Katrina response. It omitted any mention of the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths post landfall. Despite news footage the morning Katrina struck showing George W. Bush ask Micheal Brown about hospital and nursing home patients, sick and disabled patients were left in dead facilities for up to five days. While Fran handed King Abdullah a letter regarding America's support against terrorism, the last patient was removed from Tenet's Memorial Hospital, also the landlord for LifeCare Hospital of New Orleans.

LifeCare's twenty four patients deaths warranted not one citation in Fran's report. Just weeks before Katrina sideswiped New Orleans, The Carlyle Group closed on its purchase of LifeCare. The private equity underwriter (PEU) shares a Pennsylvania Avenue address with the White House. I'm sure Carlyle appreciated the omission, as it faces twenty four wrongful death civil lawsuits.

The Chamber of Commerce hates product liability lawsuits and so does the Bush administration. The irony is Carlyle blames Bush's FEMA as part of their innovative defense from those wrongful death lawsuits. LifeCare contends patients became wards of the federal government as soon as evacuation teams set up in New Orleans. This claim is laughable. LifeCare had a duty to care for patients until they were transferred to another caregiver. Claiming acutely ill patients, sitting in LifeCare hospital beds, were under the care of nonclinical people miles away is ludicrous.

Why would the Chamber hire Frances, in light of the fact that she submitted a whitewash on the White House's response to an "unprecendented disaster"? They obviously employed her for her political connections. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce knows our government is for sale. They invested for their share.

Whether she intentionally covered for Carlyle or simply wrote a sorry report, the politically connected PEU owns over 1,000 companies and continues to gobble up more. This past week, they announced the purchase of a Greek chemical company, a Japanese LCD maker, and a Canadian mining software company. How many of Carlyle's affiliates are U.S. Chamber members? It looks like Fran's consulting gig with the Chamber is a good hire all around!