Monday, May 28, 2012

Carlyle Group Wetlands' Kiss

The Government-Corporate Monstrosity, the updated version of Eisenhower's Military Industrial Complex, punished a Florida wetlands expert for not giving Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, a Carlyle Group joint venture, its desired wetlands permit, worth millions of dollars in "wetlands credits."  Tampa Bay Times reported:

Florida's top state wetlands expert has been suspended after she refused to issue a permit on a controversial project — one that she said her boss was willing to bend the rules to approve.

The project: turning a North Florida pine plantation into a business that attempts to make up for wetlands that are wiped out by new roads and development. At stake: millions of dollars in wetland "credits" that can be sold to government and developers.

The problem, according to a May 9 memo from Department of Environmental Protection wetlands expert Connie Bersok, is that the owners want the DEP to give them lots of wetland credits for land that isn't wet.

After being told by Deputy Secretary Jeff Littlejohn to ignore the rules she had followed on other permits, Bersok wrote, "I hereby state my objection to the intended agency action and refusal to recommend this permit for issuance."

Two days later, Bersok was suspended pending an investigation, her personnel file shows. She declined to comment for this article without DEP permission. DEP officials would not allow a reporter to speak with her. A spokeswoman would not discuss her case.

This staffer isn't the first to bear consequences for not giving Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank their due.

Highlands Ranch Mitigation Bank, has repeatedly tussled with permitting officials. "They're scrappy, these guys," said Glenn Lowe, who lost his job with the St. Johns River Water Management District after he refused to give Highlands Ranch what its owners wanted. Former water district executive director Kirby Green said Lowe and other employees lost their jobs because Gov. Rick Scott's pro-business administration didn't like the way they treated Highlands Ranch.
The process shows the usual GCM features:

1.  The Deputy Secretary revised the method for calculating wetlands credits, using a memo written by Highlands' attorney.

2.  Highlands reapplies for additional wetlands credits

3.  Deputy Secretary asked wetlands expert to ignore the rules.

4.  Wetlands expert declined

5.  Deputy Secretary instructed wetlands expert to create a "performance based pilot."

5.  Wetlands expert cited such a pilot is against state law.

7.  Deputy Secretary suspends wetlands expert, pending investigation
Such PEU moves are necessary for Carlyle and company to profit:

Highlands is "hopeful the permit will be issued soon — this time with the number of credits the owners need to make the bank work financially."

That's the role of government in our PEU world.  The Carlyle Group's David Rubenstein cut his financial teeth on government created credits:

In 1984, a law was passed allowing native corporations in Alaska—that is, Eskimo owned companies created by Congress to manage native lands—to sell their losses to businesses looking for tax write-offs. The Marriott executives, working with David Rubenstein at Shaw Pittman, discovered the Eskimo clause and vigorously bought the losses to offset gains. The adventure has become known in some quarters as the Great Eskimo Tax Scam.
Marriott executives provided seed money to start Carlyle in 1987.  For twenty five years, Carlyle exploited such seams, stitched by politicians of both the Red and Blue variety. As for WaPo, they've become huge Carlyle Groupies.  Allegiances, like politicians, can be bought.

Update 6-10-12:  The Orlando Sentinel ran a story on how Carlyle and company play hardball.