Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Military Housing: Did Beto Turn a Blind Eye to Subpar Work of a Major Campaign Donor?


Military Housing: Did Beto Turn a Blind Eye to Subpar Work of a Major Campaign Donor?
Hunt Companies object of Military Family Complaints

by Carman Jones and George Billings


In February 2019, news outlets published several stories of military families complaining of rats, toxins, mold, and more at military housing built by Hunt Companies and other similar military housing contractors.(1)

Hunt Companies is listed as O'Rourke's ninth highest campaign donor during O'Rourke's time in Congress.
As a US House Representative, Beto O'Rourke served on the House Armed Services Committee. This committee is responsible for oversight over military family housing construction. (2)  
Additionally, during O'Rourke's time in Congress, his wife, Amy O’Rourke, became employed by a non-profit in which Hunt Company CEO, Woody Hunt, serves as a Board Member. (3)


Families Decry Conditions of Hunt Housing in Senate Hearing Testimony

At a recent Senate hearing (4) on conditions of housing units built by Hunt and other contractors, residents’ testimony included:

" ... mice eating through pacifiers and their baby's cribs and electrical outlets catching fire due to wiring issues."

"... she held her new baby and sobbed while we stood under a collapsing moldy ceiling in her home "

Conditions in Hunt housing got so bad that in 2018, several families sued Hunt Corporation. These families say they were “driven from their house by toxic mold.” (5)

O’Rourke was on the committee whose work was dedicated to oversight of these type of issues. 
Why did O’Rourke ignore these terrible housing conditions for military families?


Hunt Companies and Privatized Military Housing

The Hunt Companies website states (6) :

“Today, we are the largest military housing owner in the country,
with approximately 52,000 existing homes on 49 military installations
on Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army installations throughout the country.

In total, we have built more than 70,000 military homes, totaling more than
$9 billion in construction and development.
https://www.huntcompanies.com/what-we-do/military-communities



The Military Housing Slums

The military put many families into privatized housing, which had turned out to be subpar, some of this housing still using lead paint.

In January 2019, Military and Family Advisory Network did an online survey receiving 16,000 responses from military families across the country. 
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed found living conditions in military base housing was "negative" or "very negative." Many described their housing as “slum-like.”

The privatization of military housing came as a result of the bad conditions of military housing previously built directly by the government. In the 1990s, an effort to privatize housing was begun.

A statement issued by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper, and Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, stated they were “deeply troubled” to learn about the conditions of some of the homes.

In the survey, the respondents repeatedly mentioned six private contractors. They included Lincoln, Balfour Beatty, Hunt, Corvias, Winn and Michael's Military Housing. The Hunt company mentioned is the El Paso-based Hunt Companies led by Woody Hunt. (7)

A Reuters report pointed to military housing in Mississippi. We compared this with the Hunt Companies' website as to where they have military housing built and it corresponds with the Reuter report.

The Reuters report said: “Another big player is Hunt Companies, which owns 50,000 homes on 49 bases and bills itself as the ‘largest military housing owner in the country.’”

At Mississippi’s Keesler Air Force base, thirteen military families are suing Hunt Companies over endemic mold infestations they say sprouted from faulty construction and poor maintenance of their homes, which were among 1,000 built from 2007 to 2010 for $287 million.(8)

“In court filings, Texas-based Hunt denied allegations of poor maintenance, mold outbreaks or any harm to tenants. However, an internal memo from a Hunt affiliate to Air Force officials in 2008 shows the company knew its new homes were prone to mold. The company and Air Force confirmed to Reuters this month that 1,000 have needed 'moisture remediation' in the past two years – including those of DeLack and Yarbrough.”

Air Force spokeswoman McAndrews said some homes have required "extensive repairs," so the service and Hunt agreed to complete the work in phases. The Air Force is monitoring progress “to ensure project milestones were met," she said.”

Hunt said it’s committed to addressing the problem. “Hunt Military Communities takes pride in providing the best possible housing for our Service Members and their families,” the company said in a written statement.



Hunt Contributions to Beto O’Rourke

According to Open Secrets.org, in 2018 alone, Hunt Companies contributed close to 2 million dollars to members of congress. A side note, in 2018, close ally of O’Rourke, Rep. Veronica Escobar was ranked third in receiving the most contributions from Hunt Companies. (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php?id=D000061745&cycle=2018). Escobar was barely elected to congress in November 2018. 
2018 Hunt Contribution: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php?id=D000061745&cycle=2018


In 2018, then Congressman Beto O’Rourke was in the top ten of recipients of contributions from Hunt Companies. From Balfour Beatty, another company accused of subpar housing, in 2018, Beto O’Rourke was the top recipient of contributions this company.

Not only in 2018, but in previous years, O’Rourke was at the top of recipients of Hunt Companies' contributions.

In 2016, only Marco Rubio received more contributions from Hunt Companies than O’Rourke. In the 2016 cycle listing, of the top 20 recipients to receive contributions from Hunt Companies, all are Republicans -- except for O’Rourke. (https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?id=D000061745&cycle=2016). 
2016 Hunt Contribution: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php?id=D000061745&type=P&sort=A&cycle=2016


In 2014, O’Rourke was the top recipient of Hunt Companies contributions. That year, O’Rourke was the only Democrat in the top 20 recipients of Hunt Companies' contributions.

That same year, Hunt Companies' contributions to Senator Ted Cruz surpassed Beto O’Rourke, but the contributions were massive to recipients that year, with $25,500 going to Cruz and $15,000 to O’Rourke. O’Rourke was fourth in line of top recipients of contributions from Hunt Companies, only surpassed by Mitt Romney, Cruz, and David Dewhursts. Others in the top ten of recipients included former Texas Governor Rick Perry. 
2014 Hunt Contribution: https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/toprecips.php?id=D000061745&type=P&sort=A&cycle=2014


For 2014, in the top 15 recipients of Hunt Companies' money, O’Rourke was the only Democrat recipient. 


Lack of oversight

It is clear that Beto O’Rourke was lax in his responsibilities to give oversite over military housing, Hunt Companies, Balfour Beatty, and other military housing contractors. 
However, it is also indicative that he did know (he was on the committee that was supposed to give oversight on this)
O’Rourke turn a blind eye because the perpetrator was his biggest donor, but went further to protect the entire industry perpetrating abuses on our military families. 

With children getting cancer, O’Rourke’s lack of oversight is astonishing. 

One oncologist wrote regarding Balfour Beatty Communities, that ‘death rates are unfortunately high’ when pediatric cancer patients contract infections from mold and fungus. He urged the company to remove the fungi and mold.”

Nevertheless, 2018 proved a good year for O’Rourke as he was Balfour Beatty’s biggest recipient of contributions.

Further Reading: For Better Business Bureau complaints in El Paso on Hunt Companies see: https://www.bbb.org/us/tx/el-paso/profile/real-estate-development/hunt-companies-0895-98062612/complaints
Notes:

1.    See Nash, Noeh. “Military families sue over black mold in their homes.” AirForce Times. Accessed April 4, 2019. https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2018/07/18/military-families-sue-over-black-mold-in-their-homes/. "Hunt Companies" is the name used on the Hunt Companies website (https://www.huntcompanies.com/what-we-do/military-communities). In this article we use it as the name of the corporation and not to describe multiple companies.

2.    Legislative jurisdiction and oversight. Subcommittee on Readiness has

oversight of family housing. See https://armedservices.house.gov/committee-rules



(a) Jurisdiction



(1) The Committee retains jurisdiction of all subjects listed in clause 1(c) and

clause 3(b) of rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives and retains

exclusive jurisdiction for: defense policy generally, ongoing military

operations, the organization and reform of the Department of Defense and the

Department of Energy, counter-drug programs, security cooperation and

humanitarian assistance activities (except special operations-related

activities) of the Department of Defense, acquisition and industrial base

policy, technology transfer and export controls, joint interoperability,

detainee affairs and policy, force protection policy, and inter-agency reform as

it pertains to the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons programs of the

Department of Energy. While subcommittees are provided jurisdictional

responsibilities in subparagraph (a)(2) and are required to conduct oversight in

their respective jurisdictions, pursuant to clause 2(b)(2) of rule X of the

Rules of the House of Representatives, the Committee retains the right to

exercise oversight and legislative jurisdiction over all subjects within its

purview under rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives.



(2) The Committee shall be organized to consist of six standing subcommittees

with the following jurisdictions:





Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces: Army programs and accounts related

to aircraft, ground equipment, missiles, ammunition, and other procurement;

Marine Corps programs and accounts related to ground and amphibious equipment,

fighter aircraft, helicopters, air-launched weapons, and ammunition; Air Force

programs and accounts related to fighter, training, reconnaissance and

surveillance, and electronic warfare aircraft, helicopters, air-launched

weapons, ground equipment, and ammunition; Navy programs and accounts related to

fighter, training, and electronic warfare aircraft, helicopters, and

air-launched weapons; tactical air and missile defense programs and accounts;

chemical agent and munition destruction programs and accounts; and National

Guard and Reserve equipment programs and accounts.



Subcommittee on Military Personnel: Department of Defense policy and programs

and accounts related to military personnel and their families, Reserve Component

integration and employment, military health care, military education, dependent

schools, POW/MIA issues, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, commissaries,

cemeteries under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense, the Uniform Code

of Military Justice, and military retirement issues.



Subcommittee on Readiness: Department of Defense policy and programs and

accounts related to military readiness, training, logistics and maintenance,

military construction, organic industrial base, the civilian and contract

workforce, environment, military installations and real property management,

family housing, base realignments and closures, and energy.



Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: Navy and Marine Corps

acquisition programs and accounts related to shipbuilding and conversion,

reconnaissance and surveillance, tanker, and airlift aircraft, ship and

submarine-launched weapons, ammunition, and other procurements; Air Force

programs and accounts related to bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft; Army

programs and accounts related to waterborne vessels; and Maritime policy and

programs and accounts under the jurisdiction of the Committee as delineated in

paragraphs 5 and 9 of clause 1(c) of rule X of the Rules of the House of

Representatives.



Subcommittee on Strategic Forces: Department of Defense and Department of Energy

policy related to strategic deterrence, strategic stability, nuclear weapons,

strategic and nuclear arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear safety, missile

defense, and space; Department of Defense programs and accounts related to

nuclear weapons, strategic missiles, nuclear command and control systems,

Department of Defense intelligence space, space systems and services of the

military departments, and intermediate and long-range missile defense systems;

and Department of Energy national security programs and accounts.



Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Department

of Defense policy and programs and accounts related to military intelligence,

national intelligence, countering weapons of mass destruction,

counter-proliferation, counterterrorism, other sensitive military operations,

special operations forces, cyber security, cyber operations, cyber forces,

information technology, information operations, and science and technology

(including defense-wide programs and accounts related to research, development,

testing, and evaluation, except for those defense-wide programs and accounts

related to research, development, testing, and evaluation of missile defense

systems).



3.    Woody Hunt is vice chair of the Board for Creeed. See https://www.creeed.org/board.html. Amy O'Rourke is employed as Staff as  the Choose to excel director. See https://www.creeed.org/staff.html



4.    See Griffin , Jennifer. “Military families warn of unsafe housing: rats, toxic mold and more.” Fox News. https://www.foxnews.com/us/military-families-warn-of-unsafe-housing-rats-toxic-mold-and-more . Accessed April 4, 2019.




5.     See Nash.




6.    See https://www.huntcompanies.com/what-we-do/military-communities.




7.     See Griffin, Jennifer.




Pell,M.P. & Wilson, Deborah. “U.S. Air Force’s new housing dogged by construction flaws, imperiling tenants.” https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-military-construction/. Accessed Apri 4, 2019.


8. Ibid.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Heather Wilson, O’Rourke, and El Paso's Conservative Oligarchs: The Left Gets Bit in the Ass



Heather Wilson, O’Rourke, and El Paso's Conservative Oligarchs: The Left Gets Bit in the Ass

In Game of Thrones, it seems that the ultimate insult was to kill your family and have you eat their remains unbeknownst.



Heather Wilson. Beto O'Rourke. El Paso is seeing sad times.

This seems to be the problem with the Left in El Paso.


This was meant to be an attack on immigration advocates in El Paso, many who were supporters of Beto O’Rourke.

My point was that many immigrants live in South El Paso, and many poor Mexicans live in the Lomas de Peleo area near the Mexican side of Anapra, New Mexico.

These were the areas being affected. This is where people were  being forced off their land. This was O’Rourke’s selling out Segundo Barrio.

Then there was the exposed connection with the violence perpetrated on the residents of Lomas de Poleo in Mexico. 

This was connected to many of the deals the O’Rourke’s father-in-law and the oligarchs in Cd. Juarez were hatching.
To be true immigrant advocates, the Left needs to be more than advocates in the immigration reform realm.

We need to be advocates in all realms concerning immigrants: wages, housing, woman’s issues, LGBTQ issues, and specifically when they face displacement by Beto O’Rourke and his Republican allies. 

Once immigrants are in the United States, we cannot just abandon them to become victims of rich elites.

So what of the Left in El Paso? They seem like a snake that eats its own tail. They shoot themselves in the foot. I write this soul searching because I'm a member of the Left.

Looking at Facebook and seeing the intense movement by the Left by UTEP professors and students as well as community groups, many just a few months ago were actively supporting Beto O’Rourke.

Now their hero is running for president of the United States, and he is silent on the appointment of Heather Wilson to the UTEP presidency. Will O'Rourke bite the hands that feed him. He did not when it came to housing for military families, so probably not.

For many of us who have fought O’Rourke and the White Elites in El Paso for years, we saw the connection years ago. 

Yes, O’Rourke and Heather Wilson are connected. If you can’t connect the dots, you need to do your homework.

We will cut you a break for your actions during the Texas Senate race. Yes, why would one vote for Ted Cruz? Or maybe you were just towing the Democratic Party line.

However, for people of color, we are often placed in this situation. One of choosing the lessor of two evils.

For the UTEP presidential search committee, it was stacked with Borderplex Alliance members. At one point the only person of color was the Student Government president. Two of the search committee members are O’Rourkes biggest contributors while on city council and in Congress. For one, O'Rourke is the largest recipient of contributions from one of them.

Members of El Paso Oligarch: Paul Foster (left) and Woody Hunt (right). O'Rourke is the largest recipient of contributions from Hunt Corporation, which has been accused of building substandard military housing.
 
Above: Paul Foster and Rep. Veronica Escobar celebrate victory.

What can we say? Is it a “reap what you sow”? Or “chickens come home to roost” for El Paso’s Left?

The road toward the Right in El Paso is being paved with the bones of the victims of El Paso’s elite.

We are at dinner and the victims of O’Rourke and his conservative allies are being fed to us — and all we can say is, “That’s a good pie.”


Monday, March 18, 2019

Beto Living in Utter Poverty Since Forbes Downgraded Father-in-Law to Multimillionaire Status



Above: Beto O'Rourke lites a cigar as he talks of the dire economic situation of his family.

Beto Living in Utter Poverty Since Forbes Downgraded Father-in-Law to Multimillionaire Status

O’Rourkes hit financial rock bottom

by  Satira Sinverg├╝enza
Associated Mess
     Times have been hard in the Beto O'Rourke's household since a November 2018 announcement by Forbes that his father-in-law Bill Sanders is not a billionaire.

     Beto feels cheated. "I was made for this!" But he says the family has made some cutbacks for husband not willing to work, and they should be able to survive out the year. 
    “It’s been a terrible 4 months since that announcement,” says Beto, barefoot at home. “I'm entitled to so much more. I’m working hard playing on my guitars, trying to get the band back together.”

     In November 2018, Forbes reported “Based on a review of Sanders' biggest deals, we're far from ready to put him on our list of The World's Billionaires Based on the public information that Forbes has reviewed, Beto O’Rourke’s “billionaire” father-in-law is more likely to have a net worth in the neighborhood of $500 million.

     "This is terrible news," stated O'Rourke. From devaluing their El Paso mansion with the local tax entity to making cuts in house staff, the O’Rourke’s have hit rock bottom.


     “Instead of a butler,” said Beto as his valet used a clothes brush to brushed off dust from the shoulders of same blue shirt he wore yesterday (and the day before), “we had to settle for a footman."
    Waving his arms fanatically, "Imagine if your family, your children have to be served dinner by a person wearing white gloves. This is unacceptable!”

     Even tough culinary decisions have had to be made in the O’Rourke household. “The pancake batter we bought for Shrove Tuesday and for National Pancake Day,” says Beto almost breaking into tears, “we’ve had to make that last. We may be eating this same mix until after St. Patty's day!”

     “Instead of the gold sprinkles we use to put on our pancakes, we have limited ourselves to silver,” says Beto wiping a tear from his eye. “I now know who my former constitutes in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio live. I feel their pain.”
     Nevertheless, the O'Rourke's have not stopped their community generosity. "I just sent four cases of caviar to the womens shelter this morning," says Beto. "And the kids and I are going to volunteer this afternoon at the community garden, at the country club."

Above: O'Rourke, in Iowa accesses the blues shirts he never takes off.


     The dire economic situation of the O’Rourke family has also affected the family’s fashion.  Beto had had to wear the same blue shirt every day. Exclaiming his frustration, Beto yells, “I can’t even afford to buy the lower sleeves for my blue shirt."

     In interviews, Amy Rourke has had to limit the times she turns her head toward Beto in a loving gaze. “We have now limited it to 3 times an interview,” says Beto. “Least we have to visit the chiropractor less than 4 times a week.”

     “When I said my wife was taking care of the kids,” says Beto, “ I meant that we had to fire one of our three nannies. Hell, I may have to start mannying again, or being a real dad.”

    At his computer, as Beto searches the web for government assistance, he is distraught. 
      "We are going to have to make other sacrifices," says the presidential candidate. “We were about to put in 25-caret gold faucets in our bed room bathroom, but after a long conversation with Amy, we had to set for 14 caret.”

Above: O'Rourke sacrifices since hitting poverty include 
buying 14-caret gold facets instead faucets of  24-carat gold.


     “Also, my skin is really suffering,” says the former congressman. “I was used to cash baths and long soaks in $100 bills, but of late we’ve had to settle for 1 dollar bills. I’ve broken out in rashes all over.”
Above: O'Rourke in cashbath: regarding cash baths, "...of late we’ve had to settle for 1 dollar bills."


     As he puts the strap of his guitar round his neck, Beto assures that he  will make it through this tough time. "I think every poor family like ours has to make sacrifices once in a while. For example, yesterday at Guitar World, instead of buying the $20,000 Les Paul, I thought about my  family, and settled for the $19,000 Squire Strat instead."
     After tuning the guitar, he says “Have you heard this CCR song?":  Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Ooo, they're red, white and blue...”