Whore of Engineers

May 6, 2009 by

Levees.org has uncovered an interesting item in the Army Corps of Engineers ledger: $1,000,000 for public relations.

It seems that instead of fixing the levees in New Orleans, the ACE thinks it’s easier to fix their image. And apparently it is. The PR firm hired by the Corps, Outreach Process Partners, touted their fantastic work on their website with a nifty graphic taking credit for reducing negative articles about the Corps. The graphic showed that between Oct ’06 and Jun ’07 the Corps racked up over 13,000 negative articles in the media. That same stretch from ’07 to ’08 lists only 305 negative articles with OPP’s help.

Really? From 13,000 to just 300 in one year? Those guys are good. Or they’re lying. Clearly they do not count the blogosphere as media.

Less than 24 hours after the Levees.org released this news, OPP pulled the page from their website, but Levees.org cached it and it can be viewed here. You can view the “edited” page here for a comparison.

Now ask yourself, how much flood protection would one million dollars buy? How many homes could be raised? How much higher could the levees be raised with a million dollars of dirt? How much more of Plaquemines Parish could be brought into the flood protection area? How much drainage work or infrastructure repair could be done? Congress has repeatedly refused to allocate funding for an independent investigation into the levee failures, relying on in-house investigations which have been tame at best, but they clearly have no problem rubber-stamping an assload of cash to hide bad press.

And here’s the fun part… the PR firm is based in Annapolis, MD. But then I doubt the PR firms in New Orleans would dare to take any amount of money to defend these charlatans. OPP (I find that hilariously ironic, don’t you?) is owned and run by Janice Roper-Graham who started the company after serving as vice-president of the Government Services Integrated Process Team. While at GSIPT, Roper-Graham worked hand-in-hand with Ogilvy PR to improve public perception of FEMA during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. (One wonders if she fed Bush the “Heckuva job, Brownie” line.) She also runs TransCom Partners, a firm which specializes in media relations for government agencies involved in transportation, engineering and construction.

From OPP’s website:
OPP provides media support for print, broadcast and Internet media on local, national and international levels including outlets such as the Times-Picayune, WWL-TV CBS New Orleans, Associated Press, USA Today, The Weather Channel, The Today Show, French TV Channel 5, and Engineering News Record on issues such as Hurricane Gustav, “paper in the floodwalls” and other investigative responses, seepage, peer review and the state of the hurricane and storm damage risk reduction system.  As part of this cause, OPP fosters strategic relationships with media outlets that result in more accurate and balanced stories.

Remember that the next time you see a story on the Corps. OPP’s contract runs through September of 2010. It seems to me that if the Corps would do their job properly, they wouldn’t need to waste our tax money on a PR firm. But then what the hell do I know.

-M Styborski