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A look deep inside politics and injustice in El Paso.Raymundo Eli Rojashttp://www.blogger.com/profile/13735199812113933107noreply@blogger.comBlogger109125
Updated: 5 min 58 sec ago

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

Wed, 04/17/2019 - 9:40pm

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/complaintsNotes:
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.     SeeNash.


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.
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