This morning, discussing the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and preparations for this year's hurricane season on Meet The Press, Fema director David (duct tape and plastic sheeting) Paulison said that after Katrina many were able to defraud the government of millions of dollars because in the wake of the storm people didn't have access to their own IDs, their bank accounts, or anything other than the clothes they escaped in, and FEMA had to take people's word for who they were and where they had lived. That won't happen again, he assured the American public, because now FEMA has a contract with ChoicePoint, which will positively identify who's who in the event of another disaster.
ChoicePoint, of course, being the company that provided the state of Florida with its infamous "felon's list" in 2000. ChoicePoint identified 8,000 Florida voters as people who had committed felonies in Texas. In fact, none had been charged with anything greater than misdemeanors. Trying to "fix" this mistake, ChoicePoint came up with 437 Texas felons registered to vote in Florida. Of course, under Texas law felons are entitled to vote after they've served their time, which these people had done (and they had broken no laws in Florida, so their status as ex-cons in Texas shouldn't have had any bearing, under Florida law). Ex-felons from other states were similarly scrubbed. ChoicePoint ultimately ordered the scrubbing for voter rolls of at least 3,000 people whose voting rights had been restored by their states of residence before they moved to Florida, making them eligible to vote under Florida law.
ChoicePoint's efficiency also included many people whose names were similar to the names of felons, including a county Supervisor of Elections in one case--these people were also either scrubbed or forced to appeal their designation to their various counties in hopes of straightening out ChoicePoint's error by election day.
ChoicePoint (then called Database Technologies, or DBT) was awarded the contract by Florida to create this list (the only private company allowed by any state in the U.S. to do so) despite the fact that its bid was higher than any of its competitors by several thousand percent. When Florida passed the law requiring the services of a private company, the first company to do the job, in 1998, charged $5,700. DBT's first year on the job they were paid $2,317,800.
In fairness, many of the problems with this list came about because of direction by the state of Florida to make the list ineffective (ignore name reversals, so that, for instance, Donald Duck and Duck Donald were presumed to be the same person, don't cross-check using SSNs or address histories). And ChoicePoint acquired DBT after the initial 2000 list had been turned in (but before all the problems surfaced and before the list's accuracy was called into question--by election time they were known as DBT/ChoicePoint, and now just ChoicePoint).
In other words, Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris used this company to help them hand the presidency to Jeb's brother George, and paid through the nose for the privilege (and DBT's founder had donated $100,000 to the Republican National Committe, making him a friend of the family). Now George's administration is rewarding them further, and using them to "guarantee" that taxpayers won't be defrauded again as we were after Katrina.
Yeah, this looks promising...