Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mercenary Jackpot for DeVos Relative

All that money the DeVos family donates to the Republican Party is starting to pay off, especially for brother-in-law Eric Prince, the right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater USA. Here's the latest from Jeremy Scahill at The Nation [all emphasis added]:
While the Bush Administration calls for the immediate disbanding of what it has labeled "private" and "illegal" militias in Lebanon and Iraq, it is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into its own global private mercenary army tasked with protecting US officials and institutions overseas. The secretive program, which spans at least twenty-seven countries, has been an incredible jackpot for one heavily Republican-connected firm in particular: Blackwater USA. Government records recently obtained by The Nation reveal that the Bush Administration has paid Blackwater more than $320 million since June 2004 to provide "diplomatic security" services globally. The massive contract is the largest known to have been awarded to Blackwater to date and reveals how the Administration has elevated a once-fledgling security firm into a major profiteer in the "war on terror." [...]

A heavily redacted 2005 government audit of Blackwater's WPPS [Worldwide Personal Protective Service] contract proposal, obtained by The Nation, reveals that Blackwater included profit in its overhead and its total costs, which would result "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit." The audit also found that the company tried to inflate its profits by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies.

The WPPS contract awarded in 2004 was divided among a handful of companies, among them DynCorp and Triple Canopy. Blackwater was originally slated to be paid $229.5 million for five years, according to a State Department contract list. Yet as of June 30, just two years into the program, it had been paid a total of $321,715,794. When confronted with this apparent $100 million discrepancy, the State Department could not readily explain it. Blackwater's two years of WPPS earnings exceed many estimates of the company's total government contracts, which the Virginian-Pilot recently put at $290 million combined since 2000. Six years ago the government paid Blackwater less than $250,000. [...]

While the WPPS program and the broader use of private security contractors is not new, it has escalated dramatically under the Bush Administration. According to the most recent Government Accountability Office report, some 48,000 private soldiers, working for 181 private military firms, are deployed in Iraq alone. Blackwater, now one of the most prominent and successful companies providing soldiers in Iraq, was relatively unknown until March 31, 2004, when four of its contractors were ambushed and killed in Falluja [see Scahill, "Blood Is Thicker Than Blackwater," May 8]. In the days and weeks that followed, company executives hired ultra-connected lobbyists and were welcomed by powerful government officials as heroes, allowing the firm to solidify its role in the Bush Administration's foreign policy apparatus. [...]
This just goes to show you that huge sums of money can buy prominence and success - at the expense of taxpayers who get the shaft. No wonder Dick DeVos is in favor of privatizing public services here in Michigan. He wants in on some of those "pyramiding profits" too.


Lew Scannon said...

And how many of the privatised contracts will go to Republican donors? And how many of them will get rich soaking the tax payer for services that used to be provided gratis by the government?

Anonymous said...

I am afraid this seems to be what we are up against as a nation. Wealthy people who buy the power and influence to further widen the "wealth gap" in our country. I'm all for business, but not when it becomes the driving force in politics. In my 29 years on this earth I have realised that this may be the most important issue between republicans who let businesses and business leaders run wild, and democrats who tend to put a leash on them.

Kathy said...

Lew, you can bet 100% of the contracts will go to the donors. Cronyism defines the GOP as much as anything.

Stephen, I agree with you. I thought the days of the robber barons were behind us a long time ago. I also agree that this is a huge issue. People are unhappy with the cozy alliance between big business and politicians. It leaves the average American outside of the system, and that is totally wrong.

Libby said...

I find the Blackwater connection one of the most disturbing aspects of DeVos' candidacy. No good will come of that. When they send the jackboots out to get the liberals and other dissenters, Michigan will be the first to be hit.