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Blackwater's chairman and the GOP

October 3, 2007 |  8:28 pm

You saw a lot of Erik Prince on TV the last couple of days, spending considerable time calmly fending off inquiries from agitated Democratic congressmen about his security company's suddenly controversial activities in Iraq. One explanation may be that Prince, the head of Blackwater, U.S.A., has a lengthy political pedigree as a Republican.

Members of the House Oversight Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), accused Blackwater employees of being "cowboys" who acted recklessly during their contracted security duties for the State Department in Iraq. It also came out that Blackwater, which has lost some three dozen employees in Iraq hostilities, has a 100% success rate in protecting VIPs under its contract.

This may shock some, but it also turns out that the target of the committee's angry questions was a 38-year-old former Navy SEAL who has donated $230,000 to federal campaigns and causes in the last decade. Almost all of that money has gone to Republicans, according to a check of Federal Election Commission records by The Times' campaign finance expert, Dan Morain.

Prince's latest donation was in July, when he gave $20,000 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. California recipients of Prince’s $1,000 checks include Reps. Jerry Lewis and Duncan Hunter, a current GOP presidential candidate, and former Rep. Richard Pombo.

The former serviceman has given almost all of his donations to Republicans. There was, however, an exception in 2006, when he donated $5,000 to the Green Party of Lucerne County, Pa.
That was a Republican ploy to ensure the Green Party's U.S. senate candidate got on the ballot in an effort to peel votes away from Democrat Bob Casey and help Republican Rick Santorum. The effort failed and Casey won.

So far, Prince has stayed out of presidential campaign donations. However, his family members have given to former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Prince’s lineage includes his late father, Edgar, who owned a large auto parts company in Michigan and was a major donor and advisor to Christian conservative Gary Bauer, a past GOP presidential candidate.

Prince’s mother, Elsa Prince, has donated $140,000 to federal Republican causes and candidates in the last decade. His sister, Betsy, is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party who has given at least $61,000 to Republican campaigns on the federal level since 1997.

Betsy’s husband is Richard DeVos, who hails from the family that founded Amway. He ran unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2006. The Republican stalwart has given more than $2 million to federal causes and candidates in the last 10 years, FEC records show.

The Times Josh Meyer and Julian Barnes have the full story on the day's Blackwater developments in Congress here on this website and in Thursday's print editions.

--Andrew Malcolm