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Blackwater's chairman and the GOP

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

Comments () | Archives (26)

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Who should know better about being a cowboy than waxman?

So what ?

Are you saying money can buy influence? Why not run a story about how much money the credit card companies gave to Hillar Clinton in 2004 or how much money the insurance lobby gave to the Democrats in 2003?

Is Prince doing something wrong here? I thought this is how the game was played? Didn't you know the U.S. Government has been for sale since before the Railroad Commission of 1846 was formed?

The connection is real clear, almost as obvious as Haliburton.

Prince and his company's days are numbered. The word is out among Democrats that Blackwater's GSA sked is done as soon as the Democrates take the White House in 2008. Not a very smart political or business model Prince has set up.

I love it. A die-hard conservative relies solely on federal contracts to boost his business. I guess welfare is OK when it's laundered back into Republican coffers.

What an idiot.

Are you attempting to insinuate that Prince was targeted because he's a Republican, or that he wasn't targeted in the past because he was a Republican?

I would think that Prince has had to undergo this grilling because Blackwater has killed innocent Iraqi civilians, and in some cases paid off families instead of holding murderers accountable.

It may shock some, but under Order 17 of the Coalition Provisional Authority (the "government" of Iraq before Iraqis took back power), foreign contractors are immune to Iraqi law. That's why the murderers were allowed to flee Iraq, without punishment for their crimes. Since Blackwater mercenaries are not members of the military, they are also not held accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. They are essentially beyond any laws.

So, the assumption that the average reader of your blog takes from the blog is that Mr. Prince should be discounted and is automatically sinister because he has ties to Republicans.

Why not point out that almost all of the people who work with Mr. Prince and Mr. Prince himself are some of the most highly trained, skilled, seasoned, and honorable idividuals who have served our country? They are retired special forces soldiers.

By watching his testimony on TV, one has to see just how impressive Blackwater is at completing their missions. 16,000 missions and only 195 or so times where they actuallly had to fire a weapon. They have lost zero individuals who they are protecting. To me, to single out nee private security firm, one of 170 or so similar firms in Iraq, is indicative of a witch hunt.

Throughout the testimony of Mr. Prince, you hear from Mr. Waxman and Mr. Tierney phrases like, "we need to look at what privatization is doing in Iraq." This fits the template of socialist members of Congress who attack anyone and anything that has the word "private" associated with it, especially if you are a Republican.

Oh, and never have you heard either of them thank Mr. Prince for his service to our country. Selfless service to our country to protect our civilians and our citizens.

One day the East Coast journalism machine will find the time to really take a hard look at the ultra right wing DeVos empire....the millions it spends, the worldview it ruthlessly pursues, the strange, cult-like reality it has spun from its' home base and personal fiefdom of Grand Rapids, Michigan. These are morally bankrupt superpersonalities for whom law & standards imposed by others is merely optional. Their political skills are trumped only by their cunning at flying below the glare of media radar. It doesn't surprise me in the least that Blackwater's boy CEO hails from this world. And based on their record, his company's deeds don't surprise me either.

More examples of how far the Bush/Cheney administration and Republicans are willing to operate outside of the law and in ways that shield them from consequences.

As well as another example of Democrats giving the impression of investigating without really having to produce any results that bring about jail time for all involved or positive change that would stop this from happening again.

Just another scandal before we all fall asleep again.

When we have insufficient troops to carry out the military tasks and roles required for peacekeeping missions overseas, we now hire independent military contractors to fill in those voids. So far, so good. But, as their title implies, contractors operate independently and without the same expectations of behavior which apply to active military personnel. Recent reports from Iraq bear witness to this disparity and the uncertainty of the legal process for judging these cases when the Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply.

One fact is certain: these independent contractors are, for the most part, people who left the military to use their taxpayer-financed skills for personal gain in the private sector, and at pay scales many times that of their active duty counterparts in the military. In short, these folks caused some part of the insufficiency in the first place and are now benefitting from it.

It was inevitable that the military would embrace the outsourcing gambit given it's close proximity to the lanyard-enobled-do-nothing consultants who pad the carpeted halls of Class A office campuses in northern Virginia. The siren call of these professional jargon-droppers is hard to resist and in keeping with best current management practice- as defined by the paid consultants, of course- the military's money is better 'invested' by hiring trained civilians for specific missions.

Until now, this nation has fought it's battles with troops mustered from the farms and mill towns across this land and these mostly forgotten John and Jane Does did not have to share their heartfelt patriotic space with highly paid mercenaries who fight for the highest bidder. Folks, that's what an independent military contractor is: a mercenary. So far, not so good.

Doesn't the idea of a "private army"for hire scare people? I want soldiers to have an oath to uphold the constitution of the USA, not to the guy who cuts his check.
How many Blackwater employees would have stayed in the military, if not lured to private security by high salaries?
While privatization has its' place, some core functions, like the armed forces, would seem to be a core government function.

These people showed up during Catrina and killed a couple of people, that in itself should scare the hell out of everyone, think SS when you think about these guys, they don't answer to the public.

One thing,Erik Prince has given to Presidential Campaigns-- GW Bush in 2004 !But altogether he has given $250,000 to the Republicans and $5,000 to the Green Party(in a typically cynical right wing move to rig the outcome of supposed free and fair election)!So these " Christian" Mercenaries(Jesus would love that)have given 95% of their money to the most corrupt,heartless,inept and hateful people this country has ever had to endure!Thats very Christian of you Erik!But we know that Republicants will use and abuse the Bible and Flag for their only real motivating forces ---HATE,POWER and PROFITS!

What a surprise. The man is a former Navy SEAL and he is pro-military. Did you really think he would be a contributor to or other anti-establishment entities and political parties?

Nice for your article to note in passing the 100% success rate in the protection of their clients. Might should have noted their efforts yesterday in the protection and rescue of the Polish Ambassador in Iraq.

I understand these guys are helping with the war efforts in Iraq but just the fact that a private security guards are even allowed to carry vast amounts of firepower and operate on the streets of Iraq and among the citizens of Iraq are somewhat ludicrous. The US government would never allow such things to happen in this country under any circumstances so why are they allowing this to go on in Iraq. You get the impressioni that the US military and the government are not giving the same level of consideration for Iraqi citizens as they hold for US citizens. No wonder they hate the US. We treat them like animals.

"suddenly controversial activities in Iraq"

I don't believe you mean to use the word suddenly/
Recently increased yes, but there nothing sudden about controversy over Black Water and and other soldier of fortune organizations in Iraq.

The entire U.S. defense policy long ago changed from protecting our country, and turned into a grotesquely corrupt enterprise for industrial contractors. When Eisenhower warned us about the perils of the 'military industrial complex' he was prescient. When Reagan warned us all that 'government is the enemy,' and private enterprise was always more efficient than government bureaucracy, he was lying.

Privatization of all government functions, from land management to health insurance to national 'defense' - and the accompanying middle man profit slice - was always the patronage-centric, actual, philosophy of the GOP.

And here are the rotten fruits of that effort, laid clear for all to see.

Several postings indicate 'Private Mercenary Forces (like Blackwater) have never existed before.' People -- pick up a history book! In the 19th and early 20th Century they were called 'Pinkertons' and they killed people on behalf of private corporations to prevent union activity that gave us the 40 hour work week, the weekend, the end of child labor and other 'socialist' innovations. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was established in 1850, rose to fame preventing an assasination attempt on President Lincoln. It is of interest that the Pinkertons are associated with the American Civil War which should also be remembered as the beginning of the Military Industrial (Congressional) Complex. The State of Ohio banned the Pinkertons because they were such a powerful mercenary force.

It is likely the rise of Blackwater and others of its type is a foretaste of what is to come for labor in this country as more and more formerly middle class americans and working class americans understand the legalized theft that has swept though this country raising up the few while casting the vast majority into the dump. One example: average worker annual wages have fallen $2500 over the last six years. Blackwater will be needed to supress the peasants.

flat footed, backwater, Cannon Fodder Dupe's (GI) pay.........<$24000/yr

Blackwater, shoot first ask questions later C Ya, Mercenary....$80-120k/yr

Day of reckoning for this criminal admin and thier henchmen.....PRICELESS!!!

Ex-military Blackwater personnel have been quoted saying "When you serve in the military in Iraq, all you have to do is gain weight and fail the physical, then you go to work for Blackwater, stay in Iraq, and make real money." Blackwater "security" make up to $1,000 per day, and most of their people are paid more than US Army generals with 30 years of service! This is not the best use of taxpayer money. As our overworked, underpaid military are subject to mulitiple tours, WHO BETTER TO RECRUIT TO HELP OUR OUR GUYS, OR REPLACE THEM -- BLACKWATER GUYS, ALREADY TRAINED BY OUR MILITARY, OF COURSE. This would ensure that they play by the rules, and save the taxpayers a ton of money.

It was reported that the US military has seized the AP tapes of the supposed Blackwater "rescue" of the Polish ambassador. The reason was that, after the attack, the area had been secured for several hours by our highly effective military. Blackwater helicopters and personnel appeared on the scene after everthing was safe, for a PHOTO-OP! The tapes have been previously circulated to our ever-subservient media for viewing by the sheeple, to convince them that Blackwater is a bargain.

What are these people of priviledge going to do when all the nations resorces are in their hands and there is nothing left to dibby -up.I wonder if they will start eating their own?

I have never been able to reconcile how the military and private armies can operate in the same theatre. The miltary are very concious and supportive of the need to look out for and protect each other. After all, they are there for a purpose, and to complete a mission.
On the other hand, a mercenary force is motivated by the danger and high level of compensation. In order for the gravy train to keep rolling, it is in their best interest for the conflict to continue as long as possible. I would not be surprised that when th truth comes out, we will find that some of them have been involved with the death squads, to build and perpetuate the conflict. They're motivating force is after all, the almighty dollar.

Blackwater officals are completely under the influence of our excutiive branch in such a disorgainzed and pathetic sort of justicie they should all go directly to jail and not pass go or collect $200.


Blackwater, Halliburton, etc. need to be ejected from the game. Condi is running around trying to solve all the world's problems. She needs to start by running the State Department in a professional way and stop all mercenary funding instantly. If our 'diplomats' need to leave the mortar-blasted green zone for any reason, perhaps they should head for Darfur or Zimbabwe on their own money and try to make a genuine contribution against poverty.

Don't the Clinton's have ties to this company through one of their fund raisers?

Remember Bill promised ' the most ethical administration is US history' and became the Harding and Nixon administration within weeks.

Don't expect much to change


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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