Viewpoint: Bushes grab the gold from Iraq

Ever wonder who is growing fat in the wallet from the Iraq war? Here’s a hint, a quote from The Economist magazine: “George Bush’s Washington is a study in family influence.”

What does that mean? We can start with Dubya’s younger brother, Neil M. Bush, of the savings and loan scandal fame. Neil is in the midst of a messy and bitter divorce, which has disclosed some interesting facts in the court documents.

It seems Neil picked up a $60,000-a-year contract with New Bridge Strategies, a new Washington-based company that helps to generate contracts for companies wanting a piece of the reconstruction pie in Iraq. The company has several links to the White House, but Neil is one of the most important.

Free-lance writer Margie Burns learned brother Neil also draws a salary of $60,000 a year from Crest Investment Corp., based in Houston. In fact, Neil is a co-chairman, but reportedly has little to do. At least one member of the management team has invested in Neil’s educational software company called Ignite!-Learning. Burns said the two companies did not respond to her questions about their arrangements with Neil.

Bush’s company is one of those trying to get contracts for Iraqi education services. Neil has enjoyed Secret Service protection provided by the taxpayers while he traveled to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, and Japan, stirring interest in his software.

Court papers in the divorce also revealed young Bush has a $400,000-a-year contract as a consultant to Grace Semiconductor, a Chinese-Taiwanese computer chip maker.

Then, of course, there’s old “Bucky” Bush, William H.T. Bush, that is, down in St. Louis. He’s Dubya’s uncle. “Bucky” is involved in a li’l ol’ company called Engineered Support Systems (ESS); he joined the board of directors in March 2000.

And guess what, he was one of the Bush “Pioneers,” individuals who raised and contributed more than $100,000 for his nephew’s campaign for the White House.

Some people just seem to have the golden touch, and W.H. Bush surely is one of them. It just happens that his company deals in light and heavy military support equipment, electronics and automation systems. The company claims most of its business is with the federal government—what a surprise!

Equally unsurprising is the fact that right after the election in 2000 and after the attacks of 9/11, the company’s contracts, revenues and stock value all have escalated.

Burns looked at some databases maintained by the Department of Defense (DOD). She found they list Engineered Support Systems as 54th among the top 100 contractors servicing the agency in 2001. The previous year the company had been ranked at 62nd. In 2001, the DOD said, “Bucky’s” company won more than $297 million in military contracts, including $120.5 million from the Army.

ESS got two new subsidiaries in 2002 and saw its net revenue zip up to $289 million in the first nine months and peak at year’s end at a whopping $408 million. Last year, the company was 93rd among the top 100 contractors with $273.5 million in contracts. One of its subsidiaries, Radian, Inc., nailed down $109.2 million in contracts.

In January 2003, ESS received a $6.1 million order from the U.S. Air Force for something called “revetment kits,” which turns out to be aircraft armor for use in the Mideast. Company chairman Michael Shanahan said the company had received $15.8 million under that contract, which totals $24 million.

That same month, the Air Force ordered another $2.2 million worth of power units from subsidiary Radian, Inc. Shanahan said ESS received $46.7 million in Air Force contracts in eight months. In March of last year, the Air Force signed a $67 million contract for cargo-loader transporters and another $8 million for support. The Navy bought $2.1 million worth of parts from ESS in January and spent an additional $14.7 million in May for assault ships.

But the U.S. Army has been the company’s biggest customer. The Army spent $75 million with the firm in January; $36.4 million in March; and another $7 million in April. Burns said ESS declined to comment on all this business.

But “Bucky” just can’t lose. He also makes a product for dealing with weapons of mass destruction, called a Field Deployable Environmental Control Unit—do tell! It pleased the military so much that the Air Force ordered $19.7 million worth of these devices and the Marines wanted $2 million worth. The leathernecks also wanted nuclear, biological and chemical kits.

All of this was in preparation for finding the massive arsenals of WMDs held by Saddam Hussein. In his State of the Union speech, G.W. declared Saddam had biological and chemical weapons and was trying to build nuclear weapons.

In March, the Army took the president at his word and jumped right in with an order for $19 million to provide 52 of ESS’s Chemical, Biological Protected Shelter systems, called CBPS. That made the Army’s total order for these systems 204 units.

Another long string of contracts for various ESS products include satellite terminals, dubbed “Time Division Multiple Access” or TDMA. All of this was a wonderful bit of good fortune for company directors. Bucky pulled down $2,500 a month in consulting fees in 2002 and also had options to buy thousands of shares of stock at $28.42 per share. The stock is trading now at $62.50 a share. In January, Bucky had 33,750 shares along with his personal portion of the 3.3 million shares owned jointly by all officers and directors of the company. Bush also got another $125,000 in fees.

Bucky also is a trustee for Lord Abbott, an investment firm and one of Halliburton’s top 10 mutual fund holders. We’ve all heard about the enormous contracts Halliburton obtained for reconstruction work in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney has between $18 million and $87 million invested in Halliburton through Vanguard, another top 10 holder of Halliburton stock.

Next we come to Marvin Bush, Dubya’s youngest brother. Marvin has an interest in several federal contracts. He’s also an adviser at HCC Insurance, formerly known as Houston Casualty Co., a major insurance carrier for the World Trade Center. Marvin doesn’t answer questions, either.

To quote Burns: “Never before in our country’s history has a president started a war from which his own relatives profited. Nor has any executive branch so zealously selected its own people to replace the usual watchdogs.”

Can you say “profiteering”?

Source: The Washington Spectator, Feb. 1, 2004

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