Sat, Nov 01, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Bush's pals got Iraq contracts, study says

THE GUARDIAN , WASHINGTON

Major donors to US President George W. Bush's election campaigns were the main beneficiaries of an US$8 billion bonanza in government contracts for the rebuilding of Iraq, an investigation published on Thursday said.

In the most comprehensive survey to date of the postwar financial dispensations for Afghanistan and Iraq, the Center for Public Integrity tracked more than 70 US firms and contractors involved in reconstruction, exposing their connections to figures in various administrations, Congress and the Pentagon.

According to the center's report, more than half of the companies -- and nearly every one of the top 10 contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq -- had close ties to Washington's political establishment or to the Pentagon. Company executives had worked in previous administrations -- Democratic as well as Republican -- and cultivated privileged connections with their old workplaces.

The study found a clear tilt toward firms with Republican connections -- especially among the top 10 list of beneficiaries from the postwar era.

Since 1990, the companies and their employees have donated US$49 million to national political campaigns. Republican party committees received US$12.7 million, the report says, compared with US$7.1 million for the Democrats.

Bush alone got US$500,000, more than any other candidate since 1990. The biggest postwar windfall by far -- US$2.3 billion -- went to Kellogg, Brown & Root, or KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, the defense contractor under the stewardship of Dick Cheney until he was chosen by Bush as his running mate.

Connections to the Bush administration helped even with the dispensation of relatively low-profile projects, such as the US$38 million contract awarded to Science Applications International Corp for development of representative government and free media in Iraq.

The firm was associated until recently with David Kay, the expert leading Washington's hunt for former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's elusive arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Kay left his post as vice-president in October last year, six months before the war.

Thursday's study followed more than six months of investigation in which researchers from the center filed 73 petitions with the Pentagon, the State Department and the US agency for international development for information about contracts.

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