Wed, Oct 01, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Bush family friends ready to invest

AP , WASHINGTON

A company that was created to help clients take advantage of business opportunities in Iraq is made up of businessmen associated to US President George W. Bush, his family and his administration.

New Bridge Strategies, on its Web site, says it will ``seek to expedite the creation of free and fair markets and new economic growth in Iraq, consistent with the policies of the Bush administration.''

The firm is headed by Joe Allbaugh, Bush's campaign manager in 2000 and director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency until March. Other directors include Edward Rogers Jr., vice chairman, and Lanny Griffith. Both were assistants to the first president George Bush and now are closely linked to the White House.

New Bridge President John Howland said in a story on The New York Times' Web site that the company did not intend to seek any US government contracts itself, but might be a middleman to advise other companies that seek taxpayer-financed business. The main focus would be to advise companies that seek opportunities in the private sector in Iraq, including licenses to market products there.

The company's existence was first reported in The Hill, a newspaper that covers Congress.

Howland said the company was not trying to promote its political connections. He said that although Allbaugh, for example, had spent most of his career ``in the political arena, there's a lot of cross-pollination between that world and the one that exists in Iraq today.''

Bush is seeking congressional approval for US$20.3 billion to rebuild Iraq, part of an US$87 billion package for military and other needs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As part of the administration's postwar work in Iraq, the government has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts to American businesses.

Administration officials have said all future contracts will be issued only as a result of competitive bidding.

New Bridge Strategies was created in May and recently began full-fledged operations, including opening an office in Iraq, the Times said.

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