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BeatleBoot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Oct-05-07 09:12 PM
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Blackwater, DeVos Connection
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Betsy DeVos (maiden name: Prince), Dick's wife, is brother of Blackwater owner....


http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/2007100...

Security boss: I didn't use DeVos clout for Iraq job

WASHINGTON -- Blackwater USA owner Erik Prince downplayed his wealthy Michigan family's Republican roots as an explanation for the controversial security company's success, telling a congressional panel Tuesday that he considers the firm nonpartisan despite his family's strong GOP pedigree.

Prince, a Holland native, said neither he nor anyone in his family approached the White House or the former Republican majority in Congress for help to get a contract for his company's services in Iraq.

His firm and its employees -- hired by the State Department to protect diplomats and others -- are under scrutiny for allegations they killed Iraqi citizens with little accountability or review of their actions.

Prince, 38, is the son of the late Edgar Prince, a wealthy industrialist, and the brother of Betsy DeVos, former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of Dick DeVos, whose family cofounded Amway. DeVos lost the governor's race to Democrat Jennifer Granholm last year.

A report prepared by the Democratic majority on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee before Prince's testimony noted his sister's and brother-in-law's GOP links; the fact that Prince was a White House intern for President George W. Bush's father, and Prince's $225,000 in political contributions, mainly to Republican causes.

"Yes, I've given individual political contributions. I've done that since I was in college and I did that when I was in the military, and I will probably continue doing that going forward," said Prince, a former Navy SEAL, an elite special-operations force. "I didn't give that up when I became a military contractor.

"I don't think it's germane to today," Prince added, speaking of his family connections.

Blackwater, begun as a training facility in North Carolina in 1997 after Prince left the SEALs, has won about $1 billion in federal government contracts since 2001 -- more than three-quarters of that in the last two years.
In recent weeks, the company and its approximately 1,000 contractors in Iraq have come under scrutiny for a Sept. 16 incident in which 11 Iraqis were killed.

With the FBI saying Monday that it is investigating that incident, committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California said the members would not discuss that specifically with Prince at Tuesday's hearing. But they talked about other allegations, including an incident last year in which a drunken Blackwater employee was accused of killing a guard of the Iraqi vice president.

Prince said the employee was fired and apparently lost bonuses due him, but the worker was taken back to the United States instead of facing an Iraqi arrest.

"We can't flog him. We can't incarcerate him. That's up to the Justice Department," said Prince.

He said he thinks the company has performed well and disagreed with assertions from Democratic critics that his workers "acted like cowboys."

He also noted that although he personally "made more than $1 million" in 2006, he is "not a financially driven guy."
Prince said he welcomes any review into the Sept. 16 incident. In a prepared statement, he said he believes Blackwater's personnel "have been the subject of negative and baseless allegations reported as truth."

He also noted the company's record, saying thousands of missions have been completed in Iraq without one of Blackwater's security details failing to protect its client. And he said that in 2006, weapons were discharged in less than 1% of its 6,500 diplomatic missions.

"We're not a mercenary company," he said.

Questions also were raised about the cost of Blackwater's forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, with several Democratic members of the committee saying military personnel could do the duties for less.

Prince disputed that assertion but said he hoped Congress would do a cost-benefit analysis to back up his claims that the government was getting more by employing his company.

"If the government doesn't want us to do this," he added, "we'll go do something else."


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