Posted on Tue, Sep. 30, 2003
New firm with Bush ties consults on Iraq business
WASHINGTON - A company that was created to help clients take advantage of business opportunities in Iraq is made up of businessmen associated with President Bush, his family and his administration.
The connections drew criticism Tuesday from Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who called for an independent oversight board to ensure that Iraq reconstruction money is doled out fairly.
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 Bush and now are closely linked to the White House.
"This is an administration of the insiders, by the insiders and for the insiders. This is just further evidence of it," Edwards, a senator from North Carolina, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "Vice President Cheney's Halliburton has more than billion in Iraq reconstruction contracts and we now find out that Bush's campaign manager, Joe Allbaugh, who just left government, has set up a business to procure business contracts on Iraq."
New Bridge President John Howland said in a story published in Tuesday's editions of The New York Times that the company did not intend to seek any U.S. 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 .3 billion to rebuild Iraq, part of an 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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New Bridge Strategies: http://www.newbridgestrategies.com