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Bush Got 0,000 From Companies

by By EDMUND L. ANDREWS Saturday, Nov. 01, 2003 at 4:34 AM

Bush Got 0,000 From Companies That Got Contracts, Study Finds

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS and ELIZABETH BECKER

Published: October 31, 2003

ASHINGTON, Oct. 30 — Executives, employees and political action committees of the 70 companies that received government contracts for work in either Iraq or Afghanistan contributed slightly more than 0,000 to President Bush's 2000 election campaign, according to a comprehensive study of the contracts released on Tuesday.

The overwhelming majority of government contracts for billions of dollars of reconstruction work in Iraq and Afghanistan went to companies run by executives who were heavy political contributors to both political parties.

Though the employees contributed to both parties, their giving favored Republicans by a two-to-one margin. And they gave more money to Mr. Bush than any other politician in the last 12 years.

Among the biggest contributions to Mr. Bush's election and re-election efforts were those from executives and employees of Dell Computer at 3,000; of Bearing Point, a business consulting firm, at 9,000; of General Electric at ,000 and of Halliburton Inc. at ,000, according to the report.

Nine of the 10 biggest contractors — the biggest of which were Bechtel Corporation and Halliburton, either employed former senior government officials or had close ties to government agencies and to Congress.

Prepared by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit research group, the report said the contractors' executives and employees had contributed million to political candidates and parties since 1990.

The new report is the first comprehensive independent study of companies involved in Iraqi reconstruction, and it provides evidence that the process for handing out big contracts has often been secretive, chaotic and favorable to companies with good political contacts.

The report is the result of a six-month investigation, which included obtaining information on 70 contracts through the Freedom of Information Act.

The report confirms that many if not most of the contracts handed out for work in Iraq were awarded through a process that was inscrutable to outsiders and often without competitive bidding.

One consultant, given a four-month contract to advise Iraqi government agencies, was the husband of Carol Haave, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations. A Pentagon spokesman said that Ms. Haave did not see this as a conflict of interest, according to Bloomberg News.

The State Department spokesman, Richard A. Boucher, told reporters on Thursday that "the reason that these companies get the contracts has nothing to do with who may have worked there before."

He added: "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts."

One of the report's most basic conclusions is that neither the Pentagon nor the State Department or the Agency for International Development were eager to provide comprehensive or accurate information about contracts that total about billion over the past two years.

Ellen Yount, the spokeswoman for the Agency for International Development, disputed that claim and said her office had cooperated with the center and that requests for proposals for Iraq contracts had been publicly available on the agency's Web site for more than six months. "I found the report sloppy and inaccurate in many instances," she said.

Political questions have dogged the administration over the awarding of lucrative contracts since the war began. Initially, administration officials restricted bidding to a select group of companies and expedited the awarding of the contracts, saying that they needed to be prepared to rebuild the country as soon as the war ended.

Congress is set to approve an additional billion for reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan this week, much of it going to these companies.

Although the size of the initial contracts was relatively small, the winning companies gained a huge advantage over competitors with an early presence in Iraq.

One case examined by Congress was the Army Corps of Engineers' awarding of a contract without competition to Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, to fight oil well fires in Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000. The White House said it had no involvement in that or any other of the contracts that were awarded for reconstruction.

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