Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?
Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working-class people. Their campaign has gained bipartisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009, which has now passed the House and Senate. Yet the bill was written so broadly that, as Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post has pointed out, it could "plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex."
The legislation applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or others affiliated with a group charged with any of the above.
According to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform, this legislation could potentially eliminate a virtual Who's Who of defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and KBR and other corporations like AT&T, FedEx and Dell.
Perhaps one of the most jarring comparisons here is the fact that ACORN is being attacked. Yet the Obama administration continues to contract with Blackwater, the Bush administration's favorite mercenary company, which is headed by Erik Prince. Prince was a major donor to Republican causes and campaigns, including those of some of the Defund ACORN bill's sponsors, like Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the key figures hunting down Van Jones. A former employee recently described Prince as a man who "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe" and said that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
Blackwater has a $217 million security contract through the State Department in Iraq--a contract just extended indefinitely by the Obama administration. It also holds a $210 million State Department "security" contract in Afghanistan, running through 2011 and another multimillion-dollar contract with the Defense Department for "training" in Kabul. This is on top of Blackwater's clandestine work for the CIA, including continuing work on the drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This also does not take into account Blackwater's lucrative domestic work training law enforcement and military forces in the United States at the company's compounds in North Carolina, California and Illinois, nor the private "security" work it does for entities like the International Republican Institute, nor the work it does in training "faith-based organizations." Nor does it include the contracts doled out to Prince's private CIA, Total Intelligence Solutions, which works for foreign governments and Fortune 500 corporations.
Then there is this fact: Blackwater was paid more than $73 million for federally funded, no-bid security contracts with the Department of Homeland Security in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, billing taxpayers $950 per man per day, a spending decision the Bush administration called "the best value to the government." In the wake of the hurricane ACORN, meanwhile, only helped poor people who were suffering as a result of the government's total failure to respond.
A recent federal audit of Blackwater, compiled by the State Department and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, suggests the company may have to repay some $55 million to the government for allegedly failing to meet the terms of just one federal contract in Iraq--which, it is important to note, is $2 million more than the total amount allotted by the government to ACORN over the past fifteen years. (The company also cannot account for one federally funded "deep fat fryer" in Iraq, according to the audit.)
Since 2003 Blackwater has raked in well over $1 billion in security contracts alone--all of which were kicked off by a no-bid contract to guard former Coalitional Provisional Authority head Paul Bremer. Let's also remember that Blackwater was estimated in Congressional hearings in 2007 to earn some 90 percent of its revenue from the government. Prince refused to disclose his salary but said it was more than $1 million. Blackwater has been or is being investigated by Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Justice Department and the IRS, among other agencies, for a range of issues from arms smuggling to manslaughter to tax evasion. One of its operatives pleaded guilty to killing an innocent, unarmed Iraqi civilian, while five others have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges stemming from the 2007 Nisour Square massacre, during which seventeen Iraqi civilians were gunned down. The company is also facing a slew of civil lawsuits alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killings in Iraq.
Here is a question for the Democratic lawmakers that voted in support of the Defund ACORN Act: how do you justify making this a major league legislative priority while Blackwater continues to be armed and dangerous around the globe on the US government payroll? Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?