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Bipartisan Mercs?: Blackwater Hires Powerful Democratic Lobbyist | The Nation

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Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill

Dispatches on wars, the military-industrial complex and national security.

Bipartisan Mercs?: Blackwater Hires Powerful Democratic Lobbyist

According to federal lobbying records reviewed by The Nation, in the first quarter of 2010, Blackwater has spent more than $500,000 for the services of Stuart Eizenstat, a well-connected Democratic lobbyist who served in the Clinton and Carter Administrations. Eizenstat, who held various positions within the Clinton administration from 1993-2001, including US Ambassador to the European Union and Undersecretary of State, heads the international practice for the power-house law and lobbying firm Covington and Burling. "His work at Covington focuses on resolving international trade problems and business disputes with the US and foreign governments, and international business transactions and regulations on behalf of US companies and others around the world," according to Eizenstat's bio on the Covington web page.

Before being named Attorney General, Eric Holder served as a partner at Covington & Burling for eight years.

According to lobbying records filed with the US Senate, Eizenstat was registered as a lobbyist by Blackwater's newly rebranded Xe Services on February 13, 2010. According to the records, Blackwater's expenditures on Eizenstat's services in early 2010--$530,000-- represent the single greatest sum spent on lobbying by Blackwater in any quarter since the company's founding in 1997-98. According to the lobbying records, Eizenstat lobbied the US Senate and House of Representatives on "government contracts." Blackwater continues to play a major role in the US war in Afghanistan under President Barack Obama. The company trains Afghan forces, protects Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other top US officials, works for the CIA and the Department of Defense.

Just days after Eizenstat's was hired as a lobbyist for Blackwater, the company faced an in-depth investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee into whether Blackwater set up a shell company to win contracts in Afghanistan under the auspices of a previously non-existent company, Paravant, and allegations the company had illicitly signed out hundreds of automatic weapons in Afghanistan, including under the name of South Park character Eric Cartman. Sen. Carl Levin, the chair of the committee, wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder and Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for an investigation into Blackwater's activities in Afghanistan.

Blackwater is also in fierce competition with the private security giant DynCorp for an ultra-lucrative police training contract in Afghanistan. Blackwater appeared to be the hands-down favorite to win the $1 billion contract until DynCorp filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office, alleging it had been unfairly excluded from bidding. The GAO ultimately sided with DynCorp in March and opened the bidding process. The contract has yet to be awarded.

In another development, defense contracting giant Raytheon--which subcontracted Afghanistan work to Blackwater/Paravant--reportedly spent more than $1.5 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2010. The company lobbied Congress, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

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