On October 2, 2007 Erik Prince (the head of Blackwater USA) testified before Congress. In one exchange, he discussed with Ohio Representative (and presidential candidate) Dennis Kucinich how the firm went about receiving funding for its activities in Iraq (which, as of mid-September, seem to include multiple incidents of gunning down Iraqi civilians in cold blood).
As I was unable to find a transcript of the questioning, I have made one myself, for easily cut-and-paste quoting and Google searchability. I still highly recommend watching the video courtesy of Crooks and Liars, as I am unable at this time to reproduce the chart in this video (if anyone can do a screen capture for me or get a JPG from the Kucinich team, I would highly appreciate it).
Also, if anyone has a transcript or video of Kucinich’s opening remarks, I would be happy to include those here.
A pro-Blackwater opinion on these events is available at this blog. Their version of events can be confirmed or denied through the transcript below or in the video.
October 2, 2007
Henry Waxman: The chair recognizes Mr. Kucinich.
Dennis Kucinich: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. In my opening remarks, I pointed out that, of course, privatized private contractors have a vested interest in keeping the war going. The longer the war goes on, the more money they make. I want to, for my time here, explore the questions regarding how Blackwater got its contracts. Mr. Prince, your company has undergone staggering growth just over the past few years. If the committee’s attention could be directed to the chart, in 2000 your company was bringing in only about $200,000 in government contracts but since then according to the committee you’ve skyrocketed to something in the nature of a billion dollars in government contracts. The real increase in Blackwater’s contracts began with the Iraq War. In fact, if you look at the chart, you can see how from 2004 on, the amount of taxpayer dollars Blackwater was awarded by the administration began to go through the roof. From about $48 million in 2004 to $350 million in 2005 to over $500 million last year . This is really an unprecedented rate of increase. I want to understand how this happens. We’ve been informed that one of your first contracts in Iraq was for the Coalition Provisional Authority [CPA]. Ambassador Paul Bremer awarded you a contract to protect officials and dignitaries. That was at the end of 2003, towards the end of 2003 — it may have been in August. Is that right, sir?
Erik Prince: I believe it happened right after the UN facility in Baghdad was blown up by a large truck bomb. Yes sir, they [???] for the U.S. officials.
DK: That contract was no-bid, is that right, sir?
EP: It was off the GSA [General Services Administration] schedule.
DK: Can you tell us how you got this no-bid contract?
EP: Off the GSA schedule is considered a bid contract, sir. GSA schedule is a pre-bid program kind of like a catalog of services you put out. Like buying something from the Sears catalog.
DK: Did you talk to anyone in the White House about the contract?
EP: No, sir.
DK: Did you talk to anyone in the Congress about the contract?
EP: No, sir.
DK: Did anyone, to your knowledge, connected with Blackwater talk to anyone in either the White House or the Congress about the contract?
EP: Not to my knowledge, no.
DK: Did anyone in the DeVos family talk to anyone in the White House or the Congress about the contract? [Wikipedia: “Prince is the brother of Betsy DeVos, a former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and wife of former Alticor (Amway) president and Gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos, son of Richard DeVos, Sr. (listed by Forbes in 2007 as one of the world’s richest men, with a net worth of $2.4 billion).”]
EP: No. (laughs)
DK: As a taxpayer, do you think it’s proper that no other companies were allowed to bid?
EP: That I’m not aware of, sir. It’s a requirement government officials had, they came to us, asked if it could be fulfilled. I don’t know what other companies they went to as well. I’m not aware of that.
DK: In 2004 the State Department awarded Blackwater a $332 million task order under its diplomatic protection contract. Are you familiar with that?
EP: I’m familiar with — about the amount. I know that we transitioned over to working for the State Department from the CPA. I’m not sure exactly when that happened, but —
DK: Thank you, sir. According to Federal Contacting Database, you didn’t have to compete for that one either. Is that correct?
EP: Again, I believe they [???] that off the GSA schedule, which is an approved contracting pre-bid method.
DK: And who at the State Department were you dealing with in order to get this contract?
EP: I don’t know. It was under the diplomat security service. That’s the folks at State we were working for.
DK: Now, SIGIR [the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction] reported that this was a no-bid contract. Was SIGIR incorrect? It was a no-bid contract?
EP: I’m not sure how they’re defining “bid” or “no-bid”, but my understanding is we use pricing off the GSA schedule. And I believe that’s regarded as a biddable contract.
HW: Will the gentleman yield for me?
DK: I’ll yield to the chair.
HW: It’s on the GSA schedule. Did they come to you, did you put your, offer your services, did you go to them? How did that get on the GSA schedule?
EP: Most companies in our kind of work have a GSA schedule. We have a GSA schedule for target systems. We have a GSA schedule for —
HW: So you offered services, and you’re on the list of services for purchase?
EP: Yes, sir.
HW: And you don’t know if anyone else was on the list for these kind of services?
EP: Oh, I’m sure there are lots of companies that are —
HW: Did you go to anyone else, or did anyone else in the government go to you to ask you to do the work?
EP: I don’t know, sir.
HW: Did they ask you to see if you could put together this operation? And then they put you on the schedule?
EP: I would say we were present in the country already, we already had a significant presence with the CPA under a bid contract. I believe that contract was called “Security Services Iraq”. So we had a large presence of static guards and [???] kind of work for them so I think they kind of wanted to transition from DOD [Department of Defense] work to Department of State work.
Hw: Mr. Shay —