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Report Ties Iraq, Afghan Contracts to Cronyism

October 31, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Companies that were awarded $8 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan have been major campaign donors to President Bush, and their executives have had important political and military connections, according to a study released Thursday.

The study of more than 70 U.S. companies and individual contractors turned up more than $500,000 in donations to the president's 2000 campaign.

The report was released by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based research organization that produces investigative articles on special interests and ethics in government. Its staff includes journalists and researchers.

The center concluded that most of the 10 largest contracts went to companies that employed former high-ranking government officials, or executives with close ties to members of Congress and even the agencies awarding their contracts.

Major contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan were awarded by the Bush administration without competitive bids, because agencies said competition would have taken too much time to meet urgent needs.

J. Edward Fox, an assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, took issue with aspects of the report.

He said: "The USAID inspector general's review of all Iraq contracts ... has shown that all Iraq contracts to date have been done in compliance" with federal regulations.

The top contract recipient was the Halliburton subsidiary KBR, with more than $2.3 billion awarded to support the U.S. military and restore Iraq's oil industry.

Halliburton's no-bid contract for work in Iraq was extended this week.

The company was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney before he resigned to run with Bush in 2000. His office has said he has no current ties to the Houston-based company.

Bechtel was second with a $1-billion capital construction contract.

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