Iraq Contract Cronyism

More than 70 U.S. companies and individuals have won up to $8 billion in contracts for work in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two years, according to a study released in October by the Center for Public Integrity.

Those companies donated more money to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush--a little over $500,000--than to any other politician over the last dozen years, the report found.

Kellogg, Brown & Root, the subsidiary of Halliburton, which Vice President Dick Cheney led prior to being chosen as Bush's running mate in August 2000, was the top recipient of federal contracts for the two countries, with more than $2.3 billion awarded to the company. Bechtel Group, a major government contractor with similarly high-ranking ties, was second at around $1.03 billion.

However, dozens of lower-profile, but well-connected, companies shared in the reconstruction bounty. Their tasks ranged from rebuilding Iraq's government, police, military and media to providing translators for use in interrogations and psychological operations. There are even contractors to evaluate the contractors.

The report found that nearly all of the 10 largest contracts awarded for Iraq and Afghanistan went to firms employing former high-ranking government officials or individuals with close ties to federal agencies or Congress.

The Center's six-month investigation provides the most comprehensive list to date of U.S. contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on the findings, it did not appear that any one government agency knew the total number of contractors or what they were doing. Congressional sources said they hoped such a full picture would emerge from the General Accounting Office, which has begun investigating the postwar contracting process amid allegations of fraud and cronyism.

© Multinational Monitor November 2003