All in the (Profiteering) First Family

Close relatives of President George W. Bush continue to benefit financially from the Iraq invasion, as revealed by sources including regulatory filings.

St. Louis-based Engineered Support Systems Inc. (EASI), where William H.T. Bush, an uncle of George W. Bush, joined the board of directors in 2000, is a major military contractor. Following the 2000 election and 9/11, the company, which declined to comment for this article, has seen its federal contracts, revenues, and stock price increase.

Engineered Support Systems receives contracts from all branches of the military. The Defense Department listed EASI in its top 100 contractors in 2001, with $330 million in contracts; and in 2002, with $380 million in contracts. Estimates for 2003 are over $380 million.

As luck would have it, company products include "Field Deployable Environmental Control Units" (FDECUs) to deal with weapons of mass destruction. On Jan. 17, 2003, the company announced orders from the Air Force and the Marines for these units, complete with Nuclear Biological Chemical Kits, in preparation for secret arsenals of WMDs hidden, the White House insisted, by Saddam Hussein.

On Jan. 22, 2003, President Bush returned to St. Louis, which is also home base for his cousin George Herbert Walker III, now US ambassador to Hungary, to deliver one of his several speeches there. Bush delivered the famous State of the Union address linking Saddam's Iraq to WMDs and illicit nuclear material on Jan. 28.

In March 2003, the company announced an Army order for its "Chemical Biological Protected Shelter" (CBPS) systems, bringing Army orders for this product to a total of 204 units. On March 25, the Bush administration requested supplemental funding from Congress "to cover military operations, relief and reconstruction activities in Iraq, and ongoing operations in the global war on terrorism."

On May 1, Engineered Support Systems announced the acquisition of its Maryland subsidiary, TAMSCO, the day President Bush made his televised flight-suit appearance to announce "mission accomplished" in Iraq. The following week, TAMSCO announced that it had begun technology support for US Army logistics operations in the Middle East, stating that this tech support began linking the US, Kuwait and Germany in February 2003.

The White House has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

The stock adviser service VectorVest, which puts out a daily list of 7500 American stocks ranked by value, safety and timing, has more than once ranked EASI stock first. Directors of the company including Bush's uncle received monthly consulting fees and options to buy stock at $28.42 per share. Company stock, which increased by 53% in two weeks after 9/11 and then tripled, now trades at $53. In January 2003, William Bush owned 33,750 shares. In January 2004, he owned 56,251 shares. Directors also own stock as a group.

This company track record is only part of a larger pattern.

Former president George H.W. Bush resigned in fall 2003 from the giant Carlyle Group, heavily into the military and security sectors, which received $677 million in contracts in 2002 and $2.1 billion in contracts in 2003. Carlyle recently sold $335 million in stock from its chief military subsidiary.

Neil M. Bush, a younger brother of George W. Bush, has obtained a $60,000-per-year contract from a principal in D.C.-based New Bridge Strategies, a private firm set up to generate contracts in Iraq.

A controversial $327 million contract awarded in January by the US Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq potentially benefited Winston Partners, the private investment firm of Marvin P. Bush. The contract, to equip the Iraqi armed forces and Civil Defense Corps, went to Nour USA, a Virginia company formed last May, which also received an $80 million CPA contract in July. The contract has now been canceled, and the CPA has re-opened the competition. Nour USA is under scrutiny for its ties to Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.

The new company, or consortium, also has ties to Bush family interests. The Nour group claims ties to several companies backed or owned by Winston Partners: Hobart West, a Fortune 500 personnel-services company; LogoTel, a clothing company; and Axolotl, a computer-services company in medical care.

Other companies in Winston Partners' portfolio, including AMSEC, where Bush's partner, L. Scott Andrews, sits on the board of directors, also benefit from federal contracts. The new CEO of AMSEC, Michael Braham, formerly worked for L. Paul Bremer, now head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

These business links suggest that Chalabi, a London-based Iraqi exile, has ties to the White House along with his known ties to Vice President Cheney and the Pentagon. At a House Government Reform Committee hearing on Iraq contracts on March 11, some congressmen began to raise questions about private connections behind some of the contracts. However, committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., cut off the questions before witnesses could answer.

It looks more than ever as though Bush planned all along to invade Iraq, but whatever his motives, it is certain that the war benefits his own family.

Margie Burns, a native Texan, writes from Cheverly, Md. Email An earlier version of this appeared in the Prince George's County (Md.) Journal.

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