Erik Prince, chairman of Blackwater, played (and paid) the Washington game to win millions in government contracts and keep oversight on the lax side. He'll play the game again to keep them in the face of allegations over Blackwater's conduct in Iraq. Hiring a stable of lobbyists, including one with ties to Jack Abramoff, to play Appropriations hardball, Prince isn't letting a little thing like a congressional hearing get in the way of business.
Prince has written his share of checks in the last few elections cycles. The Center for Responsive Politics credits him with upwards of $200K in donations. And as we've seen before, those donation have paid their dividends over the course of this congressional inquiry into Blackwater.
Getting through to Congress -- and the purse strings they control - ain't free. So, when you've got a cloud of doubt hanging over your operation and hefty contracts to shore up you have to lay out top-dollar for the best access money can buy:
One of Blackwater’s Washington lawyers is Beth Nolan, who served as White House counsel for the last two years of the Clinton administration. (Ms. Nolan is leaving private practice at the end of November to become general counsel at George Washington University.) Another is Stephen M. Ryan, a top white-collar defense lawyer and former general counsel of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
The company’s chief Washington lobbyist is Paul Behrends, who worked at the now-defunct Alexander Strategy Group, a Republican firm with close ties to the jailed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Mr. Behrends, who now works at C & M Capitolink, a Washington lobbying firm, declined to discuss his work for Blackwater, which has paid his company $300,000 since last year.
Insert your own "mercenary" jokes here.
Add in a PR firm and that generous campaign giving history and you've got a nice strategy for making those irritating questions about Blackwater's conduct fade, fade away. So long as money buys leverage in Washington, public interest will be banished to the back seat.