Where Is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch-hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working class people. This campaign now unfortunately has gained bi-partisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009 which has now passed the House and Senate. As Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has pointed out, the legislation "could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex:"

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

According to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform, this legislation could potentially eliminate a virtual Who’s Who of war contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and KBR to other corporations such as AT&T, FedEx and Dell.

Perhaps one of the most jarring comparisons here is the fact that ACORN is now being attacked while the Obama administration continues to contract with Blackwater, the favorite mercenary company of the Bush administration, which is headed by Erik Prince, who was a major donor to Republican causes and campaigns, including those of some of the Defund ACORN bill’s sponsors, including Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the key figures in hunting down Van Jones. Prince, of course, was recently described by a former employee as a man who "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince’s companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

At present Blackwater has a $217 million security contract through the State Department in Iraq which was just extended by the Obama administration indefinitely. It holds a $210 million State Department "security" contract in Afghanistan that runs through 2011 and another multi-million dollar contract with the Defense Department for "training" in Kabul. All of this is on top of Blackwater’s clandestine work for the CIA, including continued work on the drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This also does not take into account Blackwater’s lucrative domestic work training law enforcement and military forces inside the US at the company’s compounds in North Carolina, California and Illinois, nor the private "security" work it does for entities like the International Republican Institute, nor the work it does in training "Faith Based Organizations." It also does not include the contracts doled out to Erik Prince’s private CIA called Total Intelligence Solutions, which works for foreign governments and Fortune 500 corporations.

Then there is this fact: Blackwater was paid over $73 million for its federally-funded, no bid-security contracts with the Department of Homeland Security in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, billing taxpayers $950 per man per day, a spending decision the Bush administration called "the best value to the government." ACORN, meanwhile, only helped poor people who were suffering as a result of the government’s total and complete failure to respond to Katrina.

Meanwhile, a recent federal audit of Blackwater, compiled by the State Department and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, suggests the company may have to repay some $55 million to the government for allegedly failing to meet the terms of just one federal contract in Iraq, which, it is important to note, is $2 million more than the total money allotted by the federal government to ACORN over the past 15 years. (The company also cannot account for one federally funded "deep fat fryer" in Iraq, according to the audit).

Overall, Blackwater has raked in well over $1 billion since 2003 in security contracts alone — all of which were kicked off by a fat no-bid contract to guard L. Paul Bremer. Let’s also remember that Blackwater was estimated in Congressional hearings in 2007 to earn some 90% of its revenue from the federal government and Prince refused to disclose his salary, but said it was over $1 million. Blackwater has been or is being investigated by the US Congress, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the Justice Department and the IRS, among other agencies, for a range of issues from arms smuggling to manslaughter to tax evasion. One of its operatives pleaded guilty to killing an innocent, unarmed Iraqi civilian, while five others have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges over the 2007 Nisour Square massacre during which 17 Iraqi civilians were gunned down. The company is also facing a slew of civil lawsuits alleging war crimes and extrajudicial killings in Iraq.

Here is a question for those Democratic lawmakers that voted in support of the Defund ACORN Act: How do you justify making this a major league legislative priority while Blackwater continues to be armed and dangerous across the globe on the US government payroll? Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Author: Jeremy Scahill

Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill is author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He is a frequent contributor to The Nation magazine and a correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now! He is currently a Puffin Foundation writing fellow at The Nation Institute.