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Archive for February 1st, 2010

Baghdad's Nisour Square, where 17 Iraqis died in a shooting involving Blackwater Worldwide.

U.S. Examines Whether Blackwater Tried Bribery

The New York Times
Published: January 31, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating whether officials of Blackwater Worldwide tried to bribe Iraqi government officials in hopes of retaining the firm’s security work in Iraq after a deadly shooting episode in 2007, according to current and former government officials.

The officials said that the Justice Department’s fraud section opened the inquiry late last year to determine whether Blackwater employees violated a federal law banning American corporations from paying bribes to foreign officials.

The inquiry is the latest fallout from the shooting in Nisour Square in Baghdad, which left 17 Iraqis dead and stoked bitter resentment against the United States.

A federal judge in December dismissed criminal charges against five former Blackwater guards implicated in the episode, but Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. recently announced that the Obama administration would appeal that decision.

The investigation, which was confirmed by three current and former officials speaking on condition of anonymity, follows a report in The New York Times in November that top executives at Blackwater had authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials to buy their support after the shooting. The newspaper account said it could not determine whether any bribes were actually paid or identify Iraqi officials who might have received the money.

The Justice Department has obtained two documents from the State Department, which had security contracts with the company, that have raised questions about Blackwater’s efforts to influence Iraqi government officials after the Nisour Square shootings, according to two American officials familiar with the inquiry.

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Lloyd Marcus

In Damage Control Mode, Tea Party Express Slams ‘Smears’

TPM Muckraker

Zachary Roth | February 1, 2010, 9:52AM

In an aggressive damage control effort launched in the wake of a barrage of negative publicity, a leading Tea Party group created by a Republican consulting firm is pushing back against what it calls “false and malicious attacks.”

The Tea Party Express (TPE) yesterday sent an email to supporters slamming “attack hit pieces” by TPMmuckraker and other outlets. The recent stories, writes TPE’s Lloyd Marcus under the TPE banner, amount to “a range of rumors, accusations, allegations, smears and mischaracterizations of what we at the Tea Party Express are supposedly about.” Marcus, the African-American country singer who has become a prominent TPE spokesman, promises another email soon that will “debunk” the “smears.”

In fact, much of the recent criticism of TPE, which was launched by Russo, Marsh, a well-connected Republican consulting firm, has come from other members of the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party Patriots have accused TPE of being a GOP front group at odds with the grassroots Tea Party ethos, and have suggested that Russo, Marsh intends to profit financially from the venture. TPMmuckraker reported in December that the majority of spending by the PAC that controls TPE went to Russo, Marsh, which is led by the veteran California Republican operative Sal Russo.

Before withdrawing last week citing scheduling issues, TPE had planned to attend the upcoming National Tea Party Convention, which itself has suffered a barrage of attacks by grassroots Tea Partiers who see it as an effort to hijack the movement for profit.

In yesterday’s email — oddly titled, “I have some juicy dirt about Tea Party Express” — Marcus writes that he sees the criticism as evidence of success. “You know [Tea Party Express] has become a powerful force when people take shots at you,” he writes.

Marcus includes video footage from TPE rallies across the country. “This is our record of who we are, and we’re proud of it,” he writes, “and I can tell you that I won’t let anyone even try to rewrite this history!”

An excerpt from the email follows:

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