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"Losing my faith in humanity ... one neocon at a time."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Uncle Buck

posted by Jazz at 2/23/2005 11:00:00 AM


In this case, we're not talking about an old John Candy movie. At first blush, this story from the LA Times looked to be a non-starter in my opinion. (Annoying but free registration required to view.) Times reporter Walter Roche jr. has published information about a defense contracting firm in St. Louis , one Engineered Support Systems Inc. (ESSI) which has seen a windfall of profits from the Iraq war. The twist to this story, as told by Roche, is that one member of the company's board of directors is a man named William H.T. "Bucky" Bush. Since we're covering this article, you may have already surmised that his last name is no coincidence. He is the uncle of the current President of the United States.
WASHINGTON — The Iraq war helped bring record earnings to St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc., and new financial data show that the firm's war-related profits have trickled down to a familiar family name — Bush.

William H.T. "Bucky" Bush, uncle of the president and youngest brother of former President George H.W. Bush, cashed in ESSI stock options last month with a net value of nearly half a million dollars.

"Uncle Bucky," as he is known to the president, is on the board of the company, which supplies armor and other materials to U.S. troops. The company's stock prices have soared to record heights since before the invasion, benefiting in part from contracts to rapidly refit fleets of military vehicles with extra armor.
The reason this story looked to have no legs is simple. Bucky was reportedly a member of the board there before his nephew ever took office. Also, this company has a long history of work as a defense contractor. The armor refit business is, as we've all seen, booming. This is primarily because Iraqi insurgents keep blowing all of ours up. (Along with our troops.) It's really not a surprise that they would be seeing record profits right now, along with most other defense contractors. The company has also been building "Tunners" (heavy supply moving equipment) for the government for some time.

Bush's presence on the board is also not that surprising in and of itself. The company, like most entities doing business with the Federal Government, has influential board members from both the Democratic and Republican parties. It may not be the most pristine of arrangements, but let's face it... most companies with their fingers in the government pie do the same thing. It's how business gets done, sadly. As one company representative put it:
"Having a Bush doesn't hurt," said [ESSI vice president Dan] Kreher, who acknowledged that the company was routinely engaged in Washington lobbying efforts. But, he said, Democrats, including a party fundraiser, also serve on the panel.
Also detracting from the interest of this story is the "profit" seen by the Bush family member. Bucky apparently receives an annual salary of less than $40K for his service on the board, and recently exercised some soon-to-expire stock options for around $480K. As Suburban Guerilla put it, "Oh, come on. Half a million? That's chump change to these crooks."

However, a bit of deeper digging reveals that there just might be more to this iceberg than is sticking out of the water. Bucky Bush was on the board before George W. was elected, but only eight months before. This is apparently not the first time that ESSI has gotten some national ink over questionable contracting activities.
Some of the firm's Defense Department work has included no-bid, sole-source contracts, including a $48.8-million deal to refurbish military trailers.

Last week, Defense Department officials disclosed that ESSI contracts issued in 2002 with a cumulative value of $158 million had been referred to the Pentagon inspector general's office for investigation. The contracts were supervised by a former Defense official who was sentenced to prison for improperly aiding another contractor, Boeing Co.

Pentagon Acting Undersecretary Michael Wynne said he had referred the contracts "that appear to have anomalies in them." Wynne and his aides would not elaborate on those anomalies. Other contracts referred for review included pacts with Accenture (formerly called Andersen Consulting), Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Once again... none of this looks, on the surface, to have any direct fingerprints on it tying the first family to any sort of war profiteering. But the coincidence is certainly worth watching, and we'll have to wait and see the results of the ongoing investigations into irregularities in their contracting arrangements.

File this one under the "wait and see" category. While it could turn out to be of interest, it may still just be business as usual in Washington with no particular connection to Bush.