The Bush Crony
Full-Employment Act Of 2003

By Josh Marshall
Every big new piece of legislation needs a catchy title to set it apart. And I think I've come up with a good one for the $87 billion. How about "The Bush Crony Full-Employment Act of 2003"?
Now before you get up in arms, I'm for however much money our troops need to get the job done in Iraq and protect their own safety. And, in theory at least, I'm for however much reconstruction money might be needed to bring this whole enterprise to a successful conclusion.
But let me make my argument and then you tell me whether I'm out of line.
Remember Joe Allbaugh? He's part of what they used to call President Bush's Iron Triangle - Allbaugh, Hughes and Rove.
In chronological order, he was Bush's chief of staff when Bush was governor of Texas, his campaign manager when he ran for president and his Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director after that.
So, you could say they were pretty close.
A couple weeks before the beginning of the war, Allbaugh left his job at FEMA to get into the business of securing pricey Iraqi reconstruction contracts for high-flying clients.
Allbaugh's new firm is called New Bridge Strategies. But it's actually an outgrowth of Haley Barbour's lobbying firm, Barbour Griffith & Rogers.
How do I know that? Well, they're both located in the same office space downtown, which is usually a good sign. And if that's not enough, Lanny Griffith (of Barbour Griffith & Rogers) is the chief operating officer of New Bridge Strategies and Ed Rogers (of Barbour Griffith & Rogers) is the vice president.
At the moment, Barbour is taking some time out from the lobbying biz to run for governor of Mississippi. But I figure he'll be available to put in a call here and there too.
So let's see what we have here.
The president's right-hand man quits his government job just before the bombs start falling. He sets up shop in the offices of one of the biggest GOP lobbyists in town. And he starts selling his services to clients who want a piece of the big Iraqi reconstruction contracts pie - the pie his old bosses are in charge of slicing up.
Does that sound right to you? Do you think he might be trading a bit on his closeness to Bush?
Say what you will about the administration's post-war planning. Allbaugh's seems to have been right on the mark.
Now let's talk about Doug Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy and arguably one of the most influential people in the administration when it came to advocating for the Iraq war and actually developing the plan. He's now responsible for reconstruction in Iraq.
Before Feith went into the Bush administration, he hung his hat at Feith & Zell, his corporate law firm in Washington. Now Feith's old partner, Marc Zell, has rechristened the firm Zell, Goldberg & Co. And they've gone into the Iraq contract business.
Among other things, they're "assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq [and] assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."
Zell's old law partner is in charge of reconstruction at the Pentagon. Now
Zell's helping clients rustle up the sweetest reconstruction contracts. You figure he has any special access?
Me, too.
And let me tell you about one other firm, the Iraqi International Law Group (IILG).
They are made up of lawyers and businessmen who "dared to take the lead in bringing private sector investment and experience" to the war-torn country and now offer to "be your Professional Gateway to the New Iraq."
Who's the head of the IILG? That would be Salem Chalabi.
Does that name sound familiar? It should. Salem is Ahmed Chalabi's nephew. So you have to figure he'll be able to provide you with quite a gateway indeed.
And who's doing the IILG's "international marketing"? You may have heard of him: Marc Zell, Feith's old law partner.
I could go on, of course. But do I really need to?
A tsunami of American money is about to crest over Iraq. And all the GOP insiders - who have the pull to steer that money in one direction or another - are lining up to get a piece of the action.
With so much money in play it's probably inevitable that there would be some insiders lining their pockets. What's shocking is just how openly they're doing it.
Josh Marshall is editor of His column appears in The Hill each Wednesday. Email: <>
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