To stifle criticism of civilian killings, the American mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater approved payoffs of up to $1 million for Iraqi politicians, according to former company officials who spoke to The New York Times.
“Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees,” the Times reported. “American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
Earlier this month, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, circulated a memo calling attention to a New York Times article about Senator Barack Obama’s dealings with Exelon Corporation, a nuclear power company.
The article showed how legislation sponsored by Mr. Obama regulating radioactive leaks at power plants was changed to reflect the views of its opponents, including Exelon, “the company whose plants created the issue and whose key executives are big contributors and bundlers to his campaign,” Mr. Penn wrote. The article also pointed out that Mr. Obama’s chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, was a consultant to Exelon.
Now it turns out that Mr. Penn’s company, Burson Marsteller, has also been an Exelon consultant. An Exelon spokesman confirmed a report today on the Huffington Post that Mr. Penn’s firm was recently paid $230,000 for public relations work last year in New Jersey, where Exelon was seeking to renew a license for one of its nuclear plants.
Bootmaker for world leaders arrested.
GUANAJUATO, Mexico (AP) — A bootmaker to world leaders, including President Bush and Vicente Fox, is in a Colorado jail, charged with money laundering and conspiring to illegally smuggle the skins of protected animals into the United States to provide exotic footwear for high-end clients.
An official from the Mexican environmental protection agency holds a boot confiscated in the raid.
Before Fox left office in December, Villegas created a special brand of cowboy boot named after him, which was manufactured in Mexico’s shoemaking capital, Leon, in Fox’s home state of Guanajuato.
The Mexican bootmaker also produced footwear for Fox’s bodyguards, Cabinet members, relatives and friends — including Bush, a fellow lover of ranchwear who accepted a pair of ostrich-skin cowboy boots as a gift during a visit to Fox’s ranch in 2001.