Beneficiary of Revolving Door Pork to Head Blackwater Ethics Committee

As Spencer reports, former Attorney General John Ashcroft just got named the-Company-formerly-known-as-Blackwater’s ethics chief.

The consortium in charge of restructuring the world’s most infamous private security firm just added a new chief in charge of keeping the company on the straight and narrow. Yes, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, is now an “independent director” of Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater.

Ashcroft will head Xe’s new “subcommittee on governance,” its backers announced early Wednesday in a statement, an entity designed to “maximize governance, compliance and accountability” and “promote the highest degrees of ethics and professionalism within the private security industry.”

And while Spencer catalogs many of the reasons this is absurd…

To some, Ashcroft will be forever known as the face of Bush-era counterterrorism, the official who vigorously defended the Patriot Act’s sweeping surveillance powers; told civil libertarians that their dissents “only aid terrorists“; and covered up the Spirit of Justice’s boob.

He misses one of Ashcroft’s key ethical highlights: how he benefited from close ties to his former subordinate Chris Christie when he won a tens of million dollar contract to monitor a medical device company after it signed a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Christie.

Are federal prosecutors using corporate crime prosecutions to reward cronies?

That seems to be the case in New Jersey, where U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie appointed his ex-boss, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, to be the corporate monitor of a company involved in a $311 million deferred prosecution agreement (pdf) with Christie’s office. The company in question, Zimmer Holdings, along with several other medical equipment manufacturers, was accused of paying kickbacks to get doctors to use their artificial hip and knee reconstruction and replacement products.

Ashcroft’s consulting firm, the Ashcroft Group LLC, will earn between $29 million and $52 million (paid by Zimmer Holdings) to serve as a corporate watchdog for 18 months. It will oversee Zimmer Holdings, making sure it does not engage in misconduct and helping it adopt corporate reforms. As head of the Department of Justice, Ashcroft was Christie’s boss from 2002 to 2005. Christie also served on an advisory panel that consulted regularly with the Attorney General.

Effectively, DPAs under Christie were a means of privatizing justice; Christie even justified limiting fines by pointing to the huge contracting fees his former DOJ buddies would get for monitoring the deal.

And so it’s utterly appropriate that Ashcroft would head to the poster child for everything wrong with privatization to make sure it complies with some kind of ethics.

  1. allan says:

    Blackwater’s ethics chief.

    which is sorta like the Mustang Ranch’s abstinence-only sex-ed instructor.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      So you’ve been to Reno. Perfect analogy.

      Ashcroft professionally aided the earliest Bush excesses. He even questioned one or two of them, perhaps leading to his early retirement from the CheneyBush team. He was quickly rewarded and encouraged to keep his mouth shut about what he knew by being given lucrative contracts – to privatize justice, a leading oxymoronic phrase even among the many contenders CheneyBush came up with. Those contracts made him independently wealthy, something he had not previously achieved after a life in the law and in Congress.

      Blackwater has now purchased his former title to convey the appearance that it remotely cares about ethics. Should ethical concerns or Ashcroft’s opinions ever stand between its owners and contract revenues, I wonder which will be faster on the draw?

  2. fatster says:

    I don’t know about ethics, but the man will surely be able to pull some strings.

  3. JohnLopresti says:

    Another GWBush attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, currently is working in arbitration in TX, and for several semesters has been teaching a national security course at Texas Technical University.

    • BoxTurtle says:

      As long as he’s not teaching law, like Yoo.

      Boxturtle (Who’d thunk that a Texas University had higher standards than a Calif one?)

  4. Mary says:

    This was the guy who was going to have his lobbying firm host pizza parties for DOJ staffers, right?

    Probably going to have his pal at Pepsico supply the beverages and let everyon kick back and watch torture flicks for enterainment. Amazing those fright nights got cancelled.

    I guess if you look hard enough, you’ll find an ethical in antithetical.

  5. BoxTurtle says:

    the-Company-formerly-known-as-Blackwater’s ethics chief

    There’s a position that’s pure figurehead. And it would require a certain amount of ethical flexability even so. Perfect for Ashcroft.

    Boxturtle (Imagines Ashcroft behind a desk with his hands over his ears: LA LA LA I can’t hear you!)

    • JamesJoyce says:

      Or better yet, let John D. Rockefeller oversee the breakup of monopolies utilizing anti-trust laws?

      “John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust is one of the most famous industrial organizations ever. The Trust controlled a lion’s share of the production, transport, refining, and marketing of petroleum products in the United States and many other countries. Originally, this Trust was an attempt to cash in on the lucrative home lighting market which was converting from whale oil to kerosene. The emergence of the automobile and its thirst for the formerly near worthless refining by-product called gasoline brought dizzying wealth to this industrial group. The 1911 decision to break up the Trust had the result of making the seperate pieces more valubale than the whole was, and stock prices rose sharply. When he was informed of the US Supreme Court’s descision to breakup of Standard Oil, Mr. Rockefeller turned to his golfing partner and said, “Father Lennon, have you some money?” And the priest was very startled by the question and said, “No.” And then he said, “Why?” And Rockefeller replied, “Buy Standard Oil.””

      As they say; “….the rest is history.”

      Backwater, Oil, Iraq, Oil, Saudi, Oil. Guess the consumer has all sorts of viable choices to liberate himself from wealth extraction processes protected by corporate Hessians?

      “During the American Revolutionary War, Landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Kassel (a principality in northern Hesse or Hessia) and other German leaders hired out thousands of conscripted subjects as auxiliaries to Great Britain to fight against the American revolutionaries. About 30,000 of these soldiers were sold into service. They were called Hessians, because 12,992 of the total 30,067 men came from Hesse-Kassel.”

      Same old garbage, just a different war and different players? Like most wars, rackets in commerce, trade and death.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Good analogy.

        Standard Oil – divested into the Seven Sisters, which operated almost as before except in even greater secrecy – was the world’s biggest company in 1911. Its value continued to climb after its break-up for several reasons. One should have been obvious to the regulators who bailed out the banks: its staff and business practices were left unchanged.

        More importantly, its markets changed fundamentally. It had become the world’s biggest company when the principal uses for oil were as industrial lubricant and fuel (kerosene) for residential and commercial lighting. Shortly after its break-up, four events drove its value through the roof.

        The world’s naval and commercial ships converted from coal to oil. It gave ships greater range between refueling stops and its exhaust smoke was puny, unlike coal, meaning naval and merchant ships over the horizon were invisible to predators without radar, which didn’t come into service for 30 years. It also made possible the widespread use of submarines, which made a name for themselves during the second event.

        The First World War broke out, placing huge demands on global shipping. Combined with similar increases in manufacturing and the mechanization of warfare, the demand for oil spiked.

        The Roaring Twenties roared because of the automobile, the over-the-road truck, the tractor and eventually diesel locomotives.

        The scarcity of commodities owing to wartime disruptions in supply spurred research into substitute materials. Apart from ersatz coffee, that led to the inventions of synthetic rubbers, nylon and ultimate plastics, based on petroleum derivatives.

        Standard Oil’s shares consistently rose in value not because of the break-up, as its defenders claim, but in spite of it.

        • scribe says:

          Actually, the same thing happened after the breakup of AT&T into the Baby Bells in the early 80s. After AT&T was broken into 7 parts, each of those 7 Baby Bells’ stock prices rose to the point that a share of pre-breakup AT&T was worth 7 times as much.

          It’s more a matter of a monopoly suppressing growth and shareholder value because the lack of competition in the marketplace will suppress innovation.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As you say, the issue is adequate regulation of abusive and monopolistic practices, something the US has entirely given up on, much to our collective detriment. That’s had a major impact in the upward flow of capital to fewer and fewer people.

          Like Standard Oil did in fact after its break-up, AT&T has done by legally reacquiring most of what was earlier divested. At the time of its break-up in 1983, AT&T was bigger than all of the following companies combined: GE, GM, Ford, IBM, Xerox and Coca-Cola. Its growth since then, as was true in part for SO, is due to enormous changes in the telecoms market and to deregulation.

  6. lsls says:

    I’ll always remember him for that awful song and covering up the boobs on a frigging statue for dog’s sake…

  7. onitgoes says:

    Ohmiachingback, omieffendog, whot next? Figgers. Talk about the perfect Orwellian appointment. Can almost see the Piggy Trotters on Ashcroft; figures that he’s got cloven hooves.

    Commentary, supra, makin’ me laff… har.

  8. Mary says:

    BTW – does that job come with all the tools Ashcroft will need? A hospital bed and someone else to assume responsiblity for all his decisions?

  9. liberalarts says:

    Can pork barrels soar? Just asking. I’ll pass your answer along to the applicable parties, wink, wink.

    • scribe says:

      To the same extent that every first-year law student knows that flying barrels of flour mean negligence has taken place and that to recover all that has to be proven is that the plaintiff was harmed by the flying barrel, we can be sure that pork barrels will fly and all that has to be proven to establish it’s the fruit of corruption is that money flowed.

      • liberalarts says:

        Thanx for explication. I think the fruit of corruption, the corruption itself, has been amply demonstrated repeatedly and not much seems to have come of it. None of the parties to even feel the need to put up the proverbial “stout defense.” What next, then?

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The phrase you’re looking for might be res ipsa loquitur.

        The negligence is so obvious that the law will presume that a duty of care existed and was breached, leading to liability if the plaintiff can prove s/he was damaged and that it was due directly to the thing that happened. The defendant then has to establish the contrary, a burden that frequently results in private settlement so as to avoid further disclosure of inconvenient facts.

        By analogy, these arrangements are so obviously potentially corrupt they should be prohibited.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I see from your cite that you were making the identical point. Never mind. Our liberal friend was winking and nodding in any case.

  10. bobschacht says:

    A day or two ago, I asked who owned the house Bin Laden was living in?
    The reason: If the builder/occupant was a foreigner, they basically needed to identify themselves to the local police.
    McClatchy comes through again:

    Local residents said the two men who built the house identified themselves usually as Arshad and Tariq Khan, though they also went by the names of Rashid, Ahmed and Nadeem. They were ethnic Pashtuns from near Peshawar, Pakistan, residents said they were told. Most people who live in Abbottabad aren’t Pashtun.

    Read more:

    Bob in AZ

  11. bobschacht says:

    This just in:
    Cliff May on Hardball just said that the intelligence trail that enabled finding OBL included a warrantless wiretap.

    Bob in AZ

    • liberalarts says:

      The tangled webs we weave leave nothing to be taken at face value. Ever. Even historians can’t untie all the knots and lies and misinformation definitively.

  12. orionATL says:

    it’s nice work if you can get it,

    and you can get it if you know chris christie.

  13. harpie says:


    Pakistan’s Terror Ties at Center of Upcoming Chicago Trial; Sebastian Rotella; ProPublica; 5/4/11

    It may be years, if ever, before the world learns whether Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) helped hide Osama bin Laden.

    But detailed allegations [1] of ISI involvement in terrorism will soon be made public in a federal courtroom in Chicago, where prosecutors last week quietly charged a suspected ISI major with helping to plot the murders of six Americans [2] in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. […]