By Kevin Bogardus - 04/06/10 10:59 PM EDT
Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has hired Covington & Burling to lobby on “government contracts,” according to new lobbying disclosure records released last week.
This is the first lobbying contract Blackwater has had since early 2009, when it terminated contracts with several different firms. Several of the company’s affiliated firms — Blackwater USA, Blackwater Worldwide and Blackwater Lodge and Training Center — had spent almost $1.5 million on lobbying since 2006, according to disclosure records.
Eizenstat told The Hill that his firm “registered in an overabundance of caution.”
“The almost exclusive work we have done for them is in regards to the hearing,” he said.
Eizenstat was referring to a Feb. 24 hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the panel’s chairman, is pushing the Justice Department to investigate whether a company created by Xe founder Erik Prince made false or misleading statements when bidding for an Army contract in Afghanistan.
At stake is a $25 million Defense Department subcontract to perform weapons training for the Afghan national army. First awarded to Raytheon, the defense contractor then subcontracted it to Paravant, which was created in 2008 by Erik Prince Investments.
Levin’s panel found that Paravant contractors, while in Afghanistan, used their weapons recklessly and ignored rules for acquiring weapons. At the Senate hearing in February, the Army contracting officer who signed off on the Paravant contract said he was unaware the firm was affiliated with Blackwater.
Levin called that a “deceptive representation” and has since pressed Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review a decision to award a $1 billion Afghan national police training contract to Xe as well.
“We haven’t advocated extending a contract. We just want a fair bidding process,” Eizenstat said. “Right now, our work has been in regard to the hearing — preparing witnesses for the hearing, examining the contract.”
The Covington & Burling partner said the firm’s lobbyists have contacted the Senate Armed Services Committee’s members and staff only in regard to the hearing and its aftermath.
Along with Eizenstat, other Democrats include ex-Clinton White House aide Brian Smith and former Rep. Michael Barnes (Md.). Top Republicans on the Xe lobbying contract are Martin Gold, former floor adviser to ex-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.); and William Wichterman, another past Frist adviser and White House aide in the George W. Bush administration.
A spokeswoman for Xe did not respond to messages requesting a comment.
Roxana Tiron contributed to this article.