Bush’s uncle cashes in on Iraq war

President Bush’s uncle, who serves on the board of a U.S. defense contractor with over $100 million in business in Iraq, recently cashed in on some of that lucrative work, a government filing showed on Wednesday.

William H.T. “Bucky” Bush exercised options on 8,438 shares worth about $450,000 from St. Louis-based defense contractor Engineered Support Systems Inc. (ESSI), according to a Jan. 18 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Since 2000, the president’s uncle has been on the board of ESSI, whose work for the U.S. military in Iraq ranges from providing special armor for vehicles to providing telecommunications satellite equipment.

There is nothing illegal about exercising stock options, but Bush’s interest in a company with so much Iraq business is sure to evoke criticism from Democrats.

Members of the opposition party have long accused the Bush administration of handing out Iraq-related work to companies with close ties to the White House, such as Halliburton, the Texas company run by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000.

Dan Kreher, vice president of investor relations for ESSI, denied having a member of the Bush family on the board had helped his company get Iraq-related business.

“Mr. Bush has been on our board for the past five years and he has absolutely nothing to do with any of our contracts with the U.S. government or anyone else,” said Kreher.

“The fact his (Bush’s) nephew is in the White House has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Bush being on our board or with our stock having gone up 1,000 percent in the past five years either,” Kreher added.


Last week, Pentagon Acting Undersecretary Michael Wynne said the Defense Department’s inspector general was looking into contracts issued in 2002 to Systems and Electronics Inc., an ESSI company.

These contracts, with a cumulative value of $158 million, were supervised by a former Air Force acquisition manager sentenced for improperly aiding another contractor, Boeing Co .

Wynne said ESSI’s contract and seven others appeared to have “anomalies” that needed further investigation.

Kreher said the Pentagon was looking at the procurement process and no wrongdoing was suspected. “Nothing will impact our company in this regard. The military is just trying to improve its processes,” he said.

William Bush, the youngest brother of former President Bush, could not be reached for comment but in an interview published on Wednesday in The Los Angeles Times said he never used family connections to help win contracts.

“I don’t make any calls to the 202 area code,” Bush said, referring to Washington’s telephone prefix.

Kreher said there were both Republicans and Democrats on ESSI’s board. “This maybe opens some doors to the congressional lobby, but that is the extent of it,” he said.

The company had more than 150 contracts with various branches of the U.S. military and other agencies, he added.

Work to put new armor on Army vehicles in Iraq could be worth up to $70 million. Other projects, including telecommunications work in Iraq, are worth in excess of $25 million, he said.

© Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved