– Blackwater’s New Director: Bill Clinton’s Lawyer (Wired, July 6, 2011):
Blackwater’s rebranding continues at a torrid pace. Danger Room has learned the latest Washington greybeard hired to spruce up the image of the world’s most infamous private security firm is Jack Quinn, a top Washington lobbyist and former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton.
Now renamed Xe and owned by an investor consortium called USTC Holdings, the company is bringing Quinn — pictured left, with Rep. Joe Crowley — onto its board as an “independent director.” He’ll focus on “governance and oversight,” keeping the company out of trouble, especially with the government. USTC Holdings’ Jason DeYonker says that Quinn’s reputation for “commitment to the highest ethical standards of conduct in both the public and private sectors” makes him a great fit.
To be cynical about it, a man who gave legal advice to Clinton knows a whole lot about crisis management. Which is important, since Xe intends to keep providing security to U.S. diplomats in dangerous places – activities that, under its old leadership, led its guards into a shooting debacle that killed 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.
Quinn is one of a string of board members and executives Xe brought on to draw a bright line between the old Blackwater and the new. All of them are powerful people, like ex-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Quinn’s lobbying clients include AT&T, old-folks association AARP and Visa.
But the real thread running through most of the hires is that they have experience dealing with scandal, like former AIG bigwig Suzanne Folsom, now Xe’s senior regulatory and compliance officer and new CEO Ted Wright, most recently of military services giant KBR.
You’ll recall that the Xe had extensive ties to the Republican Party under founder Erik Prince. Consider the Quinn hire a step toward political diversity. It’s something Quinn knows a great deal about: he started his lobbying firm with Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman.
But Quinn is a perennial in Democratic politics. Check out his mash note to President Obama in Politico. Despite his ties to the Clinton family, Quinn sat on his hands during the 2008 Dem primary, preserving his options for access to the winner. That’ll come in handy if and when Xe needs to talk with the White House.