Meet Erik Prince, former Navy SEAL and founder of the most notorious security contractor who Steve Bannon wants to run for Senate
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Erik Prince, founder of the security contractor originally known as Blackwater, is eyeing a Republican primary challenge against Sen. John Barrasso, who will be up for reelection in the 2018 midterms.Steve Bannon, the former White House senior adviser and current chairman of Breitbart News, has pushed Prince to run as part of his effort to replace "establishment" Republicans in Congress with people Bannon believes will support President Donald Trump's legislative agenda.Advertisement
Prince, 48, has worked for and donated to numerous Republican candidates and causes, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California and conservative Christian lobbying groups. He supported Trump's presidential run, contributing $250,000 to his campaign efforts.
Although he has never held public office, Prince's potential candidacy comes with significant baggage. Here's a look at his storied life and career thus far:
He hasn't officially announced his candidacy for the Wyoming Senate seat, but Prince sure could make ripples if he does.
Prince continues to make headlines. In August, he wrote a controversial op-ed in The New York Times calling for Trump to replace soldiers in Afghanistan with government contractors. The Commander in Chief has not yet taken the advice.Advertisement
In January, Prince reportedly attended a secret meeting with a confidant of President Vladimir Putin to establish a back-channel line of communication between Russia and Trump. Prince maintains the meeting had "nothing to do with President Trump."
Back at home in the US, Prince has been an active Trump supporter. He even served as an informal adviser during the transition period.Advertisement
Prince later started work as a private equity investor in Africa, purchasing stakes in a diesel refinery project in South Sudan and two aviation companies in Kenya. Today, he works mostly on behalf of Chinese investors in the oil and gas sectors as the chairman and executive director of the China-based Frontier Services Group.
Prince also helped launch a Blackwater video game in 2011. He said its goal was to "give players the chance to experience what it is like to be on a Blackwater team on a mission without being dropped into a real combat situation."Advertisement
At the time, The New York Times reported that the mission was intended to "conduct special operations inside and outside the country, defend ... from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts", like the Arab Spring that swept the Middle East in 2010-11.
After Blackwater, Prince moved to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to work on putting together a battalion of foreign troops for the country under the direction of the crown prince.Advertisement
In 2009, Prince resigned as Blackwater's CEO amid mounting legal troubles and criticism, including accusations of money laundering and brokering mercenary services to foreign governments. A year later, he sold Blackwater, now known as Academi.
A few years after the Nisour Square Massacre, it was revealed that Prince had been part of covert CIA assassination operations targeting terrorists.Advertisement
Prince, who was not on the ground during the shooting, criticized the FBI's investigation into the matter and resisted claims that Blackwater guards were responsible. In 2014, a US court found four employees guilty of either manslaughter or first-degree murder.
But the higher profile brought more scrutiny. In 2007, Blackwater came under intense criticism after company employees opened fire on Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, killing 17 and injuring almost two dozen in what became known as the Nisour Square Massacre.Advertisement
Blackwater received billions of dollars in government contracts over the course of the following decade, and soon became the largest of the US State Department's three private security contractors.
He said Blackwater, which aimed to provide security training and support to the military and law enforcement organizations, "would do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service."Advertisement
Prince left the SEALs and founded Blackwater in 1997. The company landed its first government contract just three years later.
After working a bit in government, Prince went on to join the US Navy, eventually becoming a SEAL officer, conducting operations in Haiti, the Middle East, and the Balkans.Advertisement
The internship made a lasting impression on him and ultimately led to him withdrawing support for Bush. He later told the Grand Rapids Press in an interview that he "saw a lot of things I didn't agree with — homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act."
After a brief stint at the US Naval Academy, Prince graduated from Hillsdale College in Minnesota in 1992. He then worked as an intern at the White House under President George H.W. Bush.Advertisement
His ties to Wyoming are thin, but public records show Prince had an address in the state in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Their father was also heavily involved in founding the Family Research Council, a conservative group that often lobbies against gay marriage and abortion. Today, Erik Prince considers himself a libertarian.Advertisement
DeVos and Prince come from a wealthy family. Their father, Edgar Prince, founded what would become a $1 billion company, manufacturing a patent that he sold to General Motors.
Prince's sister is Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education and former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. Her husband, Dick DeVos, the heir to the Amway fortune, ran for governor of Michigan in 2006 and lost.Advertisement
Prince is from Michigan, but his work has taken him around the globe, from Virginia to the United Arab Emirates. The Princes are power players in the Michigan Republican Party, and prominent GOP donors at the national level.
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