Dodson: a Clearer Picture

Vance Security Deployed by Bush-Cheney 04

Given my recent contemplation of mercenaries, a link in Patrick Nielsen Hayden's sidebar caught my eye: The G.O.P.: Now with added paramilitary wing! which takes us to a post by DHinMI on dailyKos. It concerns a Bush-Cheney campaign expenditure for "PERSONNEL SERVICES / EQUIPMENT" in the amount of $185,337.33 from "VANCE INTERNATIONAL, SUITE 210 10467 WHITE GRANITE DR, ROANOKE, Virginia 22124." The firm is best known for its strikebreaking services.

DHinMI wonders what legitimate use the Bush campaign might have "for a firm that specializes in high-tech surveillance, personal investigations, and paramilitary protection?"

Looking over the Vance web site, I was looking hard to try to determine whether they are strictly into security, or whether they offer mercenary services, too. Covert Action Quarterly answers my question: it has a write-up on Vance as part of an article by Mike Zielinski, Private Police: Armed and Dangerous:

One of the most active strike-breaking firms is Vance Security, founded by Charles Vance, ex-son-in-law of ex-President Gerald Ford. Vance's agents were deployed against striking Greyhound drivers in the late 1980s and served as shock troops for the Pittston Coal Group, Inc. in its protracted and bitter battle with the United Mine Workers.

Vance runs a rent-a-mercenary operation which recruits through ads in Soldier of Fortune and offers its agents training in the use of firearms, Mace, and riot batons. An ad in the 1986 Gung-Ho Yearbook, a paramilitary magazine, was aimed at those of you who have military backgrounds who are interested in $100-a-day, all-expenses-paid work. The company offered a refresher course in the use of firearms should things get completely out of hand.

The Asset Protection Team, a Vance subsidiary, runs an ad which features a jack-booted security agent equipped with a riot shield, club and helmet. A brochure guarantees guards will arrive with all the personal equipment necessary to handle all levels of violence.

These firms' stock in trade is the creation of a threatening atmosphere for union supporters. During a dispute between Caterpillar, Inc. and the United Auto Workers in 1992, Vance Security transformed the company's plant into a war zone, placing barbed wire around the grounds. Striking steel workers at an Alcoa plant in Tennessee were subjected to constant surveillance with video cameras, while gun-toting agents were stationed on the tops of buildings and ground-level security brandished riot shields and tear gas canisters. Vance guards followed union members after they left picket lines.

Union organizers view these tactics as a form of psychological warfare. According to John Duray of the United Mine Workers, private guards act as provocateurs, attempting to incite a violent response from strikers. Duray says that security firms create a violent situation, then record it, and take the film to court. Employers then seek a legal injunction against the union.

The most current case of union-busting security guards is unfolding in Detroit this summer. Members of the Newspaper Guild and the Teamsters are on strike at the city's two daily newspapers, the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, owned by Knight-Ridder and media giant Gannett, respectively. In mid-July, agents from Vance Security attacked four strikers, sending three of them to a hospital emergency room. Local police confiscated four armloads of wooden clubs from security guards employed by the newspapers.

So, um, yes, Vance is partly a mercenary operation. Also, Vance has offices in many parts of the world so, for example, it could be retained to assist the campaign by undermining unsympathetic foreign heads of state.

The most likely reason Vance has been retained is to provide security for the self-important and paranoid among those in the campaign not entitled to Secret Service protection, but indeed, as DHinMI points out, this expenditure is something Bush-Cheney in 04 really needs be asked to explain.

UPDATE: I've looked into the FEC filings further and found more payments to Vance. They bring the total paid to Vance to above the half-million mark. My preliminary thought is that Vance seems to submit monthly bills. If that is so, judging by what I've come up with, Bush-Cheney is not paying Vance mere hundreds of thousands of dollars, but rather millions, which would afford Bush-Cheney considerably more in the way of services. From Bush-Cheney's SCHEDULE B, ITEMIZED DISBURSEMENTS, All Listed Line Numbers 2003 year end filing, p. 4 of 9:

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

ROANOKE, Virginia 22124

I doubt that they need $500,000 plus security for people not eligible for Secret Service protection. This is really interesting!

FURTHER UPDATE: DHinMI is on the case: More Money To Vance

Yesterday I posted that Vance International, a firm that specializes in, among other things, Secret Service-like personal protection, surveillance, and corporate security during labor disputes, had received almost $200,000 from the Bush-Cheney campaign committee. ÝI was wrong. ÝSince July, Bush-Cheney Inc. has paid Vance International and one of its subsidiaries approximately $750,000. ÝShould they continue at their current rate, by election day the Bush campaign will have paid over $1.5 million to a firm known for high-tech security and surveillance and low-tech picket line thuggery.

Since September 15th, Bush-Cheney Inc. has made 15 payments totaling $626,727.90 to Vance International for "equipment/personnel services." Ý(Citations can be found below.) ÝPrior to that, between July 11th, 2003 and August 26th, 2003, the campaign made 7 payments totaling $122,421.78 to Vance Uniformed Protection, a subsidiary of Vance International. ÝThe Bush HQ in Arlington VA occupies several floors of an office building, and upscale office buildings such as this one typically provide security for their tenants. ÝIt's not unreasonable to accept that the Bush campaign would want to have additional security of its own on the floors it occupies, but that requires a far smaller presence than securing an entire building, parking lots, and the surrounding area. ÝSo again, it's hard to imagine that the campaign has standard office security needs that cost $1,500,000.00 per year.

MEANWHILE, Amnesty International expresses concern for the Rent-a-Coup mercenaries hend in Equatorial Guinea, one of whom, a German citizen, Gerhard Eugen Nershz, has died in custody, allegedly from complications of malaria.