Who Is?
S4 E4

Who Is Erik Prince? Narrated by Mo Amer

Erik Prince is Betsy DeVos’ little brother, reportedly a former informal Trump adviser, and a multimillionaire advocate of war for profit.
Prince was born in 1969 to an insanely wealthy family in the Dutch-inspired town of Holland, Michigan. Erik’s father, Edgar, had a manufacturing business that hit it big with, among other products, a lighted car sun visor, which is good at both blocking the sun and blocking the LGBTQ+ community from progressing.

After high school, Prince attended the U.S. Naval Academy before dropping out after three semesters. He graduated from Hillsdale College in 1992, having majored in economics. While at Hillsdale, Prince interned at the White House under George H.W. Bush, but his tenure there didn’t last long. Prince said he “saw a lot of things I didn't agree with—homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act.” He left to intern for California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a guy who voted “no” on enforcing against anti-gay hate crimes.

Prince went on to join the U.S. Navy, where he found the apparent need for private training facilities for special operations. He left in 1996 and inherited some of his father’s $1.35 billion fortune. In his book ‘Civilian Warriors,’ Prince wrote, “My father had created an amazing enterprise. I was blessed to inherit a fortune. Now I had to use it wisely.”

With his new fortune, Prince uses the money to start a private contracting military service based in North Carolina. Blackwater Lodge and Training Center opened in 1997 and quickly turned into the most notorious and controversial privatized military contracting service of all time. Blackwater reportedly received more than a billion dollars in U.S. government contracts and Prince became the biggest of the State Department’s three private security contractors and seemingly the most reckless. A 2007 investigation by the U.S. State Department found that Blackwater was overbilling the State Department by manipulating its personnel records. It also found that Blackwater guards were partying, drinking, and once even drunkenly crashed a $180,000 armored car. According to one of the investigators, they saw themselves as “above the law.”

In 2007, Blackwater employees opened fire and killed 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy. The incident became known as the Nisour Square massacre. Blackwater claimed its guards were under attack and acted in self-defense. But the first U.S. soldiers to respond to the scene found no evidence of “enemy activity” and their report said the shootings by Blackwater were  “criminal event.” Two Iraqi police officers directing traffic in the square at the time back up the report.

From Blackwater, Prince went on to run Frontier Services Group, a Hong Kong-based security and logistics firm, is pushing the Trump administration to privatize the war in Afghanistan. Which could be bad depending on how you look at his résumé.

A few things might help his chances of securing a contract in either Afghanistan or Syria. In 2016, Prince donated $250,000 to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, the national party, and a pro-Trump super PAC and another $150,000 to a Trump adjacent super PAC, called “Make America Number 1.” Aside from donating loads of money, Prince donated serious time to Trump and the campaign. In November 2017, Prince told Congress that he “played no official, or really, unofficial role in the Trump campaign.” But he didn’t tell them about a meeting he arranged at Trump Tower with Don Jr., Stephen Miller, a convicted pedophile, and an Israeli social media savant.
One meeting Prince did disclose was a meeting which took place in the Seychelles, shortly before Trump’s inauguration. In addition to Prince, the meeting was attended by a former Blackwater consultant turned adviser to the UAE and a Russian investor with reportedly close ties to Vladimir Putin. Reports suggest this meeting was a means to establish a backchannel between Putin’s ally and Trump’s ally, who was Erik Prince. It’s not yet clear if Prince’s favors to the president are enough to sway him towards privatizing war, but with millions of dollars, Prince definitely has more favors up his sleeve.