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Blood Money 

Wednesday, Feb 14 2007
During the shit storm sometimes referred to as World War II, Franklin Roosevelt chided those who might seek to cash in on the carnage. "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster," he said, wagging a finger at the military-industrial complex.

A few armed conflicts later, FDR's sentiment, as much as the notion of a president being his own man, seems lost to history. Take URS Corp. and its CEO, Martin Koffel.

The San Francisco engineering firm has soaked up at least $3 billion in government contracts to help rebuild Iraq, thereby making Koffel an even richer man. In 2005, the Aussie native more than doubled his salary from a year earlier, taking home $14.4 million. Some $10 million of that windfall derived from stock options he converted, exploiting the fivefold increase in the company's stock value since the Iraq invasion began in 2003.

War is hell? No, mate. War kicks a$$.

Koffel's '05 salary placed him second only to Halliburton's chief suit David Lesar on the list of greediest reconstruction whores, according to a recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy. The two social advocacy groups examined how the war has enriched executives of the largest U.S. defense contractors and found the kind of swollen salaries common to Russian oligarchs and mob capos.

"It's unseemly," says report co-author Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies. "While soldiers are dying, these CEOs are profiteering."

Not to mention stiffing their employees. Help-wanted ads for URS jobs in Iraq, where the firm's projects include rebuilding communications systems, hospitals, and courthouses, warn of "extreme danger, stress, [and] physical hardships." For all that, the study reveals, experienced mechanics, to take one example, can expect to make $80,000.

We wanted to ask the Crocodile Koffel to explain the disparity between his salary and that of his minions sweating in the desert, but Koffel didn't deign to call us back. Then again, who has enough hands to pick up the phone and stroke ceiling-high stacks of cash, eh, Marty?

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Martin Kuz


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