It's tough to follow the history of Lincoln Group, a contractor that won a $100 million contract with the Special Operations Command to assist with psychological operations. The common denominator to the firm's history is Christian Bailey, listed on its Web site as executive vice president, capital markets. After graduating from Oxford University in England in the 1990s, Bailey moved to the San Francisco area around 1998, and in 1999, founded Express Action, an e-commerce company he apparently later sold. In the Nov. 15, 2002, issue of HedgeWorld Daily News, Bailey was identified as the founder and chairman of a New York-based hedge fund called Lincoln Asset Management. On March 1, 2003, the Alternative Investment News reported that Lincoln Asset Management had an initial $100 million in commitments to underwrite a leveraged buyout fund to acquire defense and intelligence companies.
In 2003, the Lincoln Alliance Corp. (a subsidiary of Lincoln Asset Management) made its debut, presenting itself primarily as a purveyor of what it called "tailored intelligence services" for "government clients faced with critical intelligence challenges," and as an Iraq business development catalyst. Its Web site listed no officers, principals or partners, but described operations as focused on an ambitious mix of political campaign intelligence and commercial real estate. With one office in Baghdad and more projected, Lincoln would act as a clearinghouse for U.S. and foreign companies doing business in Iraq, providing "the information, research and contacts necessary to develop and grow businesses" in the post-Saddam era.
During this time, Lincoln appears to have maintained a business address at 1130 17th St. NW in Washington, and shared phone and fax numbers with Omnicept, a firm located at the time at 1432 T St. NW. Omnicept described itself as an "advanced information technology and systems design firm" and "analytic and intelligence firm" comprising "experts whose experience encompasses military intelligence, education and academia, big business, money managers, political activists, law enforcement, entrepreneurs, artists, and more."
Paige Craig was listed at the same phone numbers as Omnicept's September 2003 point of contact for Internet solicitations for interns. He also represented Lincoln as vice president at the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority's Nov. 19, 2003, Industry Day in Crystal City, Va. According to phone records, the T Street address was a residence with listings for Bailey and Craig.
In late 2003 or early 2004, however, the Lincoln Alliance Corp. became Iraqex, and in a Sept. 27, 2004, Agence France Press news story, was referred to as "a U.S. firm involved in a range of activities from manufacturing construction materials to providing logistics for U.S. forces." In October 2004, it apparently added communications to its repertoire, scoring a $6 million contract from the Multi-National Corps-Iraq (formerly known as Combined Joint Task Force-7, which had operational control of all troops in Iraq) to design and execute an "aggressive advertising and public relations campaign that will accurately inform the Iraqi people of the coalition's goals and gain their support," as the contract's August 2004 request for proposal put it.
O'Dwyer's PR Services Report, an influential public relations trade publication, struck a somewhat skeptical tone in its coverage of the tender. MNC-I's contract officer refused to disclose the five other bidders. Bailey said "more information would be forthcoming" about Iraqex and its efforts. Little came, save a November 2004 brief in the trade publication, PR Week, that reported, "Iraqex has a policy of not speaking to the press regarding its work, but has hired 5W PR as its mouthpiece," and quoted 5W PR's chief as saying of Iraqex, "We have more experience working in Iraq than any other firm or organization anywhere in the world."
Oddly, at the December 2004 Destination Baghdad Expo in Iraq, Iraqex listed itself as Iraq-based, but provided only its Washington telephone and address. Then, in March 2005, it changed its name yet again, to Lincoln Group, a communications and PR firm "providing insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments." And on June 11, along with SYColeman and Science Applications International Corp., Lincoln Group got its JPSE contract.
While the group's current Web site does list noteworthy examples of successful endeavors apparently part of its MNC-I work, some find it curious that a firm set up by two thirty-something guys has come so far so fast. Also giving pause has been the company's apparent tendency to solicit staff by way of internships. And it is curious that records of Bailey's Republican affiliations have disappeared from certain Web sites since the JPSE contract was announced.
Bailey was a founder and active participant in Lead21, a fund-raising and networking operation for affluent young Republicans, some of whom have gone on to serve in the Bush administration. Click on the links to Lead21's site today and no mention of Bailey is to be found. But on a subscriber business and social networking site, there's an archived e-mail of Bailey discussing setting up a New York branch of Lead21, and his "personal network," which lists a half-dozen members of the organization's current board, including the chairman of the California Republican Party and the senior policy adviser to the Justice Department's chief information officer. "These are going to be the big supporters, the big donors to the Republican Party in five years' time," Bailey told The New York Times in an Aug. 31, 2004, video interview during a Lead21 party at the Republican convention in New York.
Neither JPSE nor Lincoln Group responded to verbal or written requests for interviews, but the Project on Government Oversight has reservations. "Any time we see leaders who cultivate political influence for a particular party suddenly receive major government contracts, it sends up red flags," says POGO spokeswoman Beth Daley.