Dick Cheney

excerpted from the book

The Exception to the Rulers

by Amy Goodman


In an administration that has taken a pledge of allegiance to enrich its billionaire buddies, one crony capitalist trumps them all: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney, secretary of defense under Bush 1, spent his years in the wilderness as CEO of Halliburton, one of the world's largest oil services and defense contractors. In September 2003, Cheney boldly declared on Meet the Press, "I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years .

Cheney's statement was false. Halliburton is paying Cheney roughly $165,000 per year in deferred compensation through 2005, not to mention his more than $400,000 in stock options. All of which constitutes a clear financial interest, according to the Congressional Research Service.

To Cheney, the $60 million in salary that he drew from Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 was simply fair compensation for his long hours at the office. When -vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman observed during their 2000 debate that Cheney had done well for himself at Halliburton, Cheney replied, "I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Oh, really? As columnist Molly Ivins notes, "Mr. Cheney led Halliburton into the top ranks of corporate welfare hogs, benefiting from almost $2 billion in taxpayer-insured loans from the U.S. Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corp. Mr. Cheney also specialized in getting government contracts for the firm. During his five years as CEO, Halliburton got $2.3 billion in contracts, compared with $1.2 billion in the five years before he took over.

Halliburton, which made campaign contributions of $708,770 between 1999 and 2002-95 percent went to Republicans-has been reaping a handsome return on its investment .

Like Bush's patron, Ken Lay at Enron, Cheney proved better at extracting public money than at accounting for it. Under his watch, Halliburton inflated profits by $234 million over a four-year period, spawning more than a dozen lawsuits for the "accounting irregularity. '148 That's a cheery euphemism for lying and stealing, but if we called it that, you might be shouting for people like Cheney to be put in jail like other thieves.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I have a problem with lying about $234 million. Remember the Whitewater scandal? That was the one where Republicans spent $60 million investigating a real estate scandal in which the Clintons lost $46,000. The newspapers and right-wing pundits are still flogging that.

Where's the outrage when it comes to Bush's crony-in-chief'?

Iraq has been Cheney's own personal piggy bank ever since he led the Pentagon during the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Following that war, Cheney commissioned Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, to study military outsourcing---the practice of paying private companies to do jobs previously done by the military. The Pentagon subsequently chose Brown & Root to implement its own outsourcing plan. Halliburton later hired-who else?-Dick Cheney to run its affairs and open the spigots for public money to flow its way.

Cheney's outsourcing brainstorm has been a windfall for Halliburton and other private companies. It is estimated that a third of the $4 billion monthly cost of the Iraq occupation is going to private contractors.

Not that the vice president doesn't have his scruples. just ask him. Following the 1991 Gulf War, Cheney railed against those who would profit from dealing with the Iraqi dictator. And he later told Sam Donaldson, "I had a firm policy that I wouldn't do anything in Iraq."

Alas, that policy was about as firm as an oil slick. Under Cheney, Halliburton "held stakes in two firms that signed contracts to sell more than $73 million in oil production equipment and spare parts to Iraq," The Washington Post revealed.

Even with its Iraqi windfall, Halliburton nearly went bankrupt in 2001 because of its fraudulent accounting practices-and because of Cheney's ill-advised acquisition of Dresser Industries, which was laden with asbestos liabilities. But as soon as Dick Cheney got hold of the government purse strings as vice president, help was on the way. The "war on terror" has been a cash cow for Halliburton, which quickly became the single biggest government contractor in Iraq.

Halliburton's whopping tally: more than $5 billion in contracts from the U.S. government during the war on Iraq, as of January 2004.

And that's only the beginning. Halliburton stands to make hundreds of millions of dollars in a no-bid contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate Iraq's oil wells. In March 2003, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract to put out fires at Iraqi oil wells. Contract value: up to $7 billion.

Two years earlier, Halliburton had secured an unprecedented ten-year deal from the Pentagon known as the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP)-a contract that will send Kellogg, Brown & Root anywhere on earth to run military operations for a profit. Value to date: about $830 million.

Halliburton's bounty has been so big that in August 2003, even the Bechtel Group-itself no slouch at profiteering from the war-withdrew from bidding on $1 billion worth of oil projects in Iraq, complaining that Halliburton had an inside track."

That inside track has dramatically improved Halliburton's fortunes. The company turned a $26 million profit in the second quarter of 2003. This contrasts with a $498 million loss in the same period a year earlier. From mid-2002 till mid-2003, while the stock market sank, the value of Halliburton's shares rose by 50 percent.

The Bush administration has ensured that Halliburton and its ilk can plunder Iraq with impunity. In May 2003, President Bush signed an executive order that provides oil industry companies and only oil companies-unprecedented immunity against contractual disputes or lawsuits resulting from discrimination, labor law abuses, environmental disasters, and human rights violations.

"In terms of legal liability," says Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, "the executive order cancels the concept of corporate accountability and abandons the rule of law. It is a blank check for corporate anarchy, potentially robbing Iraqis of both their rights and their resources."

All this wasn't enough for the Texas oil services behemoth. In December 2003, a Pentagon audit revealed that Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root may have overcharged the Army $61 million for gasoline that it was providing in Iraq. In the same week that it was revealed that Cheney's old company was gouging American taxpayers, President Bush announced that no Iraqi contracts would go to France, Russia, Canada, Germany, or any other country that opposed the invasion of Iraq-ensuring that Bush's political contributors could continue to corner the Iraqi business.

Defending his decision to maintain Iraq as an exclusive preserve for U.S.-based multinational corporations, Bush explained why the victor is entitled to the spoils of war. "It's very 11 simple , he said. "Our people risked their lives and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that, and that's what the U.S. taxpayers expect."


The Cheney Index

* Cheney's 2000 income from Halliburton: $36,086,635

* Number of Halliburton stock options Cheney still owns: 433,333 Size of his retirement package (not including the stock options): $20 million

* Increase in government contracts while Cheney led Halliburton: 91 percent

* Minimum size of "accounting irregularity" that occurred while Cheney was CEO: $234 million

* Number of the seven official U.S. "state sponsors of terror" that Halliburton contracted with: three out of seven (Iran, Iraq, Libya)

* Pages of Energy Plan documents Cheney refused to give congressional investigators: 13,500

* Amount the energy sector gave to Republican candidates for 2000 elections: $50 million

* Number of energy corporations identified that helped Cheney's Energy Task Force shape national energy policy:

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, Center for Public Integrity,, U.S. Department of State

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