January 16, 2004
Government By & For Halliburton
BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
The Center for American Progress traced all of the favors the Bush Administration has granted to Halliburton, the oil company formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney. As you may have read on the front page of the Washington Post today, one of the biggest backers of the Mars plan has been Halliburton, which stands to make billions off the project.
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Government By & For Halliburton: Domestic Actions
Just before becoming Vice President, Dick Cheney was CEO of the oil company Halliburton. In the White House, Cheney still receives deferred compensation from the company. The company is also a major financial benefactor of the Bush Administration. Those two connections -- and others -- have fueled questions about whether the Bush Administration is wielding its power on behalf of the company. Here is a brief look at the White House's domestic actions on behalf of Halliburton:
SPACE -- Pushing Mars Exploration, to Benefit Halliburton: Despite the White House's initial low-balling, legitimate "cost estimates for the new Mars program range from $550 billion to $1 trillion." And according to industry officials, "Halliburton would benefit considerably" from that huge new spending. The company has long pushed for the Mars program for that reason. In the 4/24/00 edition of Oil & Gas Journal, a top Halliburton scientist said that a "Mars exploration program presents an unprecedented opportunity" for the industry to make billions. He noted the reason there was such "great potential for a happy synergy between [Halliburton] and space researchers" was because the new drilling techniques developed in a Mars program would aid Halliburton's drilling for oil on Earth.
ENVIRONMENT -- Revising Environmental Science for Halliburton: The Administration has also manipulated scientific facts to promote an oil and gas exploration technique pioneered by Halliburton called "hydraulic fracturing." A draft 2002 study by the EPA indicated that the technique, which involves injecting benzene and other toxic chemicals into the ground, "could lead to benzene in underground sources of drinking water at levels above federal drinking water standards." After congressional staff expressed concerns, the EPA changed the data -- a revised study, produced one week later, found that benzene levels would not exceed the standards. The EPA gave no scientific reason for the change saying only that the revision was "based on feedback" from an industry source.
ENVIRONMENT -- Exempting Halliburton From Regulations: The Administration's Energy Bill, a product of Cheney's secret 2001 task force, would "exempt the process called hydraulic fracturing from Safe Drinking Water Act regulations." The process "involves quickly pumping massive amounts of fluids -- sometimes including diesel fuel and other toxins -- into the ground." The technique is used "primarily by Halliburton."
TAXES -- Providing New Tax Breaks for Halliburton: The U.S. House of Representatives approved an administration backed bill that would reduce the tax on domestic manufactures from 32 percent to 35 percent. The NY Times reports that the move would "benefit Halliburton." The tax break was estimated to "cost the Treasury about $61 billion over the next 10 years."
TAXES -- Preserving Tax Loopholes For Halliburton: President Bush promised -- and then reneged on his promise -- to close tax loopholes that allow companies like Halliburton to move offshore and avoid paying billions U.S. taxes. He said "I think we ought to look at people who are trying to avoid U.S. taxes as a problem. I think American companies ought to pay taxes here, and be good citizens." But according to the non-partisan Center for Public Integrity, "Bush never pressed the issue, and his Administration's preferred line was that the convoluted American tax code -- rather than the questionable behavior of American corporations like Halliburton -- was the real culprit." Halliburton has benefited immensely from the Administration's calculated negligence on the issue. While Cheney was CEO, Halliburton "dramatically increased its subsidiaries located in offshore tax havens, claiming at least twenty subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands alone."
PUBLIC HEALTH -- Preventing Workers From Suing Halliburton Over Asbestos Exposure: The Bush Administration is pushing legislation in Congress that would protect Halliburton from lawsuits by workers poisoned by asbestos at its facilities. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in the lead-up to the 2000 election, Halliburton and Dick Cheney personally "contributed more than $150,000 to members of Congress who sponsored legislation that would limit the ability of workers to sue companies for asbestos exposure." The LA Times reports "the first and biggest beneficiary of the plan may be companies such as Halliburton -- the Texas oil services firm -- which could save $3.5 billion of its pending liability for asbestos claims."
Government By & For Halliburton: Foreign Actions
Halliburton's reach in government policymaking is not confined to domestic affairs. With substantial business interests throughout the world, the company has a stake in some of the Administration's most important foreign policy actions:
IRAQ -- Awarding Halliburton No-Bid Contracts, Despite Company's Record: Halliburton received $2.26 billion in no-bid contracts from the Federal Government for reconstruction in Iraq. The total value of contracts in Iraq could eventually reach $15.6 billion. They were given these contracts despite having a history of price gouging. A 1997 GAO report found the company "billed the Army for questionable expenses for work in the Balkans, including charges of $85.98 per sheet of plywood that cost $14.06." And in 2002, the Pentagon's inspector general and a federal grand jury had investigated allegations that a Halliburton subsidiary "defrauded the government of millions of dollars by inflating prices for repairs and maintenance. The company was forced to pay $2 million in fines."
IRAQ -- Ignoring Halliburton War Profiteering, Then Stonewalling Investigation: After revelations surfaced that Halliburton overcharged the government by $61 million in Iraq, the White House stripped out a provision from the $87B Iraq spending bill that would have subjected the company and other price gougers to criminal penalties. When career government auditors demanded a probe of the controversy, the Administration "obstructed the audit."
IRAQ -- Permitting Halliburton to Mistreat U.S. Troops: The Bush Administration has yet to penalize Halliburton or suspend its contracts, even after the Pentagon "repeatedly warned the company that the food it was serving the 110,000 U.S. troops in Iraq was 'dirty.'" The Pentagon specifically found "blood all over the floor" of kitchens, "dirty pans," "dirty grills," "dirty salad bars" and "rotting meats ... and vegetables" in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq. Halliburton's promises to improve "have not been followed through" -- and yet no action has been taken by the Administration to reprimand the company.
FOREIGN POLICY -- Cozying Up to Libya, After Urging by Halliburton: The Administration has moved to normalize relations with Libya -- a move long pushed for by Halliburton. As CEO of Halliburton, Cheney lobbied to lift sanctions on Libya. In May of 1997, Oil and Gas Journal reported, "Cheney said oil and gas companies must explore where the reserves are, and that means doing business in countries that may have policies that the U.S. does not like." Cheney said, "The long-term horizon of the oil industry is at odds with the short term nature of politics." The next year, Cheney ratcheted up his campaign, once again criticizing the U.S. security policy on foreign soil. According the Malaysian News Agency reported, "Cheney hit out at his government for imposing economic sanctions like the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act." He told the state news agency on a visit there that U.S. sanctions on Libya are "ineffective, did not provide the desire results and are a bad policy."
A BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY
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