Dick Cheney: Soldier of Fortune
by Pratap Chatterjee CorpWatch
May 2nd, 2002
Vice-president Dick Cheney has brought new meaning to the term “revolving door” says Bill Hartung, senior research fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York. His easy transition from the army to private industry and then to the White House has earned him millions, Dallas-based Halliburton billions.
Cheney made a fortune in the oil industry when he took over as chief executive of Halliburton, the world’s largest oil services company in 1995. In 1998 he took home $4.4 million in salary and benefits and in 1999 he was paid $1.92 million, according to the company’s own financial reports. In May 2000 he cashed in 100,000 Halliburton shares to net another $5.1 million and then sold the rest of his shares in August 2000 for $18.5 million, adding up to a total of almost $30 million in just two years, a fortune for a man with no previous experience in running a company, let alone an oil multinational.
Well, Cheney comes with even better qualifications; he was Secretary of Defense during the Gulf War and worked in the Washington scene for 25 years before he took the job with Halliburton. He brought with him a trusty Rolodex and his former chief of staff, David Gribbin, whom he appointed as chief lobbyist. In the last two years the pair of them notched up $1.5 billion dollars in federal loans and insurance subsidies compared to the paltry $100 million that the company received in the five years prior to Cheney’s arrival.
The federal subsidies supported Halliburton’s oil services contracts in Algeria, Angola, Bangladesh and Russia. In addition the company garnered $2.3 billion in U.S. government contracts in that time, or almost double the $1.2 billion it earned from the government in the five years before he arrived.
Most of the contracts have been with the U.S. Army for engineering work in a variety of hot spots, including Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo and Haiti. Not surprisingly all this work stems from anew scheme to privatize operations of the U.S. military that were drawn up by Halliburton itself under contract to Cheney in 1992.
Today the company is working on major contracts to build oil infrastructure in Brazil and Nigeria for companies like Chevron, Petrobras and Shell. And Cheney also oversaw the company’s merger with Dresser Industries, one of the companies that helped Saddam Hussein rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure after the Gulf war despite the fact that Cheney was one of the architects of the economic sanctions against Iraq. Under his leadership, Halliburton used two foreign subsidiaries to do $23 million worth of business with Iraq, more than any other U.S. company.
Meanwhile Gribbin left Halliburton with Cheney to become director of Congressional Relations for the Bush-Cheney transition team, where he managed the confirmation process for newly nominated cabinet secretaries and “worked with members of Congress and state governors on issues critical to the establishment of the new administration,” before leaving to head up the Prosperity Project, a political advocacy group for big business.
But Gribbin left behind an equally worthy successor who is now Halliburton’s chief Washington lobbyist: Admiral Joe Lopez, recently retired from the U.S. Navy and former commander-in-chief of the Southern Forces Europe, also a close confidante of Dick Cheney. Lopez’s first job at Halliburton, when he joined in 1999, was a $100 million contract to upgrade 150 United States embassy and consulate buildings around the world, to secure them against “terrorist” attacks. In March 2002 Lopez was appointed to the bi-partisan Commission on Post-Conflict Reconstruction, set up by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to develop specific proposals to enhance U.S. participation in international reconstruction efforts in war-torn countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Kosovo. Other members of the commission include seven senators and representatives from the U.S. Congress, no doubt useful friends when it comes to cashing in on the reconstruction proposals.
Angola is just one example of the United States government support that Cheney was able to help engineer for Halliburton. The company has a $200 million contract with Chevron and its partners in the enclave of Cabinda (a province of Angola geographically distinct from the rest of the country.) There Halliburton services over 330 wells in 30 fields, located between one and 40 miles offshore which provide eight percent of U.S. oil imports, more than even Kuwait. This concession is the source of 80% of the Angolan government’s revenue. Visitors report that the beach sands of Cabinda have turned black from the pollution and the smell of petroleum hangs everywhere.
Then Secretary of State Madeline Albright personally flew out to Chevron’s Takula Oil Drilling Platform in Cabinda on December 12, 1997 to announce that the Export-Import Bank of the United States was “finalizing an innovative loan of nearly $90 million to develop new oil fields here, and it is discussing with SONANGOL (the state oil company) and Chevron a further $350 million package to support purchases of American equipment.”
A follow-up cable from the U.S. embassy in Angola to Albright in 1998 explains the help it gave Cheney’s company: “Our commercial officer literally camped out at the offices of the national oil company, petroleum ministry and central bank, unraveling snag after snag to obtain the transfer of funds. The bottom line: thousands of American jobs and a foot in the door forHalliburton to win even bigger contracts.” That memo detailed how the embassy helpedHalliburton “in tough competition with foreign firms” by allaying the Export-Import Bank’s concerns and removing “barriers” to the $68 million loan package.
Gribbin, then vice president of government affairs for Halliburton, told the Associated Press that the helpful diplomat in Angola was “a guy who was enthusiastically doing his job. God bless him. I’m sure probably a lot of our folks, when they are working in these countries, will get to know the commercial attaché and vice versa. You can call any company that is a global business, and they will tell you this.”
Energy Task Force
On his 10th day as vice president, Dick Cheney established a secret “Energy Task Force,” formally known as the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), for the purpose of making recommendations to President Bush on energy policy. In formulating a new energy strategy for America, the task force met secretly with lobbyists and representatives of the petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industries. Many of these individuals work for energy companies which gave large campaign contributionsto Bush/Cheney 2000. Environmental groups were mostly excluded from the task force.
Members of Congress demanded Cheney release the names of individuals and corporations who gave information and advice to the task force. But the vice president refused. After pressure from the General Accounting Office (GAO), the independent auditing arm of Congress, Cheney did release limited information about the task force. The GAO issued a report on the information and found several corporations and associations, including Chevron Corp. (now part of ChevronTexaco Corp.) and the National Mining Association, gave detailed energy policy recommendations for the task force.
According to the GAO’s report, “senior agency officials” with the Department of Energy met “numerous times” with energy companies to provide advice to Cheney’s energy task force. Those companies include Bechtel, Chevron, American Coal Company, Small Refiners Association, the Coal Council, CSX, Kerr-McGee, Nuclear Energy Institute, the National Mining Association, General Motors, the National Petroleum Council, and the energy lobbying firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers. In addition, the Secretary of Energy discussed national energy policy with chief executive officers of petroleum, electricity, nuclear, coal, chemical, and natural gas companies, among others. The task force even sought and received advice from the now-disgraced and bankrupt Enron Corporation.
The GAO does not know whether Halliburton was one of the companies involved in making recommendations to the energy task force. And Cheney refuses to release all the documents which can prove or disprove Halliburton’s involvement, which only fuels suspicion that Cheney has something to hide.
The energy task force members include Vice President Cheney (the chairman) and the Secretaries of State, Treasury, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Transportation and Energy. The remaining members of the task force are the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Administrator of the Office of Management and Budget, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and the Deputy Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs.
Note that the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not a member of the task force, but Cheney was quick to report that “110 EPA employees” participated in the task force’s “efforts.” The EPA administrator and agency staff had met with environmental and conservation organizations to help prepare the task force report, but there is no information on whether such meetings were more common than industry meetings or how often the meetings took place. The EPA had also met with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Edison Electric Institute.
The task force formally convened 10 times between January 29, 2001, and May 16, 2001. Only federal government employees attended these meetings, according to the limited information released by Cheney. But the GAO cannot confirm or deny whether individuals from energy companies met privately with the task force because, the GAO says, “no party [from the task force] provided us with any documentary evidence to support or negate this assertion.” Nor will Dick Cheney voluntarily provide the information to prove or disprove it.
Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit in federal court to obtain the release of all of the task force records. The lawsuit argues that in 2001 Cheney violated the “open-government” law, known as the Federal Advisory Committee Act, by meeting behind closed doors with energy industry executives, analysts and lobbyists. The lawsuit continues today. A federal appeals court ruled in July 2003 that Cheney must supply all the information requested in the lawsuit. But Cheney continues to stonewall the request. So, on December 15, 2003, the Supreme Court announced it will hear Cheney’s appeal of the case. Three weeks later, Cheney and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spent a weekend together duck hunting at a private resort in southern Louisiana, giving rise to calls for Scalia to recuse himself from Cheney’s appeal. So far, Scalia has refused.
Public interest groups speculate the stonewalling by Cheney might be proof that the task force records show unprecedented corporate cronyism in the Bush administration, possibly showing an excessive or disproportionate influence over energy policy by Halliburton and other energy companies. The records may also reveal the true reasons for why the Bush administration demanded war with Iraq.
In July 2003, after two years of legal action through the Freedom of Information Act, Judicial Watch was finally able to obtain some documents from the task force. Those documents include maps of Iraqi and other mideast oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals, two charts detailing various Iraqi oil and gas projects, and a March 2001 list of “Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts.”
In January 2003, The Wall Street Journal reported that representatives from Halliburton, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron-Texaco Corp. and Conoco-Phillips, among others, had met with Vice President Cheney’s staff to plan the post-war revival of Iraq’s oil industry. However, both Cheney and the companies deny the meeting took place.