Friday, November 04, 2005

Who Owns Our Government Anyway?

Long before the Bush/Cheney machine siezed the reigns of official power, unseen hands were pulling some wicked strings. I better reprint it in full because Fair use most of the other AP links on this page no longer come up .

U.S. Embassies Assisted Cheney Firm

By Katherine Pfleger
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, Oct. 26, 2000; 2:38 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– Though Dick Cheney says the government played no role in his business success, internal State Department memos show U.S. diplomats lobbied foreign governments, banks and state-run companies to assist two business deals for the oil services firm once headed by the Republican vice presidential candidate.

The help for Dallas-based Halliburton Co. came from U.S. embassies in Angola and Bangladesh, according to embassy communications that provide a rare glimpse into common and widespread efforts by diplomats to help U.S. companies abroad.

The Associated Press obtained the State Department memos under the Freedom of Information Act.

The U.S. embassy in Angola minced few words in 1998 when detailing the assistance it gave Cheney's company. U.S. officials helped arrange financing from a reluctant Export-Import Bank, which provides credits and loan guarantees for U.S. businesses investing overseas, so that Angolans could sign an oil services contract with Halliburton.

"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," said an embassy cable to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. "The bottom line: thousands of American jobs and a foot in the door for Halliburton to win even bigger contracts."

That memo detailed how the embassy helped Halliburton "in tough competition with foreign firms" by allaying the Export-Import Bank's concerns and removing "barriers" to the $68 million loan package.

Diplomatic lobbying on behalf of U.S. companies is common. In fact, Warren Christopher, President Clinton's first secretary of state, stepped up such efforts.

"We do advocate on behalf of American business interests when it's appropriate," said Bill Wanlund, spokesman for the State Department's economic and business affairs office. "It's not unusual for an embassy to respond to a request from a U.S. company that feels it's being discriminated against."

Dave Gribbin, vice president of government affairs for Halliburton, said 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 attache and vice versa," Gribbin said. "You can call any company that is a global business, and they will tell you this."

During the vice presidential debate, Cheney said the government "had absolutely nothing to do with" his financial success since leaving his job as defense secretary under President Bush.

Cheney's campaign deferred comment Wednesday to Halliburton. Gribbin said the embassy cables don't necessarily conflict with Cheney's statement.

"He had a job, and it wasn't a government job," Gribbin said. "It was a private-sector job, and that's what I think he meant."

Cheney made millions on salary and stock as chief executive officer of Halliburton from October 1995 until August, shortly after becoming George W. Bush's running mate, including a $4.7 million salary last year.

Halliburton provides oil services, from drill bits to well maintenance, for entire oil fields, and has operations in more than 120 nations.

In Bangladesh, Ambassador John Holzman suggested in May 1998 that Albright put Halliburton on the agenda for discussions with Bangladeshi officials before Clinton's visit to the country, and the trip itself in March 2000. Halliburton had a stake in a gas field off the Bangladesh coast but was struggling with the state oil company to begin tapping it.

Halliburton provided talking points to U.S. diplomats for meetings with Bangladeshi officials. A failure on Bangladesh's part to resolve this issue "could seriously harm the government's stated goal of attracting foreign direct investment into the crucial gas sector," one point said.

Then-U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson, a Democrat, also "made strong plugs" for Halliburton in a June 1998 meeting with the Bangladeshi commerce minister, said a cable from Richardson's office.

Gas began to flow less than two weeks after Richardson's intervention, cables and news reports said.

Other embassy communications show U.S. officials monitored Halliburton's activities and applauded victories. For instance:

– In January 1999, the U.S. ambassador to Algeria visited a Halliburton base camp there for a tour, town meeting and a briefing from company officials.

– In September 1999, U.S. embassy officials in Russia met with a company executive about the country's economy. "Getting Russian companies to pay upfront remains difficult," Halliburton official Mike Watts said, according to the cable. "But competition is keen, and U.S. firms need to be ready to move fast, or risk being beaten to the punch when Russian companies are ready and able to start paying again."

– When Halliburton won a $160 million contract to provide drilling services in Oman, a cable heralded it as "a great win for Halliburton and U.S. business in Oman.... Post is especially pleased that an American firm has won the contract."

© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

This ride is just starting

WASHINGTON, August 2, 2000 — Under the guidance of Richard Cheney, a get-the-government-out-of-my-face conservative, Halliburton Company over the past five years has emerged as a corporate welfare hog, benefiting from at least $3.8 billion in federal contracts and taxpayer-insured loans.

One of these loans was approved in April by the U.S. Export-Import Bank. It guaranteed $489 million in credits to a Russian oil company whose roots are imbedded in a legacy of KGB and Communist Party corruption, as well as drug trafficking and organized crime funds, according to Russian and U.S. sources and documents.

Those claims are hotly disputed by the Russian oil firm's holding company.

Halliburton, which lobbied for the Ex-Im loan after the State Department initially asserted that the deal would run counter to the "national interest," will receive $292 million of those funds to refurbish a massive Siberian oil field owned by the Russian company, the Tyumen Oil Co., which is controlled by a conglomerate called the Alfa Group.

The April Ex-Im taxpayer-insured loan, which has the effect of reducing the borrowers interest rate and extending its repayment term, is but the latest of a series of government bank guarantees from which Halliburton has benefited under Cheney, who joined the company as chairman and chief executive officer in 1995. Since then Halliburton and its subsidiaries have undertaken foreign projects in which Ex-Im and its sister U.S. bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp., have guaranteed or made direct loans totaling $1.5 billion, mostly over the last two years. That compares with a total of about $100 million the government banks insured and loaned in the five years before Cheney joined the company.

I don't have any recollection of any findings from Judicial Watch's shareholder lawsuit over allegedly fraudulent accounting practices under Dick Cheney's control, but the trail of Cheney crud spreads far and wide.

Who is pulling all those strings in the background anyway?

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