White House Oil Connections Raise Questions

| March 2003

The cozy relationship between the Bush administration and oil industry giant Halliburton is coming under increased scrutiny as the government begins to plan the rebuilding of Iraq.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) last week called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to explain why a Halliburton subsidiary was awarded a contract worth tens of millions of dollars without competitive bidding and without notifying Congress. The contract with Kellogg Brown & Root to extinguish oil well fires in Iraq stipulates no time limit or dollar amount. ?This type of contract is generally discouraged in the executive branch because it provides the contractor with an incentive to increase its profits by increasing the costs to the taxpayers,? Waxman wrote.

The California congressman, the ranking minority member of the House Committee on Government Reform, noted that the company?s work for the army in the Balkans in 2000 had also come under scrutiny by the General Accounting Office for its lack of cost controls.

Meanwhile, the Dallas-based Halliburton, which was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney before the 2000 presidential campaign, is reportedly not among the finalists competing to rebuild the basic infrastructure of post-war Iraq. The Guardian reports that the company was one of five U.S. firms invited to bid on the $600 million contract, but did not make the cut?either because the bid was not competitive or because Halliburton decided the political risks were too high.

?That kind of political interest was not in their corporate interests,? an unidentified U.N. official said, noting that Halliburton operates throughout the Arab world, which has not looked kindly on the U.S. invasion.

The four other companies invited to bid on the project were Bechtel, Fluor, Parsons, and Louis Berger. All have ties to the Bush administration, the Guardian noted.