Thursday, July 11, 2002
Edited by Eli Pariser (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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INTRODUCTION: MAN OF MYSTERY
"Cheney and Bush want privacy for their conversations, but not for anyone else's." --Tony Mauro in USA Today, Feb. 27, 2002
Since September 11, Vice President Dick Cheney has kept a low profile. For months, he rarely appeared at all, emerging only to sell his political ideas on CNN or to dismiss allegations of corporate wrongdoing. Even now, Cheney mostly stays in a "secure location," ready to spring into action if President Bush is attacked.
Unlike most politicians, Cheney actually enjoys working in the background. By his own account, he doesn't relish campaigning, and he's hardly a natural spokesman, but Cheney excels at assembling and managing teams of people to "get stuff done."
Since he and Bush arrived at the White House, Cheney has managed to accomplish quite a bit. He's met with the heads of oil, gas, and nuclear power companies, assembled their "wish lists," and turned them into a new national Energy Plan. Cheney's close relations with folks like Ken Lay of Enron have made this one of the most corporation-friendly administrations in history.
In this issue of the MoveOn Bulletin, we take an in-depth look at Dick Cheney. It's not surprising that Cheney is avoiding the limelight: an SEC investigation is under way on accounting practices at Halliburton, the company he ran, and Congress's investigative body is still trying to determine how much of the Energy Plan he organized was shaped by oil, coal, and nuclear energy executives. Given his key role in determining the policy and practice of the Bush administration, an understanding of Cheney's history is important.
When Cheney was Chief of Staff for President Gerald Ford, his code name was "Backseat." Perhaps these days President Bush's nickname suits him better: for Cheney, it's "Big Time."
"[S]triking another blow for freedom from government interference, 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. In the five years before Mr. Cheney joined the company, it got a measly $100 million in government loans." Molly Ivins' article, "Cheney's Mess Worth a Close Look" is online at:
"[W]hen I was Secretary of Defense, my biggest problem was with the Congress of the United States.
Now that I'm chairman and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, my biggest problem is the Congress of the United States." --Dick Cheney, during an address to the Export-Import Bank Conference, May 8, 1997.
Cheney was asked to assume the helm of Halliburton in 1995. As one of the largest global providers of equipment and services to the oil industry, Halliburton needed a chief executive who could ensure that the company had the government's full support. Cheney's close connections to top government and industry decision makers made him perfect for this role.
In a debate with Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman in 2000, Lieberman noted that Cheney had done well for himself as CEO of Halliburton. Cheney responded flatly, "I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it." But even a glance at Cheney's tenure at Halliburton suggests otherwise.
During his five years as CEO, Cheney nearly doubled the size of
Halliburton's government contracts, totaling a whopping $2.3
billion. He convinced the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. to lend
Halliburton and oil companies another $1.5 billion, backed by U.S.
taxpayers. As exposed in the article below, some of these loans
went to a Russian company with ties to drug dealing and organized
Cheney's rule at Halliburton was characterized by a ruthless geopolitical strategy that put aside political beliefs whenever they were inconvenient. In a number of cases, Halliburton and its subsidiaries supported or even ordered human rights violations and broke international laws. Consider the following examples:
* Libyan dictator and suspected anti-U.S. terrorist Moammar Gadhafi engaged a foreign subsidiary of Halliburton company Brown & Root to perform millions of dollars worth of work. According to the Baltimore Sun, Brown & Root was fined $3.8 million for violating Libyan sanctions. (Although Cheney wasn't leading Halliburton when these sales started, subsidiaries' sales to Libya continued throughout his tenure.)
* Cheney claimed that he supported the U.S. sanctions on Iraq, but the Financial Times of London reported that through foreign subsidiaries and affiliates, Halliburton became the biggest oil contractor for Iraq, selling more than $73 million in goods and services to Saddam Hussein's regime. (See http://gwbush.com/spots/postpage.html for a Washington Post article on the matter.)
* In Burma, Halliburton joined oil companies in working on two notorious gas pipelines, the Yadana and Yetagun. According to an Earth Rights report, "From 1992 until the present, thousands of villagers in Burma were forced to work in support of these pipelines and related infrastructure, lost their homes due to forced relocation, and were raped, tortured and killed by soldiers hired by the companies as security guards for the pipelines. One of Halliburton’s projects was undertaken during Dick Cheney’s tenure as CEO." (The full report is linked to below.)
Halliburton is now being investigated by the Securities and
Exchange Commission for Enron-style accounting practices that took
place while Cheney was CEO.
More on Cheney and Halliburton:
For an extensive briefing on Halliburton and Cheney's foreign
policy impact, check out this well-written and thorough report:
Cheney made $36 million at Halliburton in 2000 alone.
Thesmokinggun.com has his tax returns to prove it:
A LOT OF ENERGY
"Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." --Cheney, in a speech in Toronto, Canada, May 1, 2001.
The ongoing fracas over Cheney's Energy Plan ties together many of the themes of his working life: his corporate alliances, especially with energy companies; his view of oil as integral to U.S. foreign policy; and his insistence on secrecy for the activities of the Executive branch.
On May 16, 2001, Cheney revealed the results of months of meetings
of his Energy Task Force: a national energy plan. President Bush
had established the Task Force in January 2001, under Vice
President Cheney's leadership. (See
http://www.whitehouse.gov/energy/ for the final plan.)
The plan essentially made Cheney's statement about 'personal virtue' national policy. It put a premium on exploring for and extracting more oil, and proposed that the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve be used for this purpose. While it paid lip service to alternative energy sources, its recommendations focused almost exclusively on the need for more "energy supply" -- more oil, more nuclear plants, more coal.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, "the Bush plan would provide no short-term relief for Americans struggling to pay their gasoline and electric bills this summer. And, over the long-term, it would increase pollution, despoil the environment, threaten public health and accelerate global warming. Moreover, it would have no impact on energy prices, and no practical effect on U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil. Who would benefit? The oil, coal and nuclear industries that shoveled millions of dollars into Bush campaign coffers."
Shortly before the Plan was revealed, controversy arose. On April 19, 2001, Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Dingell (D-MI) wrote to the General Accounting Office (GAO), asking it to investigate the Task Force. According to the GAO, "The congressional investigation of the task force was prompted by news reports that the task force had met privately with major campaign contributors, such as Kenneth Lay, the CEO of Enron, to discuss energy policy. According to these reports, major Republican contributors attended private sessions with Vice President Cheney and the task force met secretly with other contributors in formulating the President's National Energy Policy."
In response, Cheney's counsel returned a letter, refusing to disclose whom Cheney and the Task Force had met with and even who was on the Task Force's staff. The GAO made a formal demand for information; Cheney rebuffed it, citing Executive Privilege. It's worth noting that the GAO wasn't even requesting the minutes of the Task Force meetings; it merely wanted to know who the Task Force met with, and when.
In late August 2001, a Los Angeles Times article exposed the connections between Cheney's Task Force and Bush's campaign contributors. The article described how the final report adopted verbatim a global warming policy suggested by the U.S. Energy Association (an energy industry group), how language was altered to favor Halliburton, and how a company called Peabody Coal and its affiliates gave more than $900,000 to the Bush campaign and "gained extraordinary access" to the Task Force. (See http://www.commondreams.org/headlines01/0826-02.htm for a copy of the article.)
As Enron collapsed, Cheney continued to refuse access to the documents of the Task Force. In February 22, 2002, the GAO filed suit to obtain the documents, some of which have since been turned over. But large questions about the circumstances under which the Bush Administration's energy policy was formed remain. The evidence indicates that the final product was a gift for the energy industry from Cheney, their former colleague.
More on Cheney and the Energy Plan:
The GAO's comprehensive timeline of the Cheney failure to turn
over the Task Force documents is viewable at:
You can search the documents that Cheney was ordered to make
You can read NRDC's "Slower, Costlier, and Dirtier: A Critique of
the Bush Energy Plan" at:
"With so many new international crises erupting every day, it is
hard to detect any clear forward direction to American U.S.
foreign policy. At times, it appears that providing a response to
the latest upheaval is about all that Washington can accomplish.
But beneath the surface of day-to-day crisis management, one can
see signs of an overarching plan for U.S. policy: a strategy of
global oil acquisition." --Michael Klare, Pacific News Service:
Satire: Cheney's 10 energy tips
A short, and perhaps too sweet, biography that captures the
highlights of Cheney's career:
The Christian Science Monitor offers a little more background on
Cheney, prior to the 2000 election. "Cheney's connections and
influence are seen everywhere these days - giving rise to talk
that he's CEO to Bush's Chairman of the Board. Most people around
Cheney probably suffer from something like Rolodex-envy."
A PBS Newshour report on Cheney's management style and
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