The VP has no clothes

These are the facts: Halliburton, a company with direct financial ties to the vice president, has overcharged by $61 million for work done as part of its contract to rebuild Iraq after the American invasion. It has accepted bribes as part of a scam to bilk American forces in Iraq—and U.S. taxpayers—out of $6.3 million. Its actions have severely damaged American credibility abroad and have lent credence to the argument that “Operation Iraqi Freedom” had more to do with corporate profiteering than with stopping terrorism.

So, why isn’t the company being penalized for its actions? And why is Halliburton still in line to receive untold billions of taxpayer dollars for its work in Iraq?

Last March, when Halliburton was awarded a $1.4 billion contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry, the stench of back-room, insider dealing was so thick you could almost smell the cigar smoke. No competitive bids were taken, leaving the White House wide open to charges that the Bush administration was rewarding the corporate giant for its intimate ties to Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as Halliburton’s chief executive until immediately before taking office.

Recently, it’s become clear that despite his claims to have “severed all ties” with Halliburton, Cheney is profiting handsomely from the cozy relationship between the administration and his former company. He owns 433,333 shares of Halliburton stock, which has risen in value by 50 percent since the announcement of the Iraq contract. Since taking office, he has received more than $250,000 in deferred salary, plus a $1.4 million cash bonus and a $20 million retirement package.

Cheney’s present ties to Halliburton are as clear as the company’s past history of corruption. In 1995, while Cheney was at the helm, the company was fined $3.8 million for making illegal exports to Libya.

Now that the company has been caught with its hands in the cookie jar again, it is offering to pay back the money it stole. That’s simply not enough. The company should face stiff penalties that would serve to ensure that this doesn’t continue.

Halliburton and its subsidiary, Kellogg Brown & Root, are still in line to receive what’s literally an unlimited amount of taxpayer dollars as part of a 10-year, no-cap contract that has brought the company $1.7 billion so far. That deal should be canceled in favor of a much more restrictive and tightly budgeted plan. In addition, a congressional investigation should be launched into Halliburton’s activities in Iraq and its ties to the Bush administration, and Cheney should divest all financial interests in the company. In a time when America needs all the allies it can get in its war on terror, we can’t afford even the appearance of corruption at the top.