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Follow the Money

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It was reported by the Associated Press yesterday that a 40-year old Oregon man working as a contractor for Halliburton in Iraq, was killed. Craig Johnson spent nearly three years working in Iraq. Earlier this week, Reuters put the total number of contractors killed in Iraq at 647. U.S. losses currently stand at 2,758 killed and over 20,000 wounded since the war began in March 2003, according to the website, icasualties.org.

Speaking of Halliburton, Frida Berrigan of In These Times put together a great post on 'Dead Eye' Dick Cheney's former employer's love affair with the GOP-controlled Congress: Halliburton <3's Congress.

Shtick or substance?

Republicans sneer at these outsider efforts. “It gets to a point where it’s more shtick than substance,” says Kevin Madden, spokesman for House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio). Rep. Tom David (R-Va.), chair of the Government Reform Committee, defends Republican inaction by declaring, “We aren’t going after the mini scandal du jour trying to embarrass the administration at a hearing that’s going nowhere.”

Yet, during the Clinton years, Republicans seemed to love “nowhere” investigations. Did President Clinton sell Arlington cemetery plots to his big donors? Did he misuse the White House Christmas card list to hunt for potential contributors? The answers to these and many other questions were sought in aggressive and voluminous investigations by the Republican-controlled Congress. In all, between 1997 and 2002, the Government Reform Committee issued 1,052 subpoenas against the Clinton administration and the DNC and only 11 related to Republican abuse.

In contrast, during the 108th Congress, the Government Reform Committee grudgingly held four hearings on Iraq reconstruction contracting. Their final report dismissed critical witnesses as “so-called whistle blowers” and attributed multi-million dollar bungles to the “fog of war.” In Sen. Dorgan’s view, the hearings “were called in order to defend Halliburton, which is a pretty pathetic way to do investigative oversight.”

Pwn3d!

This Republican-controlled Congress wouldn't know oversight if it jumped up and bit them on the ass. The current GOP sees just about everything in partisan political terms. Any debate about that died a few weeks ago when evidence of a GOP cover-up of the Child Predator Scandal involving GOP Rep. Mark Foley materialized. Why should protecting campaign donors be any different than protecting known child predators? It's standard operating procedure to cover the collective ass of the party at all costs in the GOP.

In the article, Frida poses the question: "Why doesn't Congress do more?" One could probably find the answer in the age-old phrase, "follow the money." Plus, it doesn't hurt that the revolving door for high-level officials is really just an automated sliding door that never closes, for Pete's sake. These days, people don't even try to hide it.

Cheney is a great friend to have, but it doesn’t hurt that the company has other close ties. Richard “Plame-gate” Armitage did freelance consulting work for Halliburton before assuming the number two position at the State Department. In 2005, KBR hired Joe Allbaugh, an aide to George W. Bush when he was governor of Texas and former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as a consultant. For good measure, they hired Allbaugh’s wife Diane too.

Oh, don't want to leave her out.

Just a few days ago, the government spending watchdog website FedSpending.org launched, a project of OMB Watch with the help of the Sunlight Foundation. It tracks government contracts and grants based off of data provided by government agencies.

As I was test driving the site, I came across a feature that lists the Top 100 Contractors in each of the last six years, FY2000 through FY2005, and thought I would look up a usual suspect:

Halliburton

Fiscal Yr. | Rank | Total Contracts
FY2000 #28 $695.2 million
FY2001 #52 $530.5 million
FY2002 #37 $781.2 million
FY2003 #8 $4.4 billion
FY2004 #6 $8.0 billion
FY2005 #6 $5.9 billion

And the Veep would have us believe he had nothing to do with that.

The site is still in it's infancy but will surely prove to be useful in the near future. I strongly urge all of you to check it out. 

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