View from Lodi, CA: My Doubts About Cheney

Bring back Spiro T. Agnew and the “Nolo
Contendere
Gang!”

Since we are doomed to duplicity in politics, then
let the politicians be more “honest” in their
dishonesty.

Ergo, my plea for a colorful crook like Agnew to
spare us from the likes of the tedious Vice-President
Dick Cheney.

You remember

Agnew
. Nixon`s first Vice-President took

cash
in brown paper bags while he was in the White
House. Then just few days later, Agnew would be
photographed off the Florida Keys on a swank yacht
owned, supposedly, by

Bebe Rebozo.

As distasteful as Agnew was, he`s more palatable than
the furtive Cheney scurrying off to confidential
meetings about classified matters. Then, presto, all of
the big contracts go to Cheney`s old employer,
Halliburton.

Who`s to tell what goes on behind closed doors?
Everything is confidential and classified—remember? 
We have repeatedly been told that it “isn`t in our best
interests” to know what high-ranking government
officials discuss

in secret
.

Criminals fascinate Americans. But we prefer them
when they are upfront. That`s why we silently root for
Tony Soprano but openly hope that

Enron`s
Kenneth Lay gets
99 years
breaking rocks.

Cheney is an interesting study. Those who have
observed him for years like to say, “Dick Cheney is
always at an undisclosed location–even when he is
sitting in front of you!”

In the fall of 2000, the Democrats let a golden
opportunity slip away when the party didn`t hammer
Cheney on his personal voting record. Cheney voted only
twice in sixteen elections in Dallas County over five
years. One he missed was the 2000 Texas Republican
Presidential primary won by George W. Bush.

The Democratic slogan could have been, “Why Should
You Vote for Bush; Cheney Didn`t?”

If the Democrats missed their chance during the last
election, they have even more fodder in 2004. Cheney`s
indirect wheeling and dealing is making front-page news.

In August 2000, the Center for Public Integrity
published a report titled

“Cheney Led Halliburton to Feast at the Federal Trough”

The report disclosed that Halliburton, under Cheney`s
leadership, “has emerged
as a corporate welfare hog, benefiting from at least
$3.8 billion in federal contracts and taxpayer-insured
loans”
over a five
year period.

According to the C.P.I.
study, the U.S. Export-Import Bank loan guaranteed $489
million in credits to a Russian oil company, Tyumen Oil,
whose roots are tied to KGB and Communist Party
corruption, drug trafficking and organized crime.

Halliburton, ignoring
State Department protests that the deal is counter to
“national interests” received $292 million to refurbish
a massive Siberian oil field owned by Tyumen.

Cheney always made sure
that his friends in high places were well taken care of.
During Cheney`s five years at Halliburton, it was a
generous political contributor, mostly to the Republican
Party.

The company donated
$1,212,000 in soft and hard money to candidates and
parties, according to the non-partisan

Center for Responsive Politics
.  In the five
pre-Cheney years, Halliburton gave $534, 750.

One of the most
interesting insights in the C.P.I. study is a
Halliburton official`s prediction that “if Cheney
becomes Vice President the company`s government
contracts would obviously go through the roof.”

And lo and behold, look
what`s happened.

In March, even before the
war started the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown &
Root Services was awarded a huge “umbrella” contract to
rebuild Iraq`s oil fields.

"I certainly don`t think this comes as much of a
surprise,"
said Michael Renner, a researcher at
WorldWatch Institute (http://www.worldwatch.org/),
commenting on the Halliburton contract, "There are
lots of business opportunities embedded in this war. It
represents the larger oil and energy issues at stake."

Then, last week the Los
Angeles Times
reported in its story titled
“Halliburton Unit`s Bill for Iraq Work Mounts”
that
Halliburton`s KBR unit has been paid nearly $90
million—with the figure expected to rise–to cater to
Americans rebuilding Iraq. The sum will include—but not
be limited to– the cost of building prefabricated
offices, showers, generators and latrines the “size of
trailer homes” to the more mundane expenses of food and
bottled water.

Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA)
and John Dingell (D-MI) have called for a General
Accounting Office investigation noting that Cheney has
received $13 million “in stock rights and continues to
receive $180,000 annually from Halliburton in deferred
compensation.”

Halliburton`s
representative Wendy Hall denied Cheney`s ties to the
firm played a role in the firm being selected or
considered for contracts.

Said

Hall
: "The vice president has absolutely nothing
to do with the awarding of defense contracts, the
bidding process or the current work orders."

Right! Just as Spiro Agnew
had nothing whatsoever to do with bribes and
kick-backs from construction and engineering firms
seeking state contracts.

They were really
campaign contributions, after all.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.