A Little Help From Halliburton's Friends

Halliburton keeps sinking deeper and deeper into the goo of crass political cronyism.

Vice President Dick Cheney formerly was CEO of this big Pentagon contractor and continues to receive a generous Halliburton check every year. This curious connection is what raised eyebrows when Halliburton was awarded a multi-billion dollar contract last year to do chores for the Pentagon in occupied Iraq -- a contract it received without the fuss of having any competing bids.

Nothing amiss, cried Cheney apologists, for this is simply how the procurement process normally works. No political favoritism was involved, so go away, you bothersome critics!

But then it turns out that Halliburton was overcharging us taxpayers on one of its major Iraqi chores -- bringing gasoline into the war-ravaged country. It socked us with a $2.65-a-gallon charge on 60 million gallons of gasoline -- nearly a buck-sixty more than experts say would be reasonable.

Nothing amiss cried Cheney defenders again, for this is simply the realistic price of supplying gasoline in a country that's still a war zone. There's no political favoritism here, so scat, you malicious muckrakers.

But the Pentagon's own energy support center pointed out that it also was delivering some gasoline to Iraq -- for only about $1.00 a gallon. The Pentagon's audit agency then asked Halliburton officials for internal documents to justify its pricing -- but the officials refused.

Then, out of the blue, the Army Corps of Engineers, which negotiated and oversees Halliburton's sweetheart contract, suddenly intervened to sabotage the auditor's investigation. The Corps unilaterally issued a waiver of Halliburton's requirement to provide "any cost and pricing data." The Corps says it issued the waiver at the request of Halliburton. How convenient.

How many times do we have to see such crass cronyism in action before we call it what it is? It's corruption. Even Pollyanna wasn't blind.

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