by Susan Cornwell / Reuters –
WASHINGTON (September 17, 2003) — US Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton Co., has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company since taking office while asserting he has no financial interest in the company, Senate Democrats said Tuesday.
The Democrats demanded to know why Cheney claimed to have cut ties with the oil services company, involved in a large no-bid contract for oil reconstruction work in Iraq, when he was still receiving large deferred salary payments.
Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg said the revelations reinforced the need for hearings about the no-bid contracts Halliburton received from the Bush administration.
“The vice president needs to explain how he reconciles the claim that he has ‘no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind,’ with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred salary payments he receives from Halliburton,” Daschle said in a statement.
On NBC’s Meet the Press program last Sunday, Cheney, who was Halliburton’s CEO from 1995 to 2000, said he had severed all ties with the Houston-based company.
“I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had now for over three years,” he said.
Cathie Martin, a Cheney spokeswoman, confirmed that the vice president has been receiving the deferred compensation payments from Halliburton, but she disputed that his statements on Meet the Press had been misleading.
Cheney had already earned the salary that was now being paid, Martin said, adding that once he became a nominee for vice president, he purchased an insurance policy to guarantee that the deferred salary would be paid to him whether or not Halliburton survived as a company.
“So he has no financial interest in the company,” she said.
But Sen. Lautenberg said that Cheney’s financial disclosure filings with the Office of Government Ethics listed $205,298 in deferred salary payments made to him by Halliburton in 2001 and another $162,393 in 2002. The filings indicated that he was scheduled to receive more payments in 2003, 2004, and 2005.
“In 2001 and 2002, Vice President Cheney was paid almost as much in salary from Halliburton as he made as vice president,” Lautenberg said. The U.S. vice president’s salary is $198,600 annually.
The financial disclosure forms also said that Cheney continued to hold 433,333 unexercised Halliburton stock options, with exercise prices below the company’s current stock market price. Cheney’s spokeswoman said he had placed these options in a charitable trust and no longer had control over them.
On Meet the Press, Cheney also said he had no involvement in the awarding of government contracts to Halliburton.
“As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape, or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government,” he said.
In March, Halliburton was granted, without competition, a contract by the Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) to repair and restore Iraq’s oil fields. ACE says the cost of this contract to taxpayers is about $1 billion.
But under a second military support contract, Halliburton’s Kellogg Brown & Root unit has racked up more than $1 billion in expenses in Iraq, according to the US Army Field Support Command.