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EDITORIAL Texas Observer VOLUME 94, NO. 3 A _journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Another Tricky Dick aving simmered on the Hback burner through the aftermath of 9/11, Congress’s effort to obtain records from Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force has now reached a’ boiling point. The Enron collapse has only made Cheney dig in his heels even harder, such that the whole country is now wondering just what Ken Lay asked forthat is, recommendedat those meetings, and what Cheney delivered. But is it Enron’s dealings with the task force Cheney is trying to hide, or Halliburton’s? The huge Dallas-based oilfield services conglomerate, for which Cheney served as CEO from 1995 to July of 2000, may yet become Cheney’s own poison pretzel. . Cheney joined Halliburton just two-and-one-half years after leaving his post as Secretary of Defense under Bush I. Halliburton, principally through its construction subsidiary, Brown & Root, had already begun reaping the gains from privatization initiatives pushed by Cheney during the Gulf War. As Robert Bryce reported in The Texas Observer, in 1992 the Pentagon paid Brown & Root for a study of how private companies could better be used to provide logistics support for U.S. troops across the globe. Later that year the company won such a contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But the money didn’t really start rolling until Cheney joined Halliburton in 1995. At that time, Brown&Root was bringing in less than $350 million per year in Defense Department contracts, according to The Baltimore Sun. By 1999, after four years with Cheney at the helm, that number had grown to more than $650 million. When Cheney left to join the Bush ticket in July of 2000, Halliburton execs made sure he would stay their man with an eye-popping “retirement package” worth more than $33 million. It paid off. Last December, the Pentagon awarded Halliburton a huge, nine-year contract to build operating bases for troops deployed overseas. The cost-plus, nocap award does not have an estimated value, but according to a report by the Institute for Southern Studies, Halliburton reported revenues of $2.5 billion on similar contracts in the 1990s. We don’t yet know if Halliburton’s cozy relationship earned the company an audience with Cheney’s energy task force, but we can take a pretty good guess at what they hope to get from their former CEO. Although there have been no accusations of Enronesque machinations, Halliburton is not without its own troubles. Dresser Industries, a Halliburton sub sidiary acquired while Cheney was CEO, is facing enormous exposure to asbestos litigation, so much so that Dresser dragged Halliburton’s stock down more than 70 percent in the last year. \(Cheney himself got out while the getting was still good, selling his stock and options in the summer of Then, in mid-January, Halliburton’s stock rebounded dramatically, appar ently on speculation that the White House would announce some kind of relief plan for asbestos defendants. That has yet to happen, and former Senator John Ashcroft’s asbestos industry bill, killed by Congress last year, remains deader than Mel Carnahan. But a more generic “tort reform” initiative continued on page 20 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Editors: Nate Blakeslee, Karen Olsson Managing Editor: Barbara Belejack Managing Publisher: Jim Ball Circulation Manager: Candace Carpenter Art Director: Julia Austin Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Development Director: Susan Morris Interns: Sandra Spicher, Emily Rapp Seitz Contributing Writers: Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Louis Dubose, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, ohn Ross. Staff Photographers: Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum. Contributing Artists: Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Ben Sargent, Penny Van Horn, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farentholdjohn Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam: Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001 Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board: Ronnie Dugger, Molly Ivins, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Gilberto Ocafias. The Texas Observer entire contents copyrighted 2001, is published biweekly except every three weeks during January and August \(24 issues profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone: E-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page: . Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The’Thxas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books & the Culture section is partially funded through grants from the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts Commission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. 2115/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3