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Cheney faults 'desperate' attacks on Halliburton

Vice president rejects allegations he helped former company


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(CNN) -- Offering a spirited defense of the company he once headed, Vice President Dick Cheney said Halliburton Co. is being maligned for its work in Iraq by political opponents of the Bush administration who are "feeling desperate."

"The company is a great company. They do great work for the federal government, as well as for their customers around the world," he told Fox News Radio in an interview Wednesday. "They've had now, I believe, some 15 people killed -- either Halliburton employees or subcontractors working for them.

"They are operating in a combat zone. They're rendering great service, and they make about three cents on the dollar for it. This is not the most profitable part of their business portfolio, by any means. They do it because they're good at it, because they won the contract to do it. And, frankly, the company takes a certain amount of pride in rendering this kind of service to U.S. military forces."

Halliburton's work in postwar Iraq -- much of which it won in a no-bid contract process -- has come under criticism and scrutiny because of the firm's ties to Cheney, who headed the company between serving as Defense secretary in the first Bush administration and becoming vice president.

Halliburton announced Friday that officials of a subsidiary contracted to provide services to U.S. troops may have accepted kickbacks from a Kuwaiti company subcontracted to provide the services, and a $6.3 million check is being sent to the Army unit overseeing the contract.

The payment is a refund for a cost overrun that Halliburton says it uncovered in the contract, and it concedes that some of the overrun may have been in the form of "improper payments" -- kickbacks -- to two employees of subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root who are no longer with the firm. (Full story)

The allegations involved a contract competitively awarded to KBR in 2001 and do not relate to the no-bid gasoline contract. The Pentagon ended that contract December 31.

Cheney headed Halliburton from 1995 until he became George W. Bush's running mate in 2000, leaving the company with a $34 million retirement package.

But Cheney flatly rejected insinuations that he has been helping Halliburton, noting that he severed ties to the company upon becoming vice president.

"Some of our adversaries on the other side of the aisle can't find any legitimate policy difference ... so they try to make it personal, they come after allegations that somehow I am manipulating contracts for Halliburton," he said. "I don't have anything to do with the contracting process, and I wouldn't know how to manipulate the process if I wanted to."

A report released in September by the Congressional Research Service said the deferred compensation that Cheney receives from Halliburton, as well as the more than 433,000 stock options he possesses, "is considered among the 'ties' retained in or 'linkages to former employers' that may 'represent a continuing financial interest' in those employers which makes them potential conflicts of interest."

Cheney's deferred compensation from the energy services giant is his salary from 1999 -- which he decided to defer in 1998 -- long before he knew he would on a presidential ticket, Cheney aides say.


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