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Cheney office denies role in Halliburton deal

E-mail cited by Time implies veep helped ex-employer get Iraq contract

From Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

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Halliburton Company
Dick Cheney

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney's office denied Sunday that he was involved in a coordinated effort to secure a multibillion dollar Iraq oil deal for Halliburton, his former employer.

A reference to such an arrangement was made in an internal Pentagon e-mail from an Army Corps of Engineers official to another Pentagon employee, Time magazine reports in its June 7 edition, which is due on newsstands Monday.

The existence of the e-mail was confirmed to CNN by a senior administration official familiar with it.

The e-mail -- dated March 5, 2003 -- says Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, approved the arrangement to award the contract to the oil-services company, the administration official said.

According to an e-mail excerpt in Time, the contract was "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w[ith] VP's office."

The Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract three days later without seeking other bids, Time reports.

Time says it found the e-mail "among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group."

The senior official told CNN the e-mail was a typical "heads-up" memo from one government agency to another that "a decision has been made, we're about to announce this contract, and as a courtesy we are alerting the White House of a public announcement. This is a standard practice."

The "coordinated action" referred to, the senior administration official said, was "that of publicly announcing the contract decision that has already been made."

The heads-up would have been given because of Cheney's previous involvement in the company as chief executive officer, and the anticipated controversy over the noncompetitive bid, the official said.

"The vice president and his office have played no role whatsoever in government contracting since he left private business to campaign for vice president" in 1999, Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems said Sunday.

Time reports the e-mail also says Feith got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his supervisor, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.

The contract was one of several Halliburton and its subsidiaries were awarded by the government over the past year.

Cheney was chairman and chief executive officer of the Texas-based Halliburton Co., one of the world's largest service providers to the oil and gas industry, from 1995 to 2000, when he resigned to run for vice president.

Cheney still receives about $150,000 a year in deferred payments for work he performed as chairman. He also holds more than 433,000 stock options, according to a report last fall by the Congressional Research Office requested by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat. (Full story)

Cheney has insisted in the past that the deferred compensation was set up two years before he became a vice presidential candidate in 2000 and that he assigned all his stock options to a charitable trust just before being sworn in.

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