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CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 4

 

BUSH’S CONSERVATIVE APPOINTMENTS

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY

Dick Cheney’s political career dated back to the 1970s when, as a Wyoming congressman, he had one of the most conservative voting records of any member of Congress during his five terms in the House. Cheney:

1. Voted against the Equal Rights Amendment.

2. Opposed a resolution to urge the release of Nelson Mandela from a South African prison during apartheid.

3. Opposed the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

4. Opposed the Clean Water Act.

5. Opposed authorizing funds for Head Start.

6. Opposed the plastic gun ban but changed his mind after law enforcement groups lobbied him.

7. Opposed federal funding of abortions even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is in danger.

8. Opposed the Endangered Species Act.

8. Voted against spending more on “Superfund” environmental cleanups.

9. Supported oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

10. Opposed gas and oil leasing in his home state of Wyoming and wanted to designate 650,000 additional acres in Wyoming as wilderness areas.

11. Supported Reagan’s Star Wars, the deployment of the MX missile, production of new chemical weapons.

11. Supported military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras.

12. Favored raising the Social Security retirement age from 65 to 67.

13. Opposed busing to achieve racial desegregation in public schools.

14. Supported prayer in public schools.

15. Opposed limiting contributions by political action committees.

16. Opposed coverage of long-term home care for the chronically ill under Medicare and voted against a measure that would have shielded Medicare beneficiaries from bills for catastrophic illnesses and provided prescription drug coverage under Medicare. (Washington Post, July 27, 2000)

As President George Herbert Bush’s secretary of defense, Dick Cheney canceled a contract for a jet program without following the proper legal procedures, and then he gave inconsistent testimony about the decision which could have exposed the government to billions of dollars in judgments. On the eve of the Gulf War, Cheney made the decision to cancel the program, leading to 20,000 defense layoffs. Cheney denied at trial in 1996 that he had ordered the termination. But according to the judge, he acknowledged doing so in a letter to President Bush on January 4, 1991. (Washington Post, August 7, 2000; James Stephenson, The $5 Billion Misunderstanding)

After Bill Clinton’s victory in 1992 cost his government job, Cheney became CEO of Halliburton. Since then, he made millions running a business that provided services to that same military. That business contributed $250,000 to the Republican cause in the first half of 2000. Cheney collected more than $10 million in salary and stock payments from the company. In addition, he was the company’s largest individual shareholder, holding stock and options worth another $40 million. Those holdings undoubtedly became more valuable by the lucrative contracts which BRS, a Halliburton subsidiary, had with the Pentagon. (New York Times, July 31, 2000)

Iraq’s “oil-for-food” program was expanded in 1998 to allow Iraq to import spare parts for its oil facilities. The Halliburton subsidiaries joined dozens of American and foreign oil supply companies that helped Iraq increase its crude exports from $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $18 billion in 2000. However, Cheney offered contradictory accounts of how much he knew about Halliburton's dealings with Iraq. In July 30, 2000, Cheney denied that Halliburton or its subsidiaries traded with Baghdad. However, he changed his tune three weeks later, when he acknowledged that Dresser Rand and Ingersoll Dresser Pump traded with Iraq. These two firms traded with Baghdad for more than a year under Cheney, signing nearly $30 million in contracts before he sold Halliburton’s 49 percent stake in Ingersoll Dresser Pump Company in December 1999 and its 51 percent interest in Dresser Rand to Ingersoll-Rand in February 2000. (Washington Post, June 23, 2001).

During the peak of the 2000 election -- in October 2000 -- Halliburton underwent criminal investigation for allegedly defrauding the federal government out of millions of dollars in the closure of the Fort Ord, California military base. (New York Times, October 26, 2000

Cheney made nearly $46,000 on Halliburton stock investments in the summer of 1999 -- for an 80 percent return -- by gaining access to nine initial public offerings for technology companies. (New York Times, October 25, 2000

Between 1995 and 2000, Cheney was paid a total of $12.5 million and received Halliburton stock and options worth nearly $39 million at its current share price. On the very day that Cheney accepted the vice-presidential post, the board of directors of Halliburton approved a retirement package worth an estimated $20 million. (New York Times, August 12, 2000)

While registered to vote in Dallas County, Texas, Cheney only voted in two of the state's 16 elections over a span of five years. The Dallas Morning News (September 8, 2000) examined Texas' county records and showed that Cheney registered to vote in December 1995 after moving to Dallas from the Washington, D.C. The elections in which he voted were the November 1996 presidential election and the November 1998 race for governor and other state and local offices. He even missed Texas' March primary where he had the opportunity to vote for Bush.

The 14 Dallas county elections Cheney skipped were the presidential and state primaries, primary runoffs, and Highland Park city elections in 1996; two state constitutional amendment votes in 1997; a Highland Park school board vote, a Highland Park city election, a state primary, and primary runoffs in 1998; a hotly contested Highland Park school bond election and a constitutional amendment vote in 1999; and the 2000 primary and primary runoffs.

Acknowledging that he failed to vote in 85 percent of the state's elections, Cheney tried to brush off criticism, saying that he voted "in every federal primary and general election in the last 20-some years." Cheney rationalized that he "traveled a great deal. Dallas was my base. That's where I lived or was headquartered, but I was not involved in community affairs very extensively in Dallas. My focus was on global concerns." Even though Cheney was frequently away from Texas doing business for Halliburton Corporation -- the Dallas-based oil services giant -- where he was CEO, Texas election law generously allows for absentee voting.

To avoid a constitutional conflict with running mates from the same state, Cheney changed his voter registration to Wyoming, his home state, in July, days before being tapped by Bush. Then he did vote in the Wyoming August primary. But since presidential candidates did not appear on the Wyoming ballot, Cheney did not have an opportunity to vote for Bush.

ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT

As Missour’s governor, Ashcroft signed a 1986 bill that stated that life begins at the moment of fertilization. Later the United States Supreme Court struck down the law. He supported a Missouri law that specified that women who sought certain abortions could be sentenced to life in prison.

As a Missouri senator, Ashcroft initiated an abstinence-only provision in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. He initiated a constitutional amendment that would have virtually eliminated women’s reproductive rights by banning abortions, even for rape and incest victims.

Ashcroft opposed every major civil rights bill while on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He once hailed Confederate war heroes as “patriots” and suggested they should not be portrayed as having died for “some perverted agenda.” Ashcroft fought the appointments of David Satcher and Henry Foster, on their position on reproductive rights. (New York Times, December 27, 2000)

Ashcroft led the charge in the Senate to deny confirmation to Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White to be a federal district judge. On the Missouri court, Justice White had voted to uphold the death penalty in 41 appeals. In 10 other cases, he joined a majority of the court in reversing because of legal error. (Los Angeles Times, December 16, 2000; New York Times, December 30, 2000)

As Missouri’s state attorney general, Ashcroft fought against implementing a landmark voluntary desegregation plan in St. Louis, arguing the state had “done nothing wrong” and “had been found guilty of no wrong” in the case. But court documents showed that a federal district judge ruled that the state was a “primary constitutional wrongdoer” in perpetuating segregated schools in St. Louis, both by denying blacks an equal education in the past and doing little to remedy the situation later. (Washington Post, January 18, 2001)

Ashcroft opposed legislation designed to end work place discrimination (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) and to protect vulnerable groups of Americans against hate crimes (the Hate Crimes Prevention Act). He voted to weaken a federal law that helps protect minority communities against “redlining” by banks and other financial institutions. He opposed affirmative action and voted to curb laws aimed at preventing banks from redlining minority neighborhoods where loans to consumers would be denied.

Ashcroft opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, and as Missouri’s Attorney General he sued the National Organization for Women over a boycott of the state, which had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.

SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN POWELL

During his tour in Vietnam as an Army major, Colin Powell played a direct role in suppressing the inquiry into the 1968 My Lai massacre and into related atrocities against civilians. He was assigned to the Americal Division as an executive officer. On March 16, 1968, troops from this division slaughtered more than 300 civilians in the hamlet of My Lai, and the massacre went unreported. (The Nation, January 8, 2001)

In the 1980s, Powell served on President Reagan’s National Security Council. During the Iran-Contra years, Powell was the special military assistant to Caspar Weinberger from 1983 to 1986, when he served as deputy national security adviser. Through Weinberger, Powell allegedly learned of the illegal deal to supply arms to Iran in return for cash and the release of American hostages in Lebanon. Powell allegedly was aware of the covert transfer of missiles from the Army to the CIA in an effort to press Iran to release American hostages. He knew fully well that profits from the arms’ sales were used to finance another illicit operation: the funding of the Contras in Nicaragua.

During the Iran-Contra hearings, Powell gave contradictory testimony that was described as “limited” and “misleading.” In a sworn deposition Powell said, “The secretary (Weinberger), to my knowledge, did not keep a diary.” In 1991, Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh discovered that Weinberger had written thousands of pages of diary notes--which included material contradicting his Iran-Contra testimony. (The Nation, January 8, 2001)

UNITED NATIONS AMBASSADOR JOHN NEGROPONTE

As ambassador to Honduras during Iran-Contra, John Negroponte was a central player in the paramilitary war operating out of Honduras. He was known during his 1981-85 tenure, he worked closely with President Gustavo Alvarez to train Honduran soldiers in psychological warfare, sabotage, and many types of human rights violations, including torture and kidnapping. Honduran and Salvadoran military were sent to the School of the Americas to receive training in counter-insurgency directed against people of their own country. During Negroponte’s tenure as ambassador, the CIA created the infamous Honduran Intelligence Battalion 3-16 that was responsible for the murder of many Sandinistas. (Sister Laetitia Bordes, Our Hearts Were Broken)

In 1994, the Honduran Human Rights Commission outlined the torture and disappearance of at least 184 political opponents. It also specifically accused Negroponte of a number of human rights violations. (The Nation, May 7, 2001)

Negroponte refused to act on kidnapping of 33 women who had come to Honduras to escape El Salvador death squads after the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero in 1980. One of them had been Romero’s secretary. In 1981, they were kidnapped from their living quarters in Tegucigalpa. (Sister Laetitia Bordes, Our Hearts Were Broken)

At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Negroponte denied covering up human rights abuses while ambassador to Honduras. The panel approved the nomination 14 to 3 and sent it to the Senate floor for a confirmation vote. (Los Angeles Times, September 14, 2001)

OTHER APPOINTMENTS …

Otto Reich was named Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Another key player in the Contra war, he was chosen in 1983 to head the Office of Public Diplomacy. A General Accounting Office review showed that Reich’s office repeatedly provided sole source contracts to members of Oliver North’s network, including those involved in illegal fund-raising for arms. A Comptroller General’s review concluded that Reich’s office had “engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities designed to influence the media and the public.” (The Nation, May 7, 2001)

Reich was engaged in “white propaganda” operations, responsible for placing articles in the press and for influencing newspaper and television coverage. Attempting to influence public opinion, Reich used “persuasive communications” when news coverage was not favorable to the Reagan administration’s position. (The Nation, May 7, 2001)

Reich was a partner in the Brock Group, a lobbying firm that according to Justice Department. Reich advised Jesse Helms’s office on the drafting of the 1996 Helms-Burton legislation which tightened the embargo against Cuba. Another Reich organization, the American-Cuba Business Council, received more than $520,000 in United States Agency for International Development money for anti-Castro work supporting the goals of the Helms-Burton law. (The Nation, May 7, 2001)

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice served on Chevron’s board of directors from 1991 to 2000. Chevron had announced that it was naming an oil tanker after her, but the oil giant reversed itself in May 2001. She held at least $250,000 in Chevron stock and had an income in 2000 of more than $555,000.

Elliott Abrams was assigned to the National Security Council staff. While operating in El Salvador, he denied allegations that an America-trained military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in El Mozote during the Contra war. In 1993, the United Nations Truth Commission examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador and attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the Reagan-assisted right-wing military and its death-squad allies. (The Nation, July 2, 2001)

When the Boland Amendment stopped congressional aid to the Contras in the 1980s, Abrams said that lawmakers who blocked Contra aid would have “blood on their hands.” Abrams defended Oliver North who was accused of having ignored Contra ties to drug dealers. Abrams claimed “all of us who ran that program ... were absolutely dedicated to keeping it completely clean and free of any involvement by drug traffickers.” (The Nation, July 2, 2001)

Presidential advisor Karl Rove owned between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in Enron. He also held similar amounts in American Express, General Electric, Pfizer, Boeing, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco Systems, Wells Fargo, and Intel. Documents showed that he owned more than $200,000 worth of two big drug companies, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. Rove also had more than $30,000 in two oil companies, BP Amoco and Royal Dutch Shell. Rove also owned $100,000 in Intel stocks. (Newsweek, June 25, 2001; New York Times, June 16, 2001; Associated Press, July 20, 2001)

White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales allowed Bush to avoid jury duty in 1998. Bush refused to fill out a questionnaire that asked if he had been convicted of a misdemeanor. Gonzales convinced the court to release Bush from jury duty without answering that question.

Solicitor General Theodore Olson was a lead attorney in blocking Florida’s recount. He advised Paula Jones in her sexual harassment case against President Clinton. Olsen defended Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr during the Whitewater investigation.

During Olson’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he said he did not recall much about his role since 1994 when he was an attorney for the American Spectator magazine. The “Arkansas Project,” was a $2.3 million project by the magazine to bring down Bill and Hillary Clinton. The American Spectator was funded by Richard Mellon Scaife, an arch-conservative who also was obsessed with ending the Clintons’ political career. Olson acknowledged that he co-authored an article in the February 1994 issue, assessing the Clintons’ potential improprieties. An article that Olson acknowledged he has co-authored on that subject ran in the American Spectator's February 1994 issue. Olson himself wrote a long article for American Spectator denouncing Janet Reno’s Justice Department as politically corrupt. He co-authored an article for the magazine explaining federal and Arkansas laws the Clintons might have violated. When R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., the American Spectator’s combative editor, got married in 1998, Olson was his best man.

Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill served as CEO of Alcoa and previously CEO of International Paper as well as having served on the boards of Eastman Kodak and Lucent Technologies.

As Houston school superintendent, Secretary of Education Rod Paige chose Aramark Corporation to operate the schools’ food service program. In 2000, Paige provided Coca-Cola with an exclusive contract to put machines in the school hallways. He also brought in Primed Corporation’s Channel One, an educational channel, which spent two out of every 10 minutes of broadcast time selling M&M/Mars, Pepsico, Reebok, and Nintendo.

Anthony Principi, head of the Veterans Affairs’ office, was heir to a family-owned real estate company. He also served as president of QTC Medical Services Incorporated, Lockheed Martin, and Federal Network.

Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman was an attorney with a firm specializing in representing agribusiness giants and biotech corporations. She was elected to serve on the board of Calgene Incorporated, a subsidiary of Monsanto, the first firm to market genetically altered food. She participated in the International Policy Council of Agriculture, Food and Trade, a group funded by Monsanto, Cargill, Archer-Daniels-Midland, Kraft, and Nestle.

Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, was governor of Wisconsin whose major contributors were HMOs, hospital chains, nursing homes, clinics, doctors, and insurance companies. Philip Morris gave him $72,000 in campaign contributions.

Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, a one-term senator from Michigan who sponsored a bill to abolish the Energy Department. He was a pawn of the automobile and energy industries, as he fought against requiring greater fuel efficiency from SUVs.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton had numerous pro-business anti-environment connections. She began her career in the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a conservative think tank partially funded by several energy firms.

Eugene Scalia, son of the Supreme Court justice, was appointed Assistant Secretary of Labor. He opposed the ergonomics rule -- injuries resulting from a lack of suitable workplace conditions -- that was adopted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Norman Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, served as corporate vice president for Lockheed Martin. Before that, he was chairman of the House Transportation Committee where his major contributors included the American Trucking Association, Boeing, General Electric, Greyhound, Lockheed, Northwest Airlines, UPS, Union Pacific, and United Airlines.

Secretary of Commerce Don Evans had been CEO and president of Tom Brown, a Texas oil company, and director of TMBR/Sharp Drilling, Incorporated.

Army Secretary General Thomas E. White was chairman and chief executive officer of Enron Operations Corporation and chairman and chief executive of Enron Power Corporation since joining Enron in 1990. (New York Times, May 17, 2001; October 17, 2001)

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS

In his first 100 days, Bush terminated the American Bar Association’s role in evaluating judicial nominees and would not provide the ABA with a list of judicial candidates. Republicans had long suspected the organization of a liberal bias. By ending the ABA’s 50-year long role of screening nominees, conservatives believed that they had eliminated a hurdle when choosing appointees.

With President Clinton in the White House in the 1990s, the Republicans blocked numerous judicial appointments. Yet, under President Bush, the GOP repeatedly charged that Democrats refused to confirm federal judges. During Bush’s first three years, 146 of 149 his appointments were confirmed.

Charles Pickering and Miguel Estrada were the most controversial judicial appointments. Pickering had ties to Mississippi segregationists of the 1960s, and he opposed the application of civil rights laws. He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (The Nation, April 1, 2002; Washington Post, March 15, 2002)

Estrada refused to answer several questions to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he refused to his internal memoranda while working in the solicitor general’s office. Knowing he would not be confirmed, Estrada withdrew his name in September 2003.