Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal

Posted on Fri, May. 21, 2004
Trucks made to drive without cargo in dangerous areas of Iraq

Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - (KRT) - Empty flatbed trucks crisscrossed Iraq more than 100 times as their drivers and the soldiers who guarded them dodged bullets, bricks and homemade bombs.

Twelve current and former truckers who regularly made the 300-mile re-supply run from Camp Cedar in southern Iraq to Camp Anaconda near Baghdad told Knight Ridder that they risked their lives driving empty trucks while their employer, a subsidiary of Halliburton Inc., billed the government for hauling what they derisively called "sailboat fuel."

Defense Department records show that Kellogg Brown and Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, has been paid $327 million for "theater transportation" of war materiel and supplies for U.S. forces in Iraq and is earmarked to be paid $230 million more. The convoys are a lifeline for U.S. troops in Iraq hauling tires for Humvees, Army boots, filing cabinets, tools, engine parts and even an unmanned Predator reconnaissance plane.

KBR's contract with the Defense Department allows the company to pass on the cost of the transportation and add 1 percent to 3 percent for profit, but neither KBR nor the U.S. Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Ill., which oversees the contract, was able to provide cost estimates for the empty trucks. Trucking experts estimate that each round trip costs taxpayers thousands of dollars.

Seven of the 12 truckers who talked to Knight Ridder asked that they not be identified by name. Six of the 12 were fired by KBR for allegedly running Iraqi drivers off the road when they attempted to break into the convoy. The drivers disputed that accusation.

In addition to interviewing the drivers, Knight Ridder reviewed KBR records of the empty trips, dozens of photographs of empty flatbeds and a videotape that showed 15 empty trucks in one convoy.

The 12 drivers, all interviewed separately over the course of more than a month, told similar stories about their trips through hostile territory.

"Thor," a driver who quit KBR and got his nickname for using a hammer to fight off a knife-wielding Iraqi who tried to climb into the cab of his truck, said his doctor recently told him he might lose the use of his right eye after a December attack. Iraqis shattered his windshield with machine gunfire and bullets whizzed by his ear. Glass got in his eye, and he broke two bones in his shoulder, he said.

His truck was empty at the time.

"I thought, `What good is this?'" he recalled.

Shane "Nitro" Ratliff of Ruby, S.C., who quit working for KBR in February, recalled a harrowing trip in December.

As he was hauling an empty truck to Baghdad International Airport, Iraqis threw spikes under his tires and a brick, a cement-like clot of sand and gasoline through his windshield, scattering shards of glass all over him and into his eyes.

"We didn't have no weapons; I had two rocks and a can of ravioli to fight with," Ratliff said.

Ratliff caught up with his fleeing convoy in his damaged truck and made it to the airport safely. He figured he'd pick up a load there, but he was told to return with another empty trailer.

Iraqi insurgents have killed two civilian drivers.

Kellogg Brown and Root, the Army and the truckers gave different reasons for why empty trucks were driven through areas that the drivers nicknamed "rockville" and "slaughterhouse" for the dangers they presented.

Some of the truckers charged that KBR is billing the Pentagon for unnecessary work. KBR described the practice as normal, given the large number of trucks it has delivering goods throughout Iraq. Army officials said longer convoys may provide better security.

The Army's contract with KBR calls for daily truck runs, but doesn't dictate how many trucks must be in a convoy or whether they must be full, said Linda Theis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Field Support Command in Rock Island, Ill. The area military commander or KBR officials might choose to run empty trucks as a security measure, she said.

KBR denied there was any problem with the truck runs. "KBR is proud of the work we do for the military in Iraq. It is difficult and dangerous work and requires a lot from our employees," said Cathy Gist, a KBR spokeswoman. KBR truckers say they can earn about $80,000 a year, which is tax-free if they remain in Iraq for a year.

The empty trailer runs in Iraq peaked in January, February and March of this year but have dwindled as violence has escalated and forced contractors to reduce the number of trucks in each convoy and how far they travel, the drivers said.

Earlier this year, as many as a third of all the flatbed trucks in a 30-truck convoy were empty, they said. Much of the time, drivers would drop off one empty trailer and pick up another empty one for the return trip.

"There was one time we ran 28 trucks, one trailer had one pallet (a trailer can hold as many as 26 four-foot square pallets) and the rest of them were empty," said David Wilson, who was the convoy commander on more than 100 runs. Four other drivers who were with Wilson confirmed his account.

James Warren of Rutherfordton, N.C., one of the fired KBR drivers, said he drove empty trucks through Iraq more than a dozen times. Besides the risks to the truckers, the six National Guard or Army escorts who provided security were also in danger, he said.

The KBR driver who shot the videotape of the 15 empty trailers on the road in January described it this way: "This is just a sample of the empty trailers we're hauling called `sustainer.' And there's more behind me. There's another one right there. ... This is fraud and abuse right here."

KBR documents viewed by Knight Ridder showed that one February run included 11 "MT" (trucker lingo for empty) trailers, 11 containers (which could be full or empty) and six with pallets on them. On another February day, three of 15 trucks were empty.

KBR officials said empty runs resulted from the lack of cargo at one depot. The company ran all the trucks so they'd be available to pick up cargo for the return trip. "This is the same as typical commercial trucking operations work in the U.S.," said Gist.

Drivers discounted that explanation.

"Sometimes we would go with empty trailers; we would go both ways," said one driver who goes by the nickname Swerve and declined to be named for fear of retribution. "We'd turn around and go back with empty trailers."

An independent expert on trucking economics put the cost of a 300-mile one-way run at a minimum of $1,050. Researcher Mark Berwick at the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University used a computer model, the fuel costs that Halliburton charged the Army and the truckers' salaries to come up with that figure.

Wilson and Michael Stroud, of the Seattle area, another former KBR trucking convoy commander, said the actual costs were probably far higher.

"It was supposed to be critical supplies that the troops had to have to operate," said Wilson, who returned to his home in southwest Florida after being fired by KBR. "It was one thing to risk your life to haul things the military needed. It's another to haul empty trailers."

Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of "Corporate Warrior," a book on privatization of the military, said the use of empty trucks illustrates how the government's contracting system is broken.

The government gives out large cost-plus contracts in which "essentially it rewards firms when they add to costs rather than rewarding them for cost savings," Singer said.

Despite a massive increase in contracts for the war and occupation of Iraq, the Army hasn't increased the number of officials who oversee those contractors. Only 180 Army officials monitor defense contracts and only a little more than a handful of them are in Iraq, Singer said.

(Mark Washburn of The Charlotte Observer and Mark Rogers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram contributed.)

© 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Kerry Campaign Statement on Ties Between Bush and Pharmaceutical Industry

WASHINGTON, May 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Kerry campaign spokesperson Chad Clanton issued the following statement in response to the Associated Press report today that the Bush administration has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from companies who received contracts to administer the new prescription drug card program.

"Under this president, the cost of health insurance and prescription drugs have gone sky-high. He's taken money from the drug companies hand over fist and put protecting their profits before cutting costs for consumers."

The facts below detail the ties between the Administration and drug companies.

Major GOP Corporate Donors Selected to Provide Medicare Cards

Aetna: $25,925 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $510,000 to the Republican National Committee between 1999 and 2002. (fec.gov)

AmeriHealth HMO, Inc. $2,750 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Anthem Inc. $45,650 to the Republican National Committee between 1999 and 2002. (fec.gov)

Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association/ Highmark Inc. $12,500 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $317,000 to the Republican National Committee between 1999 and 2002. (fec.gov)

Caremark $3,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $10,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2000. (fec.gov)

Catalyst Rx $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Computer Sciences Corporation $6,750 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $30,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2001. (fec.gov)

Elder Health HMO $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

First Health Services Corporation $250 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov).

Keystone Health Plan East, Inc. $25,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2001. (fec.gov)

Medco Health Solutions $5,750 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

PacifiCare Health Systems, Inc $5,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Preferred Care Partners Inc. $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Quality Health Plans, Inc. $1,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Sierra Health and Life Insurance Co. (Sierra Health Services) $15,700 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $50,000 to the President's Dinner Committee in 2001/2002. (fec.gov)

Tenet Healthcare Corporation $11,500 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

United Healthcare Company $20,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov) $199,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2001/2002. (fec.gov) $45,000 to the Republican Leadership Council in 2003. (AP, 3/5/04)

UPMC $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Well Care HMO $31,000 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

WellPoint Pharmacy Management (Wellpoint Health Networks) $16,641 to the Bush-Cheney Campaigns of 2000 and 2004. (fec.gov)

Bush Pioneers and Rangers Connected to Discount Card Providers

Bush has raised at least $1.5 million from the following people:

Aetna: Mark Holman is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is a senior partner at Blank Rome Comisky & McCauley, a DC lobbying firm. Holman is registered as a lobbyist for Aetna. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, http://www.tray.com)

Anthem: L. Ben Lytle is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is a Chairman Emeritus and Presiding Director for Anthem. (Public Citizen)

Allan B. Hubbard is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is on the board of directors at Anthem and is the president of E&A Industries. (Public Citizen,)

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida, Inc.: Michael Hightower is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is the vice president of government relations for BCBS of Florida. (Public Citizen)

Caremark/Advantage PCS & Express Scripts: Andrea and Dean McWilliams raised at least $100,000 for Bush/Cheney 2000 as pioneers. Andrea McWilliams has been the Texas registered lobbyist for Express Scripts since 1999 and has received at least $200,000 from the company. Dean McWilliams has been a Texas registered lobbyist for AdvancePCS since 2000, receiving at least $250,000 from the company. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Texas Ethics Commission, http://www.ethics.state.tx.us)

Express Scripts, Inc.: Samuel K. Skinner pledged to raise at least $100,000 for the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign in 2004. He is a member of the board of directors of Express Scripts. Most recently the chairman, president and chief executive officer of USF Corporation until his May 2003 retirement, Mr. Skinner served in the administration of President George H.W. Bush as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and White House Chief of Staff. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Business Wire, 2/11/04)

First Health Services: Tom Loeffler raised at least $100,000 for the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign and is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Ranger. He is the founder of the lobbying firm Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey. He is also a registered lobbyist for First Health Services. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, http://www.tray.com)

Independence Blue Cross, Inc.: David Metzner raised at least $100,000 for the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign and is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is a managing director for the lobbying group American Continental Group. He was formerly registered as a lobbyist for Independence Blue Cross, Inc. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, www.tray.com)

Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance: James Neir is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is managing partner at the law firm Winston & Strawn. The law firm lobbies on behalf of Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, http://www.tray.com)

Medco Health Solutions: Kirk Blalock is a Bush/Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is a name partner in the lobbying firm Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and former Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock is registered as a lobbyist group for Medco Health Solutions. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, http://www.tray.com)

United Healthcare: William W. McGuire, M.D., of Wayzata, MN, is a Bush-Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is Chairman, CEO, & Director for United Healthcare Corp. United Healthcare Insurance Company is a subsidiary of United Healthcare Corp. (United Healthcare Corp, 2003 Annual Report; Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; http://biz.yahoo.com/ic/113/113137.html)

UPMC Health Plan: Ronald Kaufman pledged to raise $100,000 for the Bush/Cheney 2000 campaign and is a pioneer for the Bush/Cheney 2004 campaign. He is a senior managing partner at the lobbying firm, Dutko Group, and a former lobbyist for UPMC Health Plan. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org; Political Money Line, http://www.tray.com)

Well Care HMO: David Hart, of Land O' Lakes, FL, is a Bush- Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is Finance Director for Well Care HMO, Inc. (Public Citizen, http://www.whitehouseforsale.org)

Todd S. Farha, of Tampa, FL, is a Bush-Cheney 2004 Pioneer. He is President and CEO for Well Care HMO, Inc. (Public Citizen,

Vice President Cheney visits Wal-Mart's hometown

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney portrayed Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., as an example of the Bush administration's success in a difficult economy during a visit Monday to the retail giant's hometown.
Meanwhile Wal-Mart leaders and Arkansas' Republican governor boasted that the recession never affected this booming region in northwest Arkansas.

While lashing out at Bush's likely Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, Cheney urged 1,000 cheering Wal-Mart employees to vote in November for "the confident, steady, disciplined leadership of George W. Bush."

Cheney tried to use Wal-Mart's runaway success as the world's largest retailer to show that the economy is not an administration weakness.

"The economy is moving in the right direction and don't let anyone tell you otherwise," he said.

During their tour of Wal-Mart's 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center, Cheney and wife Lynn marveled at the efficiency of state-of-the-art computerized conveyor belts stretching for nearly 20 miles and transporting a mishmash of every boxed product imaginable.

Before their arrival at the distribution center, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott said in an interview that technological upgrades and a focus on individual salespeople and customers have fortified Wal-Mart against economic downturns.

"I believe Sam Walton used to say they are immune to recession," Huckabee said.

But after his tour, Cheney called on Wal-Mart employees to attribute their economic well-being to Bush's tax cuts.

"You're seeing the results of tax relief here in Bentonville," Cheney said.

Scott said Wal-Mart's respect for its humble beginnings as Walton's five-and-ten-cent store has kept its massive corporate structure in touch with its 1 million international employees and kept them focused on good customer service. When he completed his tour, Cheney spoke in front of a replica of the first storefront in nearby Rogers.

But during his 45-minute tour, Cheney saw very few employees. He remarked on seeing Emily Bohl of Bentonville at two of the five tour stops.

"He said, 'Wait, didn't I just see you?'" said Bohl, who is from the Philippines and has worked for four years separating items that don't need to be in huge cases, like L'Oreal hair-dye.

"Wait a second, here's blond," the fair-haired Mrs. Cheney said as she leaned over to rummage through the packs Bohl and colleague Sharon Dodson of Gentry had sorted from the conveyor system.

Otherwise, the warehouse was almost completely automated.

Rollin Ford, Wal-Mart's vice president of logistics, described a system that scans barcodes and takes photographs of 450,000 cases of merchandise moving through the facility each day.

Huckabee said Wal-Mart employees who were bused in to hear the speech appreciated Cheney's message because Kerry had been criticizing Wal-Mart for underpricing smaller retailers and suppliers.

"It's unprecedented for a candidate to attack — by name — a company that brings hundreds of thousands of jobs to Americans, high-quality products to working-class consumers and an unmatched charitable spirit," Huckabee said. "It's an elitist, snobbish attitude."