The Hightower Report

The Iraq Oil Rush; and Corporatizing the Political Conventions

THE IRAQ OIL RUSH

Have you noticed lately that George W.'s Iraq adventure has turned out to be ... well, oily?

For years, the Bush-Cheney regime decried any suggestion that its invasion had anything to do with helping Big Oil get its hands on Iraq's wealth of crude. No, no, they insisted, it's about WMD ... or al Qaeda ... or democracy – not oil. However, in this final year of their reign, the Bushites are blatantly pushing an oil agenda.

First, they've been trying to squeeze a law out of the Iraqi government that would allow the likes of ExxonMobil to control the country's massive, undeveloped oil fields. Unsurprisingly, the Iraqi people have balked since these reserves are their chief national asset, not only representing future wealth but also their sovereignty.

Then came news that Iraq's U.S.-backed government has issued no-bid contracts to five Western oil giants, authorizing them to prepare some existing oil fields for commercial production. This special deal gives the Exxons a leg up on winning long-term licenses to privatize Iraq's massive reserves, yet the Bushites said they played no role in this. But – whoops – now it's been revealed that a team of administration lawyers and private-sector consultants had quietly helped draft the no-bid contracts.

Meanwhile, up pops Ray Hunt, the billionaire CEO of Hunt Oil Co. and a longtime political crony of George W. It seems he cut a special deal with one of Iraq's regional governments to develop oil fields there. This move violates U.S. policy and is considered illegal by Iraq's central government, so the Bushites claimed not to have known about Hunt's end run. But – whoops again – internal documents have been uncovered showing that the Bush team not only knew about the deal but welcomed it.

Despite their denials, Bush & Co. are covered in crude.

CORPORATIZING THE POLITICAL CONVENTIONS

Since John McCain claims to be a robust reformer of big money politics and since Barack Obama flatly refuses to accept political action committee money, the fat cat corporate givers who have ruled presidential politics for years must be shut out this time, right?

Uh ... hardly. For example, check out the forthcoming Republican and Democratic conventions. A convenient loophole in campaign finance law allows unlimited sums of special-interest money to be drawn directly from corporate coffers and handed to the "host committees" for this summer's political hurrahs in Denver and St. Paul, Minn. In turn, the top executives and lobbyists for corporations that give will get special access to the candidates, lawmakers, and other key officials during the weeklong schmooze fests.

This is not a cheap ticket. Both host committees "suggest" that sponsors donate in the $1 million to $5 million range, with the most intimate access going to those who give the most. But the face time that these favor-seekers get is priceless.

That's why more than a hundred brand-name corporations – from Aflac health insurance company to Xerox – have already signed up, including 25 swingers that are sponsoring both conventions. More than $100 million has been contributed. Drug companies, telecom giants, automakers, Wall Street bankers, airlines, and others with business pending in Washington are front and center, eager to show the next president and congressional leaders that they're "on the team."

It's offensive enough that these monied interests can slap their logos all over our political process, but offense turns to disgust when you realize that the corporations are allowed to deduct these favor-buying dollars from their income taxes, meaning you and I subsidize this corrupt system.

To keep track of the corporations involved, check with the Campaign Finance Institute: www.cfinst.org.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, oil, ExxonMobil, Iraq, Ray Hunt, John McCain, Barack Obama, campaign finance law

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