Monday, April 11, 2005

Halliburton Tries Advertising Campaign To Lobby Support

Call it coincidence, but embattled government contractor Halliburton announced a new advertising campaign on the same day a lawsuit was filed by the daughter of an employee killed in 2004.

The print and television campaign features employees relating why they are proud to work for Halliburton. "The campaign is focused on the thousands of Halliburton employees who every day go places no one else will go and do things no one else can do," said Chairman Dave Lesar.

If you watched the Sunday talk shows on April 10, you might have seen the ads, featuring happy talk like this:

Halliburton employee Jay Patterson: "I helped move containerized housing units into the camps, helped hook up running water, power and sewage so that the soldiers could have a decent place to come back to at the end of the day. We got 80,000 troops out of the sand in three months. It was awesome. No other company could have done that."

***

Ask yourself who Halliburton is targeting with the new ads? Sure, some viewers may want to do something "awesome" and send off a resume. But the broader audience: Washington politicians and their friends.

It's a page right out of the Bush administration playbook. Look over here, Halliburton is saying. Don't listen to the liberals ruining our good name.

But liberals aren't leading the charge against Halliburton.

***

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Halliburton complained that the purpose of widespread criticism of the company was to embarrass former CEO and current U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and to sweep Democrat John Kerry into office.

But, according to the very useful website hallburtonwatch.org, its the Bush Administration leading the charge against Halliburton, with multiple criminal investigations under way:

Consider this chronology:

May, 2003: Following an investigation, Halliburton admits having paid 2.4 millions of dollars in bribes to a Nigerian official in return for tax breaks.

December, 2003: The Defense Contract Audit Agency confirms in a preliminary audit that Halliburton and a Kuwaiti firm, Altamnia, had overcharged the U.S. government by at least $61 million through Sept. 2003 for the cost of gasoline imported into Iraq.

January, 2004: Following an investigation, Halliburton admits two of its employees accepted a $6 million bribe in exchange for awarding Army subcontracts to a Kuwaiti-based company involved in rebuilding Iraq. Halliburton fires the employees.

February, 2004: After a routine audit, the Pentagon reports that Halliburton would repay the government for overcharges estimated at $27.4 million for meals served to American troops at five military bases in Iraq and Kuwait last year.

June, 2004: Separate criminal investigations are launched by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission into an alleged $180 million bribe paid by Halliburton and three other companies to the government of Nigeria.

June, 2004: The inspector general for the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority finds that the United States failed to adequately control over $9 billion in international aid, including Halliburton's hotel costs in Kuwait. Halliburton charged the government $2.85 million for hotel costs, even though cheaper housing arrangements were available.

July, 2004: Halliburton's KBR unit loses $18.6 million worth of government property in Iraq because of mismanagement, say government auditors.

August, 2004: The Defense Department launches investigation of Halliburton's billing system, which it calls "inadequate." Pentagon accountants say they are uncertain as to why Halliburton's KBR unit billed the government for $1.8 billion in work that was apparently never undertaken or completed. The $1.8 billion represents 43 percent of Halliburton's expenditures in the Middle East.

November, 2004: The Federal Bureau of Investigation interviews a senior Army contracting specialist over accusations that Halliburton's KBR subsidiary illegally received military contracts.

January, 2005: Halliburton's Cayman Islands subsidiary renews relationship with the Iranian government by signing a multi-year contract to develop trillions in cubic feet of natural gas. (Federal law forbids U.S. companies from doing business with Iran, but foreign subsidiaries are exempt.) Twenty days later, Halliburton issues a press release announcing it will end its operations in Iran after existing contracts come to an end. The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control is investigating the legality of Halliburton's dealings in Iran.

You probably won't be hearing about the various investigations in the Halliburtion ads.

***

And then there is the lawsuit, arising out of Halliburton's civilian-driven truck convoy of April 9, 2004 in Iraq, during which driver Tommy Hamill was taken hostage and six other drivers were killed by enemy insurgents.

The first lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Riverside, Calif., accuses Halliburton and its subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root of luring employees to work in Iraq in 2003 with false claims that the jobs were safe. Other lawsuits are expected to be filed later this year.

The initial lawsuit was filed by April Johnson, daughter of late truck driver Tony Johnson. It alleges that Halliburton and its subsidiary deployed its civilian truck drivers into a hostile active war zone despite knowledge from intelligence sources that there existed a substantial certainty the civilian drivers, moving in U.S. military vehicles, would be ambushed by Iraqi insurgents and killed or seriously injured. The drivers were following orders from Halliburton to deliver fuel to Baghdad International Airport.

It also alleges that in December 2003, Halliburton, KBR, and Halliburton's Cayman Island subsidiary, Service Employee's International, Inc., recruited civilian employees from the U.S. to work in Iraq under assurances that the civilian workers would be placed in "100% safe" working conditions and engaged in peaceful rebuilding missions.

You probably won't be hearing about the lawsuits in the Halliburton ads, either.

Halliburton is saying Look over here! Hopefully, our government will know better.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting....and your point is? that halliburton is not going with a policy of running negative ads about itself? whether the ads are focused at government or not, there is nothing wrong with them. while i am not a fan of the company, and happy to see Bush's administration looking into its shady deals, the ads have nothing to do with this.

A good amount of ads run all over the world are designed to either bolster or restore brand image.

If your point is that you hope politicans will not be brainwashed by these happy ads, then i agree with you (although i actually give pols more credit than that-i cant believe i just said that considering my complete disgust with Congress). If you have some other point, i missed it.

12:10 PM  
Anonymous joe said...

Halliburton is saying Look over here! Hopefully, our government will know better. >>

Seems pretty clear to me.

One point JABBS didn't make is that even as the Bush administration launched the various investigations, it still was giving Halliburton multi-billion contracts, which doesn't maek much sense to me.

Remember the movie, "Dave"? Kevin Kline chides one of the secretaries for giving contracts to companies that were in default to the government. Hate to sound like a liberal -- but life sometimes imitates Hollywood. :)

3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading this article reminds me of how much I can't stand the Philip Morris ads that offer a website, videos for convenience store owners, tips to prevent kids from smoking, pointers on how smoking is bad for pregnant women, and how addictive and dangerous smoking is for the rest of us.

The commercials, with the woman who sounds so concerned on behalf of Philip Morris, make me ask one question:

If they're so concerned about our health, why are they still making cigarettes?

As the first blogger above points out, yes, there is nothign wrong with Halliburton putting a happy face on its corporate image.

But, as David writes, it would be a shame if some of Halliburton's friends -- from the vice president to members of Congress -- actually consider those ads as they make decisions on future Halliburton contracts.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does Haliburton deserve to put on a happy face while making billions of taxpayer dollars off the Iraq war? Did Enron deserve to help write energy policy in California and the U.S.?
I only hope we hear the results of these various investigations sometime in the near future -- and do not have to wait until half way into the next administration.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would some one please explain to me why the Bush Administration allows reckless and wasteful spending by Haliburton in Iraq, while in the recent budget monitoring every penny spent on domestic safety, school and healthcare programs?!?

11:40 AM  

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