Monday, June 07, 2004

An administration bought and paid for?

Halliburton's sphere of influence around the White House has been no secret. The corporation and its subsidiaries have been awarded a reported $18 billion in contracts related to the war in Iraq.

Last month, the Pentagon refused to pay $160 million to one Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, for meals for the military for which the company charged, but apparently did not serve. I wonder how much they're charging per meal. I wonder what happened to the days of the military having its own cooks. No wonder Iraq is overrun with military contractors.

Now there's a flap brewing about a contract awarded to a company called Accenture, a reincarnation of Arthur Anderson Consulting, the one of Enron fame. It's a branch that split off from the parent company and is headquartered in the Bahamas, which means it pays no U.S. income taxes.

Accenture was just awarded a contract worth up to $10 billion from the Department of Homeland Security to develop a 'virtual border' for airport security. This involves digital scanning of eyes and retina for identification purposes.

It should come as no surprise Accenture is a big George W. Bush supporter and a big contributor to Bush’s re-election campaign. In 2002, Accenture also hired Charlie Black, a Bush family confidant, to lobby against proposed legislation to deny contracts to companies headquartered in offshore havens like the Bahamas.

In 2002, Accenture was also awarded a Department of Defense contract for an Internet voting program called SERVE, Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Equipment, to be used for live absentee balloting for the approximately 100,000 eligible military personnel and other U.S. citizens living overseas. These absentee voters would use online PCs to register and cast votes at a SERVE Web site, which would then transmit the vote to the appropriate county for inclusion in its tally.

Accenture coyly declined to state the dollar amount of the contract.

The system was to have been used in the 2004 election, but the Pentagon pulled the plug on it in February because of concerns about the system's security.

'It was done in view of the inability to ensure the legitimacy of votes that would be cast in SERVE,' said Defense Department spokeswoman Maj. Sandra Burr.

The plug apparently was not pulled on the contract, which runs through March 2005. Accenture will still be experimenting with the system.

Accenture was also awarded a contract by the General Services Administration for a management review of the Federal Technology Service and Federal Supply Service, in particular, in January 2002. I haven't seen the price tag for this contract, either.

Apart from monetary concerns, it strikes me we should be concerned about corporate entities, especially offshore, international business entities, having access to our Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Pentagon, voter registration, immigration and other governmental computer systems.

Thank goodness there are still people in the Pentagon and DOD who don’t just 'play ball' with these big boys. By the time we get through another four-year Bush term, I suspect they will all be replaced with yes men.

This month, the Washington Post featured a story called 'Wall Street firms funnel millions to Bush.' This story outlines how Merrill Lynch’s chief executive, E. Stanley O'Neal, 'suggested' in letters to his chief executives that they contribute to Bush’s re-election.
O’Neal's 'suggestions' are not taken lightly. The Post pointed out this is the man who eliminated 24,000 jobs, froze pay and steadily pushed out competitors for executive power, including colleagues who had championed his rise up the corporate ladder. 'Ruthless,' O'Neal has reportedly told colleagues, 'isn't always bad.'

O'Neal collected $279,750 in contributions for the Bush campaign in less than three weeks. A total of $459,050 was contributed to Bush by Merrill Lynch employees during the current election cycle, according to Dwight Morris & Associates, which studies political money.

This is part of a $12.14 million 'tidal wave of cash' to the Bush campaign from the insurance and finance sectors.

Why?

Bush has sponsored legislation producing billions of dollars in revenue on Wall Street.

Of course, influence peddlers and lobbyists have always been around. But the more I read, the more I become convinced the Bush administration is bought and paid for by 'Rangers' like O'Neal, who gather at least $200,000 in individual contributions, the legal maximum of which is $2,000 per person; by 'Pioneers,' who are only able to gather $100,000 in like funds; and by corporate 'friends' of the president and vice president.

Are we a government of the people, by the people and for the people, or a government controlled by corporate interests, for corporate profit? We're perilously close, now.

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