Joe Allbaugh, the Oklahoman known for his flat-top haircut and loyalty to President Bush, has a new client: Halliburton, the Houston-based company once led by Vice President Cheney.
Allbaugh, a close adviser to Bush during his Texas days, registered to lobby on behalf of Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), Halliburton's construction and engineering subsidiary. Allbaugh's wife and partner at the Allbaugh Company, Diane Allbaugh, is also listed on the registration, which was filed last week with the Senate Office of Public Records.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Halliburton said Allbaugh had not been commissioned to do any direct lobbying.
"KBR hired Joe Allbaugh as a consultant to provide strategy support for our Government and Infrastructure business," the statement read. "Mr. Allbaugh has not been tasked with any lobbying responsibilities."
But Allbaugh's lobbying disclosure form says the company will "educate the congressional and executive branch on defense, disaster relief and homeland security issues."
A spokesperson for the Allbaugh Co. said Allbaugh was traveling on vacation. The spokesperson said the firm was tapped to advise KBR solely on homeland security issues.
Allbaugh's close ties to the White House give him contacts throughout the administration, Congress and the private sector. As director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) during the first two years of the Bush administration, Allbaugh was charged with overseeing the federal government's disaster preparedness and relief programs.
Prior to joining FEMA, Allbaugh was one of Bush's closest campaign aides. He managed Bush's first run for the Texas governor's mansion in 1994 and later served as Bush's chief of staff in Austin. During the 2000 election, Allbaugh, a former deputy secretary of transportation in Oklahoma and longtime GOP campaign operative, was the national campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Allbaugh, along with Karen Hughes and Karl Rove, was part of the triumvirate of Bush's closest advisers.
Allbaugh left FEMA in March 2003 when the agency became part of the Department of Homeland Security and he was passed over as secretary in favor of Tom Ridge, but he continued to serve on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. Currently, he is a partner in two lobbying firms and chairman of New Bridge Strategies, a company set up by lobbyists with close ties to the Bush administration. New Bridge helps clients "evaluate and take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the U.S.-led war in Iraq," according to its Web site.
"This is a perfect example of someone cashing in on a cozy political relationship," said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington watchdog group. "Allbaugh's former placement as a senior government official and his new lobbying position with KBR strengthens the company's already tight ties to the administration, and I hope that contractor accountability is not lost as a result."
The White House did not return a request for comment on this story.
Halliburton and KBR have played a major role in the reconstruction of Iraq since the American invasion two years ago. The companies came under fire after receiving many government contracts in Iraq, including a no-bid contract to put out oil fires that was worth several billion dollars.
Halliburton, where Cheney was CEO from 1995 until August 2000, has an in-house government affairs shop led by retired Army Gen. Charles Dominy. In 2004, the company reported $400,000 in lobbying expenditures.
In the last few years, KBR has hired a small number of outside consultants, including lobbyists from Covington & Burling and Leo Wright Associates, according to disclosure filings. The contractor also paid Michael Barrett, a former counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to help steer the company through congressional investigations into Iraq contracts.
The Halliburton spokeswoman declined to say how much the company is paying Allbaugh, citing company policy not to reveal the value of contracts with outside consultants.
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