In late January, the Washington Post reported that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry raised more money from special interests and lobbyists over the previous 15 years than any of his Senate colleagues. But of all money Kerry has raked in from these donors — from oil and gas companies, HMOs, and the pharmaceutical industry, for example, and from his brother’s Boston law firm and its related lobbying shop — two of the most politically profitable have been Enron and Halliburton.
Of course, current and former executives at those companies might not see it that way. Both Enron and Halliburton have been reliable whipping boys for Kerry for much of his presidential campaign — the former for obvious reasons, the latter for no apparent reason at all.
Last September, for example, Kerry told Iowans that “seniors have had their retirements stolen by Enron and WorldCom, by financial scandal and a marketplace where this president licenses a creed of greed.”
Just before that state’s caucuses in January, Kerry rallied the Des Moines faithful against Halliburton and its ties to Vice President Dick Cheney. “We need to end an administration that lets companies like Halliburton ship their old boss to the White House and get special treatment while they ship American jobs overseas.” (Those off-shored jobs, incidentally, are Americans rebuilding Iraq.)
And he’s often lumped them together. “George Bush and his crowd, they are the world champions in terms of special interest giveaways — the drug companies, the oil companies, Halliburton, the Enron Scandal, the WorldCom scandal,” Kerry claimed on CNN this February.
These kinds of lines play well with the liberal base, and Kerry gets considerable political mileage from them. But now it turns out that both Enron and Halliburton were financially profitable for Kerry, too.
Personal financial disclosure forms filed with the Senate show that on December 11, 1995, the marital trust held by Kerry and his wife purchased Enron stock valued anywhere from $250,001 to $500,000. (The Senate requires only rough valuations for assets and liabilities.) The stock returned between $5,000 and $15,000 in dividends in 1996, and another $5,001 to $15,000 in 1997. Capital gains realized from the sale of Enron stock that year totaled anywhere from $15,001 to $50,000. All in all, the Kerrys made between $25,003 and $80,000 off their Enron buy.
Likewise, financial forms on file with the Senate show the Kerrys made money off of Halliburton. On May 13, 1996, the marital trust purchased between $250,001 and $500,000 of stock in the company. Just seven weeks later, the stock was sold. The trust reported earning $1,001 and $2,500 in dividends and $5,001 and $15,000 in capital gains. Add it up and the gains were anywhere from $6,002 to $17,500.
Granted, these gains represent just a drop in the bucket relative to all of the Kerrys’ assets. But like Barbra Streisand, who simultaneously bashed Halliburton while profiting from its success, Kerry seems to want to have it both ways.
Before Enron’s corruption was exposed — and of which there’s no evidence that the Bush administration sought to mitigate the criminal responsibilities of its directors — the senator and his wife, like many investors, turned a tidy profit from the company. Halliburton, meanwhile, receives the lion’s share of reconstruction contracts in Iraq by dint of its expertise — not Cheney’s past stewardship. Indeed, it was both the company’s and Cheney’s expertise that Kerry and his wife banked on for seven weeks in 1996.
— Sam Dealey is a writer in Washington, D.C.