- The Washington Times - Monday, March 12, 2007

Halliburton’s announcement over the weekend that it would move its headquarters from Houston to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, drew fire from congressional Democrats yesterday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy called the company’s decision “an example of corporate greed at its worst.”

“This is an insult to the U.S. soldiers and taxpayers who paid the tab for their no-bid contracts and endured their overcharges for all these years,” the Vermont Democrat said. “At the same time they’ll be avoiding U.S. taxes, I’m sure they won’t stop insisting on taking their profits in cold hard U.S. cash.”

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, said the decision raises “a lot of serious issues we have to look at.”

“I think it raises a lot of very big concerns, and I think we are going to be looking into that in Washington,” said Mrs. Clinton, who is running for president. “I think it is disgraceful that American companies are more than happy to try to get no-bid contracts like Halliburton has and then turn around and say we are not going to stay with our chief executive officer or the president of our company in the U.S. anymore.”

Meanwhile, a senior Senate Commerce Committee Democrat called the announcement “bizarre” and said he would ask the panel to look into the move.

Halliburton, said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, has received “billions of dollars in defense contracts, many of them no-bid contracts, and has been accused of underperforming and overbilling.”

“I want to know, is Halliburton trying to run away from bad publicity on their contracts? Are they trying to run away from the obligation to pay U.S. taxes? Or are they trying to set up a corporate presence in Dubai so that they can avoid the restrictions that currently exist on doing business with prohibited countries like Iran?” he said.

The firm and its former KBR subsidiary, which is being spun off, have endured several contracting controversies and investigations since Halliburton was awarded a no-bid $2.4 billion contract to supply the U.S. military on the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

KBR agreed last year to pay the government $8 million to settle fraud claims related to an Army supply contract. Halliburton’s Nigerian operations also have come under government scrutiny in recent years.

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, Connecticut Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, wants more information about the Halliburton move, a spokesman said.

“Obviously this decision could have national security and economic implications. Halliburton should provide clear and unambiguous details related to the reasons behind this decision,” according to a statement released by Mr. Dodd’s spokesman, Marvin Fast.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat and chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, called the development surprising. “I want to understand the ramifications for the U.S. taxpayer and national security,” Mr. Waxman said.

The Senate Finance Committee’s senior Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said that although House Democratic leaders are condemning the move, “those House leaders are slow-walking a Senate-approved package of corporate loophole closers.”

In announcing the move, Halliburton, which formerly was run by Vice President Dick Cheney, said the shift will lead its efforts to increase its business in the Eastern Hemisphere, an important oil and gas industry market, and that the company will work to strengthen its activities in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Eurasia.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, said he was not surprised that Halliburton wants to move closer to the source of its profits in Iraq.

“It is nonetheless another sad example of American companies increasingly moving offshore,” he said.

“I am troubled by the continued outsourcing of jobs and am eager to find out how the tax code can be strengthened to encourage American companies to reinvest here rather than abroad. I hope my friends in the administration, including former Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney, share this goal,” he said.

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