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THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

Cheney's Rich Retirement Deal Draws Gore Attack

August 13, 2000|MICHAEL FINNEGAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dick Cheney, the GOP nominee for vice president, came under fire from Al Gore's presidential campaign Saturday for his lucrative early-retirement deal with the oil-services giant he has led for five years as chief executive.

The board of Halliburton Co. approved the package for Cheney, the outgoing chairman and chief executive officer, on July 25, the day GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush named him as his running mate, said J. Landis Martin, a member of the board.

The package of stock options and other compensation is worth an estimated $20 million, the New York Times reported Saturday. A person close to Cheney said the estimate is "on the mark."

Gore campaign spokesman Douglas Hattaway seized on the report as further evidence that Bush and Cheney are tools of the oil industry.

"It sounds like Big Oil is making a big investment in the Bush-Cheney ticket," Hattaway said. "We knew that Bush and Cheney are both beholden to the oil industry, and this shows just how valuable the industry sees those ties."

The Gore campaign has sought to lay some blame on Bush and Cheney for high gasoline prices that have irked motorists this summer, especially in the Midwest, a key battleground of the presidential race.

But Karen Hughes, the Bush campaign's communications director, cast Cheney's compensation deal as a political asset for the GOP ticket.

"I think the American people should be pleased that they have a vice presidential nominee who has been a success in the private sector, who led a company that, under his management, doubled in size and became the largest and most innovative energy service company in the world," she said after a Bush campaign stop in Everett, Wash.

The business ties of candidates for public office and senior government officials have often raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

To deflect such concerns, Cheney has resigned as a director of EDS, a Texas technology company, because it does business with the Pentagon. He also has taken a leave of absence from the boards of two other companies, Union Pacific Railroad and Procter & Gamble.

In defending Cheney, the Bush campaign has pointed to the millions of dollars that President Clinton's former Treasury secretary, Robert E. Rubin, collected from Goldman, Sachs & Co. when he stepped down as co-chief executive of the investment bank.

Cheney, a former Defense secretary, will remain on Halliburton's payroll until Wednesday, when he holds a final meeting in Houston with executives of the company, he said.

Halliburton's approval of early retirement for Cheney, 59, gives him roughly $10 million more than he would have received if the board had insisted he resign instead, said Martin, the Halliburton board member.

The exact amount of Cheney's package is hard to determine because the compensation is largely in the form of restricted stock and stock options, and the value fluctuates with the stock price, he said.

Martin said it was normal for the board to approve early retirement for a senior executive who is leaving the company on good terms.

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Times staff writer Dana Calvo contributed to this story

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