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THE RACE TO THE WHITE HOUSE

Ad Watch

June 09, 2004

This 30-second television commercial by a pro-Democratic group formed to oppose President Bush's reelection began airing Tuesday in Ohio. It also is expected to run in Nevada, Missouri and Oregon.

Sponsor: The Media Fund

Script: Male voice: "In 2000, Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton. After Dick Cheney became vice president, George Bush's administration gave Halliburton a no-bid contract in Iraq worth billions of dollars at taxpayers' expense. Now, it seems Halliburton has been price-gouging, and overcharged the federal government $27 million for meals they never served to our troops and $61 million for gasoline. To find out more about what the Bush-Cheney White House hasn't done for our troops, visit BushandHalliburton.com."

Images: The advertisement uses an electronic "chalkboard" to make its points. A photograph of Cheney is posted on the right half of the board. A box labeled "Halliburton" is on the left. The Cheney photo then expands to show President Bush with him. Dollar signs flow from the politicians to the company. The photo of the president and vice president is then replaced by stick figures signifying taxpayers. The Halliburton box grows larger as it vacuums up the taxpayers.

Analysis: The ad spotlights a controversy that has plagued Bush and Cheney, but it misleads somewhat by presenting disputed findings as facts and by omitting other information. It is true that Cheney headed Halliburton, a Texas energy services company, before becoming vice president. It also is true that the company subsequently received a no-bid, emergency wartime contract for oil services in Iraq. But the company notes that it won competitive bids for two other contracts related to the military and Iraq. Pentagon auditors in recent months have found that the company may have overcharged the government for military meals and gasoline. But Halliburton rejects those findings, denying any wrongdoing, and the government has not yet settled the billing disputes. The company has reimbursed the government $27 million for potential overcharges for meals. Federal investigators are still probing the gasoline issue for possible wrongdoing, but Halliburton claims to have saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Company officials also deny favoritism through the Cheney connection, noting that Halliburton and its subsidiaries have served Democratic and Republican administrations for decades. A Bush campaign official called the ad misleading, but declined to address the content in detail.

Compiled by Times staff writer Nick Anderson

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