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Policy wins for Bush volunteers are alleged

WASHINGTON -- Companies run by President Bush's fund-raising "pioneers" have scored several policy victories in the past few years, including $93 million to protect an oil pipeline in Colombia, a government watchdog said in a report released yesterday.

In most cases, Common Cause offered no evidence that the pioneers themselves intervened, but listed several proenergy and other administration decisions benefiting businesses run by volunteer Bush fund-raisers. The pioneers each raised at least $100,000 for his 2000 campaign.

"I think what's wrong is in the overall picture," Chellie Pingree, Common Cause president, said. "You don't want to think wealthy executives can contribute money or raise money and then get the rules changed to their benefit."

The report cites the Bush administration's pursuit of federal money to help protect the Cano Limon pipeline in Colombia used by Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum. Occidental's executives included J. Roger Hirl, a Bush pioneer who stepped down as Occidental Chemical's president last December and as an Occidental Petroleum executive vice president last summer.

The Cano Limon is frequently sabotaged by a Colombian rebel group. In February, Congress approved spending up to $93 million to protect the pipeline.

"The average businessperson who doesn't make contributions at that level doesn't get that kind of treatment," Pingree said.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the administration's actions on Cano Limon were meant to fight terrorism, drug trafficking, and attacks on world sources of energy.

"I completely dismiss the premise" of the report, Buchan said. "The administration and a bipartisan majority in Congress agreed the attacks on the pipeline were depriving the Colombian government of its ability to protect itself against terrorist attacks and draining revenue needed for providing social services to the Colombian people."

Other policy decisions cited by Common Cause include: billions of dollars in energy industry tax breaks in the Bush administration's proposed energy plan; the defeat of a Senate proposal that would have imposed new security requirements on chemical companies; and the continuation of subsidies for the sugar industry.

Bush rejected public financing and its spending limits in the 2000 primaries and raised more than $100 million, much of it brought in by pioneers.

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