If these were legitimate business payments, why route them to secret foreign bank accounts? Were they, perhaps, just old-fashioned, Enron-style boodling? Or destined to be laundered as bribes? Or were they ultimately intended for GOP coffers (one of the hypotheses Judge Van Ruymbeke is not excluding)? And where did the rest of the $180 million go?
A Department of Justice inquiry into the slush fund quietly begun earlier this year under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has gone nowhere — partly because it has limited itself only to asking Halliburton for documents, partly because the national press has shown almost no real interest in the story (if it did, the pressure on Justice to move more aggressively would be enormous). And obvious conflict-of-interest questions must be raised about any investigation of a company formerly run by Cheney that is controlled by Cheney’s political pal John Ashcroft.
“Getting to the Brown and Root of the matter” is an old Texas expression for “follow the money.” That’s why the SEC’s tardy investigation is good news — as an independent agency it has some insulation from political pressure. But not, of course, as much as the incorruptible Judge Van Ruymbeke — who last December formally notified the French Ministry of Justice that Dick Cheney could wind up among those eventually indicted in the scandal.