Halliburton Ads Make Republicans Squirm

Two spots for Texas oil concern, Halliburton—now airing in Houston and Washington, D.C.—are causing heartburn among some Republicans who don’t want Vice President Dick Cheney’s ties to a company under criminal investigation to be emphasized during a presidential election.

Last month, Halliburton, which holds contracts to feed American troops and rebuild Iraq, launched an ad campaign to improve its public image. The first ad, which aired Feb. 5, featured Halliburton president and CEO David J. Lesar telling viewers his company holds the contracts “because of what we know, not who we know.” Lesar is referring to Cheney, who was Halliburton’s CEO from 1995 to 2000.

The second ad, launched Feb. 23, touts the company’s strengths and its ability to handle difficult wartime situations in Iraq.

“We are clearing up the record,” said Wendy Hall, a Halliburton representative. “We want people to understand that we get our business based on the skills and abilities of our employees to deliver quality services to those who need them.”

Highlighting allegations that Halliburton overcharged the government for fuel—the subject of the Pentagon’s fraud investigation launched Feb. 23—has been a topic used by Democrats to attack Republicans. “Anything that keeps Halliburton in the news is a bad thing,” said one Republican strategist.

The Bush campaign declined comment; Cheney’s office did not return calls by press time. (Austin, Texas-based NourzAds, which created the spots, also declined comment.)

Halliburton denied the ads would influence the election. ” The company does not take a position in the race,” Hall said. “Lots of companies run TV advertising these days as part of their communications.”