McCain transition chief aided Saddam in lobbying effort to ease sanctions and extract oil profits

William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist John McCain named to head his presidential transition team, “aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.” A blockbuster HuffingtonPost exclusive quotes a U.N. investigator into the corrupt oil-for-food program who said,

I guess William Timmons is just a natural born oilman. He is either deceiving himself to rationalize what he has done or taking the rest of us for fools.

We can perhaps now say the same thing about John McCain.

I had noted last week that Timmons, whose lobbying firm gets about $100,000 a quarter from the American Petroleum Institute (API), was part of McCain’s intimate relationship with the oil industry (see “Why did McCain sell out to Big Oil? Ask Charles Keating“). But until now, we had no idea just how far McCain’s buddies were willing to go for Big Oil:

The two lobbyists who Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein’s government.

During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through.

Note to John “Drill, Baby, Drill” McCain: When you lay down with Big Oil dogs, you wake up with greasy fleas. Here’s more from this breaking story:

Virtually everything Timmons did while working on the lobbying campaign was within days conveyed by Vincent to either one or both of Saddam Hussein’s top aides, Tariq Aziz and Nizar Hamdoon. Vincent also testified that he almost always relayed input from the Iraqi aides back to Timmons.

Talking points that Timmons produced for the lobbyists to help ease the sanctions, for example, were reviewed ahead of time by Aziz, Vincent testified in court. Proposals that Timmons himself circulated to U.S. officials as part of the effort were written with the assistance of the Iraqi officials, and were also sent ahead of time with Timmons’ approval to Aziz, other records show.

Moreover, there was a major financial incentive at play for Timmons. The multi-million dollar oil deal that he was pursuing with the two other lobbyists would only be possible if their efforts to ease sanctions against Iraq were successful….

An investigator who worked on the U.N. investigation of the oil-for-food program told me that Timmons clearly should have or did understand that he was the possible recipient of oil contracts from the Iraqi government because of his lobbying and back channel diplomatic efforts on behalf of Saddam: “He would have to be the most naive person in the world to believe that was not the case,” the official told me. “I guess William Timmons is just a natural born oilman. He is either deceiving himself to rationalize what he has done or taking the rest of us for fools.”

Yes, as the story explains in detail, this lobbying effort was inextricably enmeshed with the corrupt oil-for-food program:

The Volcker report makes clear that when Timmons first got involved with Vincent and the Iraqis, the lure of millions of dollars was at least one incentive. By early 1992, Timmons and his associates were already “pursu[ing] the purchase of sale of Iraqi oil and the exploration by a consortium of companies of the Manjoon field in Iraq,” the report said.

According to the report, the venture was dependent on Vincent’s belief “that sanctions against Iraq would be lifted immediately and that the Iraqi government might grant a long-term concession to an American oil company.”

Later, when Timmons pressed the case even more aggressively that sanctions against Saddam’s regime be eased, he, Vincent and Park hoped to profit as well, according to the Volcker report. “Continuing through 1994 and 1995, Mr. Vincent and Mr. Park, along with Mr. Timmons and others, persisted in their efforts to establish a foothold in the Iraqi oil business,” the report stated.

At one point, Timmons even boasted to investigators that it was his ideas that later became the basis for the United Nations’ oil-for-food program.

Presumably Timmons now leaves this boast off of his resume.

Under that program, the United Nations allowed Iraq to sell its oil under U.N. supervision, with the proceeds placed in U.N. escrow accounts to buy food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods for the Iraqi people.

However, a major flaw in the program was that Saddam Hussein’s regime was allowed to play a role in the selection of oil companies awarded contracts. Because of lax oversight of the program, Saddam’s government was able to demand that foreign oil companies — including American ones — provide more than $1.7 billion in kickbacks to his regime.

One of the most outspoken critics in the U.S. Senate of the oil-for-food program was John McCain:

“We need to have a full and complete cooperation on the part of the U.N. about this whole oil-for-food program, which stinks to high heaven,” McCain told Fox News in Dec. 2004. “We’re talking about billions and billions of dollars here that were diverted for many wrong purposes. And this is an example of corruption.

“And by the way, it’s an argument, maybe a small one, but maybe an argument that justifies our action in Iraq. Because clearly the sanctions and the framework of those sanctions was completely eroded.”

The whole Big Oil lobbying enterprise is corrupt. Shame on McCain for getting in bed with Timmons and another 20 top advisers and fundraisers who have lobbied for Big Oil.

One Response to McCain transition chief aided Saddam in lobbying effort to ease sanctions and extract oil profits

  1. Peter Wood says:

    It is important to highlight the relationships between McCain and rentseekers from emissions intensive industries. However, we should not forget the human impact that the sanctions had. A study in The Lancet estimated that over half a million children died as a result of these sanctions.

    It is probably true that the oil for food program was designed for the benefit of oil companies, and there that were corrupt payments to Saddam Hussein’s regime. But if the oil for food program reduced the casualties of the sanctions, then it would have been absolutely worth it.