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Saturday, August 28, 2004

How Texas Does Bidness 

According to Greg Palast, former Texas Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes made out nicely for several years by keeping mum about his part in finagling a spot in the "champagne unit" of the TXANG for young George W.:
In 1994, George W. Bush was elected governor of Texas by a whisker. By that time, Barnes had left office to become a big time corporate lobbyist. To an influence peddler like Barnes, having damning information on a sitting governor is worth its weight in gold – or, more precisely, there’s a value in keeping the info secret.

Barnes appears to have made lucrative use of his knowledge of our President’s slithering out of the draft as a lever to protect a multi-billion dollar contract for a client. That's the information in a confidential letter buried deep in the files of the US Justice Department that fell into my hands at BBC television.

Here's what happened. Just after Bush's election, Barnes' client GTech Corp., due to allegations of corruption, was about to lose its license to print money: its contract to run the Texas state lottery. Barnes, says the Justice Department document, made a call to the newly elected governor's office and saved GTech's state contract.

The letter said, "Governor Bush ... made a deal with Ben Barnes not to rebid [the GTech lottery contract] because Barnes could confirm that Bush had lied during the '94 campaign."

In that close race, Bush denied the fix was in to keep him out of 'Nam, and the US media stopped asking questions. What did the victorious Governor Bush's office do for Barnes? According to the tipster, "Barnes agreed never to confirm the story [of the draft dodging] and the governor talked to the chair of the lottery two days later and she then agreed to support letting GTech keep the contract without a bid."

And so it came to pass that the governor's commission reversed itself and gave GTech the billion dollar deal without a bid.

The happy client paid Barnes, the keeper of Governor Bush’s secret, a fee of over $23 million. Barnes, not surprisingly, denies that Bush took care of his client in return for Barnes’ silence. However, confronted with the evidence, the former Lt. Governor now admits to helping the young George stay out of Vietnam . . . .

By the way: I first reported this story in 1999, including the evidence of payback, in The Observer of London. US media closed its eyes. Then I put the story on British television last year in the one-hour report, "Bush Family Fortunes." American networks turned down BBC's offer to run it in the USA. "Wonderful film," one executive told me, "but Time Warner is not going to let us put this on the air." However, US networks will take cash for advertisements calling Kerry a Vietnam coward.
By the way, the letter Palast reproduces on his site is not only "confidential" but anonymous. He does, however, claim to have verified the accusations in it with various independent sources.

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