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Halliburton frantically working to end public relations nightmare
1 April 2005

WASHINGTON, April 1 (HalliburtonWatch.org) -- Halliburton initiated a new advertising campaign this week to counter the never-ending saga of bad news that plagues the company, AdWeek reported. The ads, in both video and print format, will attempt to "educate those who didn't know what to think about all the charges," a Halliburton spokesperson said, referring to the numerous ongoing government investigations and charges of wrongdoing.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, Halliburton complained that widespread criticism of its behavior was "political" and designed only to embarrass former CEO and current U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. But, ironically, most of the criticism came from officials inside President George W. Bush's Justice and Defense departments. Most of the government investigations from 2004 continue today even though the presidential campaign has ended.

So, it seems logical that Halliburton would embark on a new ad campaign to praise itself.

In February, the company issued a pathetic press release to congratulate itself for donating 12 -- yes 12 -- laptop computers to an entire brigade of the Army National Guard in Iraq. "You have no idea of the magnitude of this donation," exalted a military spokesperson in the company's press release. The 12 computers "will touch many" of the soldiers in Iraq, he claimed while fawning all over Halliburton. Nevermind that military auditors -- not "wild eyed liberals" -- complained that Halliburton's KBR subsidiary is unable to explain how it spent nearly $2 billion of the taxpayers' money in Iraq. In praising the company's modest 12-computer donation, the military forgot to mention that Pentagon auditors say KBR lost $18 million worth of government property in the Middle East because of mismanagement. Furthermore, President Bush's Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into the legality of the Army's procurement process that awarded billions in Iraq contracts to Halliburton.

Halliburton's business relationship with Iran is another public relations nightmare. President Bush claims Iran is a sponsor of worldwide terrorism, but a foreign subsidiary of Halliburton has earned millions in profits from the country for a number of years. Federal law forbids U.S. companies from doing business with Iran, but foreign subsidiaries are exempt. In January, Halliburton's Cayman Islands subsidiary renewed its relationship with the Iranian government by signing a multi-year contract to develop trillions in cubic feet of natural gas. Only 20 days after announcing the new contract, Halliburton issued a press release announcing it will end its operations in Iran, but only after existing contracts come to an end. No date was given as to when it will cease operations, but the new press release could have a positive public relations impact in the United States while allowing Halliburton to continue profiting in this so-called "terrorist" nation for an undisclosed number of years. More importantly, it could have a positive impact on the Justice Department's ongoing criminal investigation into the matter.

Halliburton has never been adept at public relations. Its hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, wrote a scathing editorial entitled "Public Relations Gaff: Sometimes Halliburton is its own worst enemy," in which it lambasted the company for its horrible treatment of workers. The newspaper excoriated Halliburton for suing retirees who complained about the termination of health insurance benefits. "It was a blunder on a par with the cattle industry's decision to sue Oprah Winfrey, or Fox News' lawsuit against author and liberal talk radio host Al Franken for using 'fair and balanced' in the title of his latest book," the Chronicle wrote. The newspaper also complained that, "After advertising the pride it takes in its employees, their unique skills and their devotion, Halliburton has the temerity to sue retired employees who complained about losing benefits...." The Chronicle endorsed the Bush/Cheney presidential campaign and has regularly endorsed Republican presidents for 30 years.

According to AdWeek, Halliburton's new advertising campaign is entitled "Halliburton Proud" and includes a worker saying, "I helped move containerized housing units into the camps, helped hook up running water, power and sewage so that the soldiers could have a decent place to come back to at the end of the day .... We got 80,000 troops out of the sand in three months. It was awesome. No other company could have done that."

AdWeek reported that Halliburton spent $1.5 million on advertising in 2004.

More information:

AdWeek: Under Fire, Halliburton Hails Workers' Courage

Halliburton's video advertisements