Bob Schaffer Changes Story On Iraqi Kurdistan Oil Deal

First Bob Schaffer says he didn’t know.

Now he says he did.

Last year Colorado senate hopeful and former Representative Bob Schaffer (R) helped broker an oil deal between Aspect Energy, where he serves as vice president, and the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq — a deal the US State Department says undermines Iraqi security and US interests.

The U.S. government didn’t want people like Schaffer and Aspect Energy and others going into Iraq and cutting deals directly with the Kurds because it would undermine the federal government in Baghdad, which was still debating how to share the country’s oil reserves. President Bush for years has pushed Iraqis to pass a national law permitting foreign oil companies to invest in Iraq and providing a system for distributing those revenues.

Back on July 9, Schaffer insisted that he was completely unaware that his firm’s deal was at odds with U.S. foreign policy. “We didn’t experience any discouragement,” Schaffer said at the time.

But reporters in Colorado have been kicking the tires on Schaffer’s story and last Sunday, Schaffer’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, started to back away from what Schaffer said.

Wadhams, however, refused to answer questions about whether Schaffer knew or should have known that State Department officials wanted the Iraqi government to work out a national oil policy before any contracts were awarded.

Now, as these oil deals are starting to get attention on Capitol Hill, Schaffer is changing his tune too.

He’s now conceding that he did know about State Department opposition but is still insisting (correctly it seems) that Iraqi law didn’t specifically forbid such deal.

The Pueblo Chieftain reports:

He acknowledged that U.S. officials in Baghdad did not want U.S. oil companies doing business directly with the Kurds, but said that under the country’s new federal system, such a working relationship was allowed.

So why did Schaffer change his story now?

That might have something to do with this report from the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. The reporter started asking questions about Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) and found out that last year the senator asked the State Department about oil deals with the Iraqi Kurds in reference to Aspect Energy.

And on May 25th, 2007 the State Department responded to Allard in no uncertain terms …

In that regard, we have conveyed to all parties, the Kurdish Regional Government, the central Iraqi Government, and international oil companies that signing deals before such a law is passed will complicate efforts of the parties to pass a good law. We strongly believe that having competing oil and gas investment laws will be both bad for companies and for Iraq.

Though the Allard story was published the day after Schaffer floated his new version of events, it seems likely that he may have gotten word that the story was coming.

We called Allard’s office to ask whether he relayed the State Department’s message to Schaffer last year. His spokesman was unsure.

“The senator communicates with former Congressman Schaffer [and others from the delegation] so much, I’m not sure of what he conversations he might have had at what time. So I don’t want to be inaccurate and say he spoke with Mr. Schaffer about it at this time because I don’t know,” said Allard spokesman Steve Wymer.

Wymer said he’d get back to us if he hears anything else.

That answer’s not surprising. Allard is retiring and, as a fellow Republican, presumably wants to see Schaffer win his seat in the Senate. If he does remember passing on the word to Schaffer, he probably isn’t eager for that fact to come out.