I took a bit of a day off Wednesday and watched a lot of TV in the evening, including Paula Zahn's show. She interviewed Joe Klein and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke about the whole Cheney Halliburton business. They were chatting back and forth and at one point Klein said that Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith shouldn't be rustling up clients who want to get business in Iraq for his old law firm, Feith & Zell.
Now, I hadn't heard that.
Is it really that bad? Have things really gotten to that level?
Well, I quickly found this piece by Al Kamen in the Post from September 10th. Here's the relevant portion ...
With a great chunk of President Bush's proposed $87 billion scheduled to flow to Iraqi reconstruction "big time," as they say, we've come across a most timely announcement from the highly regarded international corporate and commercial law firm of Zell, Goldberg & Co.
The firm "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq," its Web site announced. With offices in Israel and Washington, the firm says it "is assisting regional construction and logistics firms to collaborate with contractors from the United States and other coalition countries in implementing infrastructure and other reconstruction projects in Iraq. Through its Washington, D.C., office, ZGC is also assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants."
Interested parties can reach the law firm through its Web site, at www.fandz.com. Fandz.com? Hmmm. Rings a bell. Oh, yes, that was the Web site of the Washington law firm of Feith & Zell, P.C., as in Douglas J. Feith, former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and now undersecretary of defense for policy and head of -- what else? -- reconstruction matters in Iraq.
It would be impossible indeed to overestimate how perfect ZGC would be in "assisting American companies in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects."
Infrastructure and other reconstruction projects, it says. Could that be telecommunications stuff? Cell phones? Stuff like that?
Now, I quickly walked back to the TPM archives and pulled Feith's government disclosure statement from 2002 (which we've just now added to the TPM Document Collection). Feith turns out to be a fairly wealthy man -- at least by TPM's plebian standards.
More to the point, though, his wealth seems almost entirely bound up in telecommunications stocks: AT&T -- $500,000 to $1,000,000, Bell South -- $500,000 to 1,000,000, Lucent -- $250,000 to $500,000, SBC Comm -- $1,000,000 to $5,000,000, Verizon -- $1,000,000 to $5,000,000, Qwest Comm Intl $500,000 to $1,000,000, Vodafone $250,000 to $500,000, more in trusts and so forth, the list goes on and on. See the whole thing here.
Is that the industry Feith & Zell, P.C. focused on? Is this the industry the 'task force' is going to help "in their relations with the United States government in connection with Iraqi reconstruction projects as prime contractors and consultants." Or did he just own a ton of AT&T stock back in the day and hold on to it as it broke up into the baby bells? Or is he just a deep believer in the power of phones? The spread of telecom stocks does seem to work with the one-time owner of tons of pre-break-up AT&T stock theory. So many questions.
Seems worth looking into ...