Saturday, July 12, 2008

Official Documents Refute Naked Partisan Attack against Bob Schaffer

This week the Grand Junction Sentinel ran with a story that made it look like Bob Schaffer was engaged in wrongdoing when he traveled in his role as an energy executive to discuss a development deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government. Reporter Mike Saccone elaborates in a blog post here.

As more facts have come forward in this case, there appears to be no wrongdoing whatsoever by Bob Schaffer or his former employer, Aspect Energy. In particular, the Denver Post's Michael Riley - clearly no fan of Schaffer - did a little more digging. Here's what he says about evidence he found that contradicts the allegations of wrongdoing:
Yet the Oversight Committee documents present a very different picture. They include internal Hunt memos describing meetings with U.S. officials in which they talked about the potential leases with no mention of any warning that they were a bad idea. They also include an e-mail from a State Department official in Iraq to Hunt Oil vice president Jeanne Phillips, in which the U.S. official chats amicably about the Kurdish deal and flags a new opportunity the company might be interested in: "Anything I can do from here to give info or whatever, let me know," it reads.

Those documents match what Schaffer says about Aspect's own dealings as the company was arranging the Kurdish lease - that they received no discouragement from U.S. officials in their efforts. It is still unclear exactly what the State Department said to Aspect executives as they worked to line up the lease in 2006, if anything.
More light is shed in today's Rocky Mountain News:
But both Wadhams and Alex Cranberg, chairman of Aspect, disagree that the State Department had a clear policy against such contracts. Cranberg said his company received government approval to visit the region.

"We were not asked by the State Department not to do this deal," he said in an e-mail.
Unfortunately, Mike Saccone - perhaps trying to give legs to the story he broke - misinterprets what Cranberg's message means, trying to suggest that "Cranberg said there was no communication between Aspect Energy and the State Department." But that's not what Bob Schaffer's former boss said. According to Cranberg, government officials gave his company no reason to believe they shouldn't move forward.

If Saccone could make the case that Aspect Energy had no communication with State Department officials, then he might be able to give traction to the original argument. But if State Department officials told Aspect Energy there was no problem, then Schaffer did nothing wrong. And the charge against the U.S. Senate candidate looks like nothing more than a naked partisan political attack.

Interestingly, Mike Riley appears to have correctly pinned the blame on the State Department for what, at best, appears to be sending mixed messages (though he understates its significance):
Documents suggest that the situation was much less clear cut. They show that State Department officials in Iraq may even have encouraged some American oil companies in their efforts to secure those leases even as it was publicly describing them as problematic. To the extent that's true, Schaffer and Aspect may be much less culpable than Democratic critics suggest and it may be the State Department that is most to blame for playing the diplomatic game of saying one thing in public and another in private.
Yet two critics with Left-leaning records and attachments to Democrat candidates have attempted to come forward allegedly as unbiased experts to perpetuate the myth of wrongdoing.

Who are these two? Lawrence Korb performed the bidding of Congressional Democrats to attack the credibility of General David Petraeus back in 2007. Democrats and Korb since have been left with egg on their face, after Petraeus has led a successful military strategy in Iraq and quashed their defeatist agenda.

Rand Beers has been a senior foreign policy adviser to Democrat Presidential candidates John Kerry and Barack Obama. Beers recently went out of his way to attack John McCain for his honorable military service, in particular the suffering he went through as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam.

A couple of Democrat operatives are trying to keep the story alive for Mark Udall's sake - to score political points. But the problem here very much seems to be with officials in the U.S. State Department. Mike Saccone should do the decent thing and publish a follow-up story bringing the new, relevant information to light - and helping to expose the agendas of those behind the original attack.

No comments: