With the Kerry campaign's apparent inability to gain political traction from the missing explosives story pulled together by CBS's 60 Minutes and the New York Times, late Thursday it appeared that the Kerry camp, along with the mainstream media, was pulling another rabbit out of its hat.
By 4:30 p.m yesterday the Associated Press was reporting that the FBI had opened an investigation into the no-bid process used to contract Halliburton for Iraq's oil industry. One problem, similar to the Iraqi explosives story, is that the Halliburton investigation has been ongoing for more than 6 months and has been extensively reported in the media.
The Kerry campaign's ability to spin this story came thanks to apparent coordination with the office of Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Earlier Thursday, Lautenberg faxed out to several media outlets a one-page letter addressed to Vice President Dick Cheney, asking that he and his staff cooperate with the ongoing FBI investigation, an investigation that in fact has changed little over the past 6 months.
The White House has yet to confirm that any such letter from Lautenberg was delivered or faxed to any office in the West Wing or Old or New Executive Office Building.
"It looks like Lautenberg is the source of this story," says a Pentagon staffer. "The Pentagon and the White House have been open about this investigation and what has been made clear from the very beginning and what the press has reported in general is that Vice President Dick Cheney had nothing to do with the bidding process in question."
"This is another example of dirty politics and desperation, plain and simple," says a Bush campaign adviser. "They are taking old stories, repackaging them, and letting their mainstream minions do their bidding."
Lautenberg, for his part, has expressed outrage and frustration that his claims of scandal and bid-rigging have been largely ignored by the press. Never mind that most of the newsweeklies and the New York Times and Washington Post have all done extensive investigations into Halliburton and its business dealings with the Bush administration.
While several staffers on the Kerry campaign denied any knowledge of the Halliburton story or coordination with Lautenberg, both John Kerry and John Edwards have talked about Halliburton on the campaign trail.
Word late Thursday evening was that based on the AP story the Kerry campaign was prepared to run a new 30-second TV ad similar to one it is currently running in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and possibly Florida about the Iraqi explosives story.
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