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[Washington Babylon]

How Hunt Oil Buys and Sell(s)

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Remember those stories last month about how the Bush administration seemed to give Hunt Oil a wink before it signed a controversial deal in Kurdistan? “Bush administration officials knew that a Texas oil company with close ties to President Bush was planning to sign an oil deal with the regional Kurdistan government that ran counter to American policy and undercut Iraq’s central government, a Congressional committee has concluded,” said a New York Times piece in early July.

Hunt Oil of Dallas signed the deal…last September. Its chief executive, Ray L. Hunt, a close political ally of President Bush, briefed an advisory board to Mr. Bush on his contacts with Kurdish officials before the deal was signed. In an e-mail message released by the Congressional committee, a State Department official in Washington, briefed by a colleague about the impending deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, wrote: “Many thanks for the heads up; getting an American company to sign a deal with the K.R.G. will make big news back here. Please keep us posted.”

A number of similar stories ran around the same time. None of them seem to have noticed that a Bush/Cheney crony who had been traveling the world as Deputy Energy Secretary — Clay Sell — left his job five months after Hunt inked its deal in Kurdistan to take a senior position in the Washington office of — that’s right — Hunt Oil.

Sell was sworn in as Deputy Secretary of Energy in March of 2005. In that post, he played “a vital role in maintaining and strengthening the economic and national security of the Nation while supporting the important scientific and research missions conducted by the Department of Energy” said his government bio. Previously Sell had served on the National Economic Council, where he was “the President’s primary advisor on issues pertaining to energy and natural resources, and he coordinated the development and implementation of the Administration’s energy policy.”

Prior to that Sell worked as Staff Director of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee (under chairman Ted Stevens) between 2000 and 2003, and before that served on the Bush-Cheney Transition as part of the energy policy team.

Sell signed on with Hunt earlier this year as senior vice president. There’s no public record of his being aware of Hunt’s Kurdistan maneuvers, but given the top position he held at the Energy Department (and his globe-trotting while there) he surely is a handy acquisition for the company.

Not that Hunt Oil wasn’t already well connected. Its chairman was a Bush “Pioneer” (and the “company’s public affairs chief, Jeanne Johnson Phillips, was one of the architects of the Pioneer program”). Ray Hunt also serves, having been appointed by Bush, on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board

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