Friday, May 4, 2007

Who Has the Conflict of Interest?

From Ansa:

An article approved by the House committee on Thursday would prevent people with businesses worth more than 15 million euros from holding government office. Those wishing to do so would be forced to sell their businesses or put them into a
blind trust.

"We're not expecting people to emulate St. Francis (who gave up all material possessions)... The blind trust isn't a weird concept - it's typically American," said Prodi, a former European Commission chief. But Berlusconi shot back that the reform bill was "an act of political assassination". "It's further proof of the Left's desire to eliminate its most dangerous political adversary, namely myself," said the 70-year-old media magnate, who is Italy's richest man. "We're not in America but in Italy, and things work differently here... Fixing a limit beyond which one has to take all one's assets and entrust them to a person who can do what he wants with them is completely crazy," said the former premier. Since his entry into politics in 1993, Berlusconi has been dogged by criticism, both at home and abroad, for his dual role as powerful businessman and leading politician.

Who has the conflict of interest here? You could easily argue both as Prodi could want to oust Berlusconi altogether as he has only a 2 member lead in the senate. Additionally, there is much to say about Italy's richest man being in politics.

Prodi interestingly references the US as a good example of having blind trust laws. What is noteworthy is how Dick Cheney's involvement in Halliburton has been far from clean. Some may claim that perhaps Prodi should have used the US as an example of how conflict of interest can have adverse affects, including going to war for financial gain.

From SF Gate in 2002, prior to Iraq invasion:

Documents uncovered by the Center for Public Integrity show that Halliburton received $1.5 billion in government loans and loan guarantees during the five years Cheney was CEO. That compares with just $100 million during the previous five years.

Cheney retired from Halliburton in August 2000. He received $4.3 million in deferred compensation that year, plus $806,332 in salary. He subsequently sold more than $40 million in stock options.

Even though he's no longer in Halliburton's executive suite, Cheney reported on his 2001 tax return that he received nearly $1.6 million in deferred compensation from the company last year.

Cheney is still receiving deferred compensation from Halliburton, but neither the company nor the White House would specify how large his payment will be this year or how long the payments will continue.

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