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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 11:09 GMT
Analysis: Oil and the Bush cabinet
By Katty Kay

A majority of President Bush's new cabinet are millionaires and several are multimillionaires.

According to information from financial disclosure reports, released by the Office of Government Ethics, most cabinet appointees have amassed their fortunes in stock options.

Now a Washington-based think tank is questioning whether some of the cabinet members could face a possible conflict of interest.

It is not unusual for American politicians to be rich. For the last two decades more than half of all cabinet members have been millionaires.

Strong ties

But the number of millionaires in this new cabinet highlights the influence of money in American politics.

"You donıt come to Washington and give up your life and business unless you have a lot of money," said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity.

What makes the new Bush administration different from previous wealthy cabinets is that so many of the officials have links to the same industry - oil.

The president, vice-president, commerce secretary and national security adviser all have strong ties to the oil industry.

Vice-President Dick Cheney amassed some £50m-$60m while he was chief executive of Haliburton oil company.

Commerce Secretary Donald Evans held stock valued between $5m and $25m in Tom Brown Inc, the oil and gas exploration company he headed.

Opening exploration

National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice was a director of Chevron.

The concentration of energy connections is so pronounced that some critics are calling the Bush government the "oil and gas administration".

Condoleezza Rice at Republican convention
Condoleezza Rice: Was a director of Exxon
There are also questions about how energy policy decisions may be affected by the private financial interests of so many senior cabinet members.

The Bush administration has already made it clear that it would be interested in opening up oil exploration in Alaska.

It is a move opposed by environmental groups but favoured by energy companies. With oil prices rising in recent months this issue has taken on new urgency.

Political apathy

And this is not just the era of wealthy cabinet members.

Don Evans
Don Evans: Held stock in oil exploration company
One third of this senate are millionaires and 10 of the major presidential candidates also had financial fortunes in the millions.

If wealth is a prerequisite of political office, it appears that poverty is often a hallmark of political apathy.

Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity said: "There is a perception of wealthy folks running the government and those who are not wealthy not participating in government."

Of the 100 million Americans who do not vote, the overwhelming majority are lower middle class or poor.

See also:

12 Jan 01 | Americas
Bush cabinet profiles
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