Al Franken sharply criticized Sen. Norm Coleman today for failing to hold any hearings on contractor fraud in Iraq during his time as chairman of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “Our troops and our taxpayers needed a watchdog in that seat,” Franken said at a press conference this morning on the steps of the Capitol. “Instead they got a lapdog for George W. Bush and his cronies at Halliburton. Norm Coleman’s dereliction of duty stands as an indelible stain on his record. He let our country down. We paid a steep price. Now it falls to the people of Minnesota to hold him accountable.”
Franken laid out a litany of fraudulent practices that have sabotaged the reconstruction effort from the outset: $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that vanished into the war zone; 50,000 pounds of nails dumped in the desert by Halliburton employees because they were the wrong size; Mercedes trucks set on fire and abandoned because workers lacked the right wrench to make repairs. “Money flowed every which way, usually into the pockets of greedy contractors, often with little or no idea where it was going,” Franken said. “Norm Coleman was the Senate’s oversight czar and he did nothing while at least $15 billion in taxpayer money went missing.”
Coleman served as chairman of the subcommittee from 2003 until 2006, when Democrats regained control of the Senate. Franken compared Coleman’s tenure unfavorably to that of Sen. Harry Truman, who created what ultimately became the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) in 1941 to ferret out waste in military spending and rose to national prominence spotlighting the issue. “Make no mistake, if Harry Truman had been chairing the PSI in 2003 this would not have happened,” Franken said. “He would have dragged Halliburton executives, military officials and Donald Rumsfeld himself before that committee and he wouldn’t have just demanded answers. He would have put a stop to the corruption and saved taxpayers billions of dollars by preventing fraud.”
Coleman’s campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, dismissed the criticism as typical political posturing. “Al Franken will do anything he can for political gain,” Sheehan said. “Al Franken is obviously willing to say a lot of things that just aren’t true.” Sheehan further stated that 12 different entities have investigated contractor fraud in Iraq and that Coleman’s work on the subcommittee has saved taxpayers billions of dollars. “When you you look at the record I think it’s pretty clear why he was put there,” he said.