The Cheney Loyalty Test
Roston, Aram, Mother Jones
Why did Alan Larson, a Clinton undersecretary, keep his job under Bush?
When a new president takes office, highranking officials appointed by the previous administration are usually replaced as quickly as possible. That was certainly the case with the Bush administration, which wasted little time in accepting the resignations of each of the 37 officials who served as undersecretaries for Bill Clinton-except one.
The lone survivor of the political housecleaning was Alan Larson, who continues to serve in the State Department as undersecretary of state for economic affairs. The exception is particularly notable, observers say, given that Bush demands absolute loyalty from his appointees. "It's unusual," notes Paul Light, who studies presidential appointments for the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. "Undersecretary positions are very high-ranking plums. You generally would use them to reward someone who is faithful to the president and to no previous administration."
But Undersecretary Larson, as it happens, may have had a chance to demonstrate his faithfulness even before Bush was elected president. In February 2000, Larson received a visit from Dick Cheney, then the CEO of Halliburton. According to a source familiar with the meeting, Cheney wanted to express concern over a State Department decision to block $500 million in federal loan guarantees to a Russian company called Tyumen Oil. Larson was responsible for the issue at State.
Sources say the State Department had blocked the aid after the CiA warned that Tyumen and its owners, a Russian conglomerate called the Alfa Group, were suspected of tampering with courts to stage hostile takeovers of rival companies. BP Amoco and other investors in one of those rivals had also lodged complaints, accusing Tyumen of driving the firm into bankruptcy and attempting to steal its assets in a rigged auction. …