Schaffer role in Iraq oil deal revived with group’s impending endorsement

A conservative political group scheduled to endorse Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bob Schaffer on Wednesday has ties to a public relations firm that worked in 2005 to attract international oil companies and other firms to do business in northern Iraq against U.S. policy at the time.

Sal Russo, chief strategist for the political arm of Move America Forward, said he and his California-based public relations firm, Russo, Marsh & Rogers, were involved in helping promote international business deals in Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraq.

“We were trying to make people aware that there was a part of Iraq that is secular, safe, booming economically … and to encourage people to invest, because it is a booming economy,” Russo said Monday.

Move America Forward, a nonprofit, has advocated in favor of U.S. intervention in Iraq and veterans issues.

Schaffer, who is running against Democratic Congressman Mark Udall, was one of several executives from Denver-based Aspect Energy who laid the groundwork in November 2006 for an oil deal between the company and the regional government.

The U.S. State Department has cited the Aspect Energy deal and two dozen other similar deals as problematic for the fledgling democracy.

On the campaign trail this year, Schaffer said he never heard firsthand the U.S. government opposed international oil deals with the Kurds.

State Department correspondence, however, shows Aspect Energy finalized its oil production agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government in November 2007, long after the State Department had broadcast its stance on foreign oil deals, including in a May 1 letter to the man
Schaffer hopes to succeed, U.S. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.

Russo said there is no nexus between the Aspect Energy deal and the Schaffer endorsement.

“I was unaware that he is being supported,” Russo said.

Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager, derided any attempt by liberals to attack his candidate’s work as an oil executive in Iraq.

Campaign Money Watch, a left-leaning nonprofit, started running ads this week attacking Schaffer for his work in Kurdistan, calling him “a war profiteer.”

“It is despicable that Boulder Liberal Mark Udall’s leftist allies would attack a group of Gold Star mothers who have lost sons in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Wadhams said.


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