The Hunt for Private Sovereignty

A number of people have pointed to this story about the gaping holes in the nativist Republicans’ border fence that just happen to coincide with the property lines of powerful GOP donors. Several of you have even pointed out that Ray Hunt–a big Bush donor and PFIAB member–happens to own a chunk of the property that the wall skirts.

Just 69 miles north, Daniel Garza, 76, faces a similar situation with a neighbor who has political connections that reach the White House. In the small town of Granjeno, population 313, Garza points to a field across the street where a segment of the proposed 18-foot high border wall would abruptly end after passing through his brick home and a small, yellow house he gave his son. “All that land over there is owned by the Hunts,” he says, waving a hand toward the horizon. “The wall doesn’t go there.”

In this area everyone knows the Hunts. Dallas billionaire Ray L. Hunt and his relatives are one of the wealthiest oil and gas dynasties in the world. Hunt, a close friend of President George W. Bush, recently donated $35 million to Southern Methodist University to help build Bush’s presidential library. In 2001, Bush made him a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, where Hunt received a security clearance and access to classified intelligence.

Over the years, Hunt has transformed his 6,000-acre property, called the Sharyland Plantation, from acres of onions and vegetables into swathes of exclusive, gated communities where houses sell from $650,000 to $1 million and residents enjoy golf courses, elementary schools, and a sports park. The plantation contains an 1,800-acre business park and Sharyland Utilities, run by Hunt’s son Hunter, which delivers electricity to plantation residents and Mexican factories.

The development’s Web site touts its proximity to the international border and the new Anzalduas International Bridge now under construction, built on land Hunt donated. Hunt has also formed Hunt Mexico with a wealthy Mexican business partner to develop both sides of the border into a lucrative trade corridor the size of Manhattan.

But I haven’t seen anyone comment on what Hunt seems to be building in South Texas. He has donated land for a bridge, built a development that spans the border, for which Hunt’s own family members provide the utilities. He has done so in partnership with rich Mexicans he declines to name. "A lucrative trade corridor the size of Manhattan."

This is not just about a Bush crony getting a pass on being evicted to make way for a futile racist-inspired wall. This is about a Bush crony building his own little principality that will–I’m guessing–turn the labor of poor Mexicans into McMansions on the US side of the border. This has all the trappings of a little world that supersedes the sovereignty of the US.

Which gets rather eerie when you couple this information with the fact that Ray Hunt was one of the first people to invest in oil in Kurdistan (I say "first" in the post, but he was just one of the first).

Does it surprise you that the first company to sign an oil deal with Iraqi Kurds is Hunt Oil, a company with very close ties to Bush and our country’s intelligence infrastructure?

Texas’ Hunt Oil Co. and Kurdistan’s regional government said Saturday they’ve signed a production-sharing contract for petroleum exploration in northern Iraq, the first such deal since the Kurds passed their own oil and gas law in August.A Hunt subsidiary, Hunt Oil Co. of the Kurdistan Region, will begin geological survey and seismic work by the end of 2007 and hopes to drill an exploration well in 2008, the parties said in a news release.

Nope. It doesn’t surprise me, either. But I am interested in what it portends for long-term plans in Iraq.

First, some background. The Hunt family that owns Hunt Oil (it’s privately held, so we don’t get to scrutinize financial statements) is one of the big money Texas donors behind the Bush family political empire. Ray Hunt, the current chair of the company, is also on the board of Halliburton and the King Ranch, meaning he probably knows to duck when he goes quail hunting with Dick Cheney. Hunt is also on the board of trustees for Shrub’s new presidential library, which has just announced its plans for a wacky democracy institute that will give cover for more imperialism around the world. Oh, and Hunt is also on PFIAB, which means he gets to review a huge amount of intelligence information and then refuse to reveal its classification and declassification activities–not to mention weigh in on whether or not the President’s illegal intelligence activities are illegal or not.

It’s also worth noting that one of Hunt Oil Company’s planes has been spotted taking off and landing at a CIA training facility.

In short, Hunt Oil Company is as wired in as oil companies get–which is saying something.

Now do you see why I find it interesting that Hunt Oil Company is the first company into Kurdistan’s oil fields?

You see, in addition to making Hunt richer, both these deals appear designed to really screw with the sovereignty of an established coutry: Iraq, in the case of the Kurdistan deal, and the US, in the case of the "Sharyland Plantation." They provide spooked up Hunt with little back doors in and out of key countries.

Now why do you suppose one of Bush’s closest cronies is investing in all these back doors?

Update: I should have added–this kind of ambiguous sovereignty is precisely what attracted the likes of Jack Abramoff to floating casinos and Native American reservations. I’ve always suspected–though it’s just a suspicion–that there’s a money-laundering function that we’re not aware of (thanks partly to the Republican candidate for President’s rather selective investigation of Abramoff, I might add). Crony capitalists don’t like real sovereign spaces because they’re much more diligent about enforcing their own laws.  

32 replies
      • RevDeb says:

        but would they? And how would we know it? And then if they did what would Hunt do to retaliate?

        I just don’t see the Chimpire allowing itself to let go of the power.

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh, they’ll definitely get him off PFIAB. I imagine Obama will use it to get needed advice on intelligence (which Hunt isn’t giving) and I imagine Hillary will stack it with cronies. But Hunt is not one of her cronies, so…

  1. kirk murphy says:

    Now why do you suppose one of Bush’s closest cronies is investing in all these back doors?

    Stepping into the breach Jeff Gannon left behind?

  2. freepatriot says:

    off topic funnies:

    i gotta go and do some “responsible adult stuff”

    but here’s what I’m laughing at while i stand in line at the bank n stuff

    bobo owellian reference backfires nicely

    and the US Navy can’t shoot down that satalite today

    apparently the ocean is occasionally covered with these things called WAVES, and on the days when these wave thingys cover the ocean, our missile defense system doesn’t work so good

    shouldn’t that kind of information be a secret ???

    most people wouldn’t be laughing at that second part, but I march to the sound of a whole different band

  3. phred says:

    I would bet Darth told him to build his private bridge. Then, should the law ever catch up with Dicky or Georgie or any of their little henchmen all they have to do is visit their pal Hunt, stroll across the bridge and then on to Paraguay or Dubai. Pretty handy if you ask me…

  4. Loo Hoo. says:

    This is unfreakingbelievable. Are the people of Texas going to revolt? I guess the people of America are if voter turnout is any measure. I can’t wrap my head around this idea of owning a little kingdom located on two separate countries. Will Blackwater be the private army? Mr. Hunt may just want to sell that property and skedaddle before November.

  5. Bushie says:

    This is just what crony capitalism (neo liberalism) and the last twelve years of GOP crony politics have wrought; rot to the core of our country. Neither Obama or Clinton and certainly not McCain, are willing or want to stop the rot.

  6. JohnLopresti says:

    I was following the borderfence construction issue near a different river, one between the states of Sonora-Chihuahua on the other side of the international boundary, and southeast AZ-NM adjoining that zone to the north on the US side of the boundary. The riparian corridor of the San Pedro is the zone the borderfence was to transit; however, an array of environmental stewardship entities had been overseeing the politics of resource protection and suburban development in that area for many years, and these friends of nature evidently are enjoying continued success at halting the fence on one side of the San Pedro riparian corridor. A local news organ had reported the fence progress as certain to cross the river soon in 2007 after Chertoff attempted waiving NEPA and other regs, but that propaganda prediction ostensibly has proven false. I worry because some neighbors include a certain recently not going to run again member of the US House of Representatives, though I wonder exactly how close to the international border that property line actually is. Bush also attempted to override the rare and endangered species law in the navy mfa loud sonar war games over the past four months, but coast courts continue to rebuff the specious logic the Bushco briefs claim is an urgent need to snuff 144,000 incidentally ‘taken’ ocean dwelling mammals for the exercise in 2007-2008. Though this is far from south TX politics. As ew alludes, I thought there was an Iraq minister complaining publicly about the Hunt oil agreement when the news became public a few months ago.

  7. ProfessorFoland says:

    Update: I should have added–this kind of ambiguous sovereignty is precisely what attracted the likes of Jack Abramoff to floating casinos and Native American reservations. I’ve always suspected–though it’s just a suspicion–that there’s a money-laundering function that we’re not aware of (thanks partly to the Republican candidate for President’s rather selective investigation of Abramoff, I might add).

    I’ve been really hoping for years that someone would pull on this thread.

    For a long time I wondered why Abramoff chose Indian tribes as his preferred money donation route. But the answer turns out to be very simple. Although they still must abide by limits on donations to individual campaigns, Indian tribes are the only entity in the US wholly exempt from any limits on total campaign expenditure. So, for instance, a tribe is free to donate $2300 to every GOP congressman–around $400,000–where no other entity in the United States can give more than $95,000. On top of that they can give all the soft money they like spread around in whatever way they like, without limit. So if you’re trying to build an invincible campaign money machine, I think it’s clear why you concentrate on the tribes.

    That in turn leads to a question that I do not know the answer to: just how did they convince the tribes to give all that money? Just because tribes can donate huge quantities of money out of their treasuries, doesn’t mean they will. Did they suddenly find their coffers surprisingly full? Always wondered whether someone was pulling a reverse Bob Ney at the roulette wheel…

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Agree with Prof Foland, this thread needs more gentle tugs. The Tribes are almost certainly a money-laundering portal of entry for the criminal conduct of the GOPers. However, I’m not convinced the GOPers persuaded the Tribes to contribute the full amount that ended up in GOP coffers; consider the GOP server infrastructure that Rove and Mehlman built to support fundraising; why not add on an eComm piece that could route money offshore? In other words, the Rove/Mehlman/Abramoff group could have hired techies to install a diversionary, false eComm payment gateway (or two, or three…) hosted on one (or more) of those GOP servers. It’s been (technically) possible since the late 1990s.

      (Digression: One wonders whether Alabama’s Gov. Siegelman inadvertantly made the GOPers angry because somehow, unwittingly, he interfered with their access to tribal gaming funds, and/or fraudulent online gambling resources? Might that help explain why they were so frantic to slam his *ss into prison, thereby clearing access to their money laundering routes with no one the wiser…? Nothing that I’ve read about Siegelman suggests that he has any technical expertise or curiosity, so he might have inadvertantly p*ssed Rove/Mehlman off without realizing the true nature of the threat he posed to their money laundering. It’s an outtamyarse guess, but it would help explain why they were so over-the-top in their persecution of him. Because when one learns about the casinos in his region, then adds on the potential for GOP money laundering connected to the casinos with which Abramoff and Reed were involved, well THEN it makes sense that Rove/Mehlman/Cheney/Bush/Hunt sought to contol much more than a simple governorship. After all, was a simple governorship a good enough reason to risk bringing false charges, pursuing him relentlessly, and then slamming his *ss in prison straight from the courtroom? How much more IS there to the story…? )

      It seems (technically) possible that the GOP could have used their servers to set up bogus eComm payment gateways as early as the late 1990s — or even bogus eComm pseudo-online gambling sites. That would be a quiet, hard-to-detect method to launder money, would it not? I’m not a server whiz, but it seems technically possible that Rove/Mehlman could have used their GOP servers to divert funds from one or more accounts, or false websites, to < — or from –> casinos (via ‘false payment gateways’ hacked into eComm software). They could then re-route money to offshore accounts.

      I defer to Mad Dogs and other commenters here — who are far more familiar with servers than myself — about whether this would be feasible. (Although I’d wager there’s an 85% probability that my hunch about how they could have used their GOP servers to enable eComm for fraud is roughly accurate. Part of my point is that they needed to control servers — and bank accounts — to pull it off.)

      I can attest that a typical (small biz) eComm application simply requires that you connect one section of the website to the business’s ‘payment gateway’ which is a unique coded setup for each site. Nothing that I’m aware of in eCommerce software requires that the payment gateway link to a bank located within the US. (Indeed, one of the buggy issues that can arise with eComm apps is that if a company is ‘international’, then one must muck about with different currencies, all of which require conversions (on an ongoing basis). Bleh! Personally, life’s to short, but obviously for larger businesses this is a critical feature, and with the kind of money the GOP was raising, hiring the technical expertise to set this kind of thing up would have been simple.! I mention this topic of eComm payment gateways simply to underscore my point that they CAN be linked to just about any bank, in any nation, or in any offshore tax haven.)

      FWIW: In order to get money into a bank account in the US, one needs to purchase a certain type of US-based eComm certificate, which is used to **uniquely certify** (to prove to the US bank) that the online store is a legitimate, valid business paying US taxes, with a legit accounting system, and a legit ownership structure, selling legit items. Once the US bank has the info from that *unique* certificate, it can then allow the eComm app to send money to a specific bank account. (Involves passwords, magical incantations, staying up insanely late at night, hurled expletives, much pulling of hair, and general remonstrances at glowing LCD screens, but people actually do this sort of thing.)

      My point here is that Rove, Mehlman, or their auks could have used eComm illegally – to direct money offshore, thereby avoiding the eComm certificates necessary for a legitimate, US-based bank account. Or so it seems given my level of knowledge — I heartily hope the FBI pays people to know a damn sight more than I know (!).

      However, in this as in all things technical, more robust technical advice should be sought from other EW commenters, or from WIRED’s blogs.

      Note part of this week’s WORD CLOUD: Cayman Islands Bank + US federal judge + WikiLeaks + website removed.
      Why all the fuss and bother from a bank in the Cayman Islands to ensure their ‘privacy‘, eh? What do they not want anyone to see…? And how was that money transferred…? Do people walk into those banks hauling suitcases…? Or do they just walk in with baggies of coke to put in their safe deposit boxes…? WTF is up with shutting down Wikileaks?!

      Mix the above eComm hunches about how easily money could probably be laundered, or transferred offshore, with this info from a recent IraqOilReport posting. Toss gently. Heat to a simmering boil: (14 Feb 2008)
      The White House has proposed new rules to ensure U.S. tax dollars spent on contracts are better audited for fraud – except those contracts where work is done overseas, such as Iraq, The Associated Press reports.

      The AP item is at:
      updated 6:14 p.m. PT, Tues., Feb. 12, 2008
      WASHINGTON – A Bush administration plan to crack down on contract fraud has a multibillion-dollar loophole: The proposal to force companies to report abuse of taxpayer money will not apply to work overseas, including projects to secure and rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan

      I’m no accountant, and don’t understand much about money laundering. But given my smidgeon of knowledge about eComm, plus learning about the GOP servers under Rove/Mehlman’s control, plus adding in the Abramoff + casino’s piece, plus EW’s suspicions about ‘money laundering’…

      Motives abounded. Rove, Bush, et al wanted control.
      Means abounded. eComm and eTransfers started heating up in the late 1990s, and sure enough the next election (2000) was almost certainly hacked. And online gambling was coming online at a time when Abramoff started raking money from the Tribal casinos… convergence? Perfect storm….?

      EW, if I’m right… or even if I’m only half-right, I’d sure like a cut of the screen rights ;-))
      Will split in even bits with all other regular commenters here ;-))

      Meanwhile, one suspects that Ray Hunt and his loathsome offspring don’t call it money laundering. That’s too tawdry a term for such high-fallutin’ high rollers. Perhaps ‘private financial currency exchange services’ [PFCES] might be a more pallatible term…?
      Or, we could simply cut to the chase and call them Money Pimps. Put MPs has so many prior connotations, I rather suspect that simple, pallid acronym doesn’t come close to adequately capturing the scope of the crime(s).

      • bobschacht says:

        “The Tribes are almost certainly a money-laundering portal of entry for the criminal conduct of the GOPers. “

        This is why the huge treasure trove of e-mails that McCain collected back when he was Chair of the Interior Committee must be opened. I’ll bet that there are several indictments worth of illegal activity lurking in those files. Why can’t they be (or haven’t they been?) accessed by the present committee?

        More sunshine, please.

        Bob in HI

    • sailmaker says:

      Perhaps we should check out those CIA planes that keep crashing in Mexico with loads of cocaine?? Drugs – to – money – to the casino laundry – to politics. Remember Abramoff not only had Indian gaming ties but delta river boat gaming ties, the mob, and a murder? Not to mention that Atta and a bunch of the 9/11 hijackers were on a suncruz trip a week before 9/11?

      Steps away from too much tinfoil – but admits that there an awful lot, an awful lot of coincidences here.

  8. bmaz says:

    Quail are fine, it is the lawyer hunting I object to. I don’t know about Obama or Clinton, but if I were elected President, I think I might find it in me to throw the Goopers a bone and arrange a test of their “seal the border” demands; might test out a whole bunch of those high tech cameras and flood lights they keep babbling about too. I sure would want to make sure that Ray Ray and Hun Hun are safe down there on the border if ya know what I mean…

  9. Ishmael says:

    “Plantation” is exactly the word that comes to mind when I think of Ray Hunt’s littl Plutopia. It’s like some kind of Area 51 for the superrich. Tom Monaghan’s private Catholic Jonestown isn’t much different, except I don’t think Hunt is trying to create a theocracy, just his own little dukedom surrounded by Mexican bantustans.

  10. scribe says:

    Well, this certainly makes even more interesting all the arrangements for contracting with Blackwater (and esp. through the Dep’t of State rather than Defense) so as to grow the private military company business.

    Y’can’t have a private little country, if you don’t have a little army to protect it. So Bushie and friends have started to create their own little Praetorians, loyal to them. Devolving toward warlords and feudalism, we seem to be.

    I have to say – if I’m elected President, the first thing I do is tell my AG designate (whom I’ll put on the job as an Acting and worry about confirmation later) to go seize all of Blackwater’s personnel and business records with a GJ subpoena. Because they’re going to fade into the knotholes otherwise.

  11. Dismayed says:

    Excellent post and thread.

    But it’s even easier than that –

    Just take big GOP donors to a little place called Choctaw Casiono and convention center just 90 minutes from Dallas on a little crossroads just south of Durant Oklahoma. Where they are free to lose all the money they’d like. Donations in kind.

    No portal required, no digital footprint.

    I always wondered why this place was so fucking bit and had the housing and convention capability it has. Hi 79 carries a lot of traffic, but still, not many conventions really want to come to a wide open crossroad in s.e oklahoma.

    That’s a big one, but these things are everywhere. Now that you guys mention it, I’d be more suprised if you were wrong than right.


  12. prostratedragon says:

    I’m sure everyone will be relieved to know that at least some industry has managed to get immunity for something out of this Congress. (Was this mentioned here?)

    Lawmakers Move to Grant Banks Immunity Against Patent Lawsuit

    Stephen Boyd, a spokesman for [Sen. Jeff] Sessions, said the provision “is designed to protect banking institutions complying with post-9/11 security requirements from the abusive practices of patent trolling trial lawyers seeking personal enrichment, which ultimately will be paid for by checking account customers across America.”

    Even Claudio Ballard, the founder of DataTreasury, which holds the patents, said he did not hear of the amendment until days afterward. He said he had been unaware that the Judiciary Committee was considering it and engaged lobbyists to help him only after it had passed. …

    “We had no notice, no opportunity to respond, to give our side of the case, nothing,” he said.

    Commerce, which actually objects to the amendment, provides la pièce de résistance. Citing the deleterious effect of immunity from patent enforcement on technological innovation, Asst. Sec. Wienecke wrote to Leahy:

    “The Administration does not support exceptions to patent protection based on a particular technology.”

  13. klynn says:

    Just a personal Hunt family story…

    My Dad, the former soccer coach for OSU, was once honored in the state of Ohio for his lifetime contributions to soccer. Lamar Hunt (owner of Columbus Crew until his death) honored him at a Columbus Crew game and later at one of the MLS All-Star games.

    My Dad, was a guest of Lamar’s during the game and sat in his private box suite. Lamar encouraged him to bring along any of his grandkids. My son was the only grandchild not away at summer camp that year and he got to go. Lamar invited my son to sit right next to him and watch the game. (I thought, “Wow-what an experience for an 8 year old…”)

    We (other family members)watched the game from the stands so we could take pictures during the dedication for my Dad at halftime.

    We caught up with my son and my Dad after the game at a local restaurant. I asked him what it was like to meet Lamar Hunt? His answer:

    “Mom, (heavy sigh) he crunches chips just like the rest of us and goes to the bathroom too.”

    To this day my son is great at putting life into perspective.

    So, EW, Ray probably crunches chips too and goes to the bathroom — meaning, he’s human and he has weaknesses. You cannot hide your tracks all of the time… no matter how much $$$$.

    With that thought, I’ll echo others above…This is a thread to keep pulling on and I agree, Abramoff, Tribes, GOP and $$$ all go together…And they all crunch chips…So, we’ll find crumbs…

    Interesting to read about all the H. L. Hunt kids:

      • klynn says:

        Oh, I know there is a BIG difference! Lamar was actually quite nice, generous, hospitable and down-to-earth considering his upbringing.

        Nonetheless, I would wager a bet that Ray crunches!!! Ray’s a middle child of all the children and the oldest of his Dad’s second
        mistress/wife…Interesting birth order analysis…

        And thanks on the other point. We don’t know “what” we are doing right…but are quite thankful…

        O/T regarding the 2006 immunity attempt…called Kucinich’s office to get some more background and the staffers were extremely nervous to talk about it…in fact, would not…

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