While some businesses step up their romancing of Democrats who might take over the House of Representatives, other companies and industries have real reason to worry. With a majority in the House, Democrats would set the legislative agenda, convene hearings, and launch investigations -- powers they have lacked for a dozen years.
Democrats already have several industries and companies in their sights. Defense contractors -- Halliburton Co. (HAL) in particular -- are at the top of the list for allegedly overbilling the federal government billions of dollars for reconstruction work in Iraq. Halliburton has not been charged with wrongdoing, and it has said many of its cost overruns stem from the exigencies of working in a war zone. A company spokeswoman says Halliburton has worked well with Administrations of both parties and that it will continue to cooperate with federal overseers.
That won't appease Representative Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), political analysts say. If Democrats prevail in November, Waxman, a vocal Halliburton critic, would chair the Government Reform Committee that oversees Iraq contracting matters.
Pharmaceutical companies will likely come under fire for securing a provision in the 2004 Medicare drug plan that prohibits the government from negotiating discounts on prescription drugs. Democrats say the measure has been a windfall for Big Pharma. PhRMA, the industry's trade group, declines comment.
Representative Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who sits on the House Energy & Commerce Committee, says a key goal if his party wins will be to get "a fair price" from companies that pay little or no royalties to the government on oil and gas extracted from federal lands.
Oil company executives may again be called to Capitol Hill to answer questions about alleged price gouging. Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM), which booked record profits recently, is of particular interest to Democrats. ExxonMobil spokesman David Gardner says the criticism is unwarranted. He notes that over the past three decades the company has repeatedly been cleared of all such allegations.
By Dawn Kopecki