Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Crist, McCain donor accused of war profiteering

WASHINGTON — The chairman of Congress' top investigative committee has accused a longtime friend and benefactor of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Republican Sen. John McCain of "war profiteering" by overcharging the U.S. military by millions of dollars for fuel in Iraq.

In a 15-page letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., contends that Harry Sargeant III has used his monopoly on shipping fuel through Jordan to fleece the Defense Department for the past four years, despite large profits for his company and attempts by military officials to negotiate for "reasonable" prices.

But Sargeant, owner of International Oil Trading Co., hit back, calling the report baseless and saying Waxman and his investigators should have come to Iraq and seen "a highly complex, risky and, at-times, life-threatening effort to ensure the unimpeded flow of fuel to U.S. troops fighting in Iraq."

"They might also have learned that the reason the Department of Defense repeatedly entrusted this task to (his company) was precisely the ability, proven over time and quite literally under fire, to perform the mission," Sargeant wrote in a response.

Waxman is asking Gates to investigate. Waxman's account is based largely on documents and interviews with employees of the Defense Energy Support Center, a part of the Defense Department tasked with procuring fuel.

Other companies bid less for the contract to haul fuel to American forces in Iraq, but only Sargeant's firm, IOTC, had permission from the Jordanian royal family to route fuel through Jordan, wrote Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Sargeant countered that, too. "Other bidders had or could have obtained permission to transport fuel ... but none were able to complete the mission," he wrote. "That is what separated IOTC from other bidders."

Sargeant, who lives in Gulf Stream in Palm Beach County, has charged the government $1.4-billion for fuel over the past four years, at a profit of $210-million — including $70-million for Sargeant himself, according to the report. Waxman said that's unreasonable.

"In 2004, (defense energy) officials recognized that IOTC's charges were neither reasonable nor fair and personally intervened to ask Mr. Sargeant to lower his prices," Waxman's letter states.

Waxman said Sargeant used his monopoly position to overcharge for fuel. Sargeant said he charged a lot because his risks and costs were very high.

Sargeant was a fraternity brother of Crist's at Florida State University in the 1970s and has raised thousands of dollars for him through the years. He also was a top member of the Florida finance team for McCain's presidential campaign.

Sargeant came under the national spotlight this summer after the Washington Post reported that he raised thousands of dollars for McCain from people of modest means who often weren't registered to vote. The McCain campaign reviewed the donations and returned $50,000.

Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Wes Allison can be reached at (202) 463-0577 or

Crist, McCain donor accused of war profiteering 10/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 10:09am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa court hearing rescheduled for accused neo-Nazi jihadist killer


    TAMPA — Attorneys for Devon Arthurs, the alleged former neo-Nazi turned jihadist accused of shooting to death his two roommates, have asked to reschedule a court hearing that had been set for Wednesday morning.

  2. Parent of struggling DeVry University is changing its name to Adtalem


    Associated Press

    DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. — The company that owns one of the nation's largest for-profit college chains is changing its name.

    This 2009 photo shows the entrance to the DeVry University in Miramar, Fla. DeVry Education Group, which owns DeVry University, announced Wednesday that it will now be called Adtalem Global Education. 
[Associated Press file photo]

  3. NATO rolls out the red carpet, buffs its image for Trump


    BRUSSELS — NATO is not only rolling out the red carpet for U.S. President Donald Trump in Brussels Thursday, the military alliance — which Trump once declared obsolete — has been busy repackaging its image and is ready to unveil a new headquarters worth more than 1 billion euros.

    U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania arrive at Fiumicino's Leonardo Da Vinci International airport, near Rome, Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Trump is in Italy for a two day visit, including a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, ahead of his participation in a NATO summit in Brussels on Thursday. [Associated Press]
  4. Taiwan becomes first in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage


    TAIPEI, Taiwan — In a first for Asia, Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, punctuating a yearslong campaign by advocates for gay rights in one of the continent's most liberal democracies.

    Same-sex marriage supporters wave rainbow Taiwan flags after the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. Taiwan's Constitutional Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage on Wednesday, making the island the first place in Asia to recognize gay unions. [Associated Press]
  5. 'Top Gun' sequel? Tom Cruise says it starts filming soon


    Tom Cruise is once again feeling the need for speed.

    Tom Cruise starred in "Top Gun" in 1986, and said he'll begin work on a sequel within the next year.