Schaffer blasted for Iraq oil deal, possible links to pro-war group

The chief strategist and co-founder of a pro-Iraq war organization scheduled to endorse Republican Bob Schaffer in his run for the U.S. Senate on Wednesday was paid to promote investment in the Kurdistan region of Iraq at the same time Schaffer had a hand in securing an oil contract in Kurdistan—despite warnings the deal could prolong the war.

A left-leaning campaign finance watchdog group currently running ads attacking Schaffer blasted the impending endorsement on Tuesday and promised to unveil further connections between Schaffer’s dealings and principals of the conservative nonprofit group Move America Forward.

“Where there’s a lot of smoke,” said Campaign Money Watch director David Donnelly, “there’s some fire.”

Campaign Money Watch is spending $880,000 on a blistering ad campaign, including a new commercial, which began running Monday, that attacks Schaffer as a “war profiteer” because of the Iraqi oil deal. Donnelly questioned whether Move America Forward’s chief strategist, Sal Russo, helped Schaffer broker an oil exploration contract with the Kurdish Regional Government when Russo was being paid $220,000 to encourage American investment in the semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq.

“We urge Bob Schaffer to explain what relationship he has with this controversial group, or the lobbying firm, and if the lobbying firm helped Aspect Energy secure the contract in Kurdistan,” Donnelly said.

Dick Wadhams, Schaffer’s campaign manager, slammed Campaign Money Watch for even raising the question and threw in some barbs at Schaffer’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Mark Udall, to boot.

“They’re attacking a group of women who lost their kids in Iraq? How much more despicable can you get than that?” Wadhams told the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday.

“(Udall) ought to be ashamed of his friends doing this,” Wadhams told Politicker CO, “and it’s time for Boulder Liberal Mark Udall to apologize for these kinds of attacks on mothers who have lost sons in Iraq.”

One of the group’s founders, right-wing San Francisco talk radio host Melanie Morgan, plans to appear Wednesday for the Schaffer endorsement at a Colorado Springs Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall, along with Gold Star mother Debbie Lee, whose son, Marc Lee, was a Navy SEAL killed in Iraq in 2006.

The Sacramento-based 501(c)3 organization has lobbied in support of the war, including sponsoring a tour of Iraq for conservative talk radio hosts, distributing “I (Heart) Gitmo” bumperstickers and running TV ads that warned Saddam Hussein really had WMDs and ties to al-Qaeda, long after the Bush administration gave up the ghost on those claims.

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