Cheney myth much larger than the man

For a time, it seemed as if Dick Cheney owned Washington. From congressional intern to youngest-ever White House chief of staff, from six-term member of the House of Representatives to secretary of defense, from director of the Council on Foreign Relations to Halliburton CEO and finally vice president, Cheney did it all.

He was the consummate insider, a friend to big business, the power behind the throne - the man to know if you wanted to get something done during the George W. Bush years.

But is it possible to put a number on his influence?

A recent study in the B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy tried to do just that, looking at Cheney's influence on behalf of 15 companies connected to him, including not only Halliburton but corporations whose boards he sat on, as well as firms whose boards included former Halliburton colleagues.

If the firms really were dependent on Cheney's patronage and clout, the study's authors reasoned, then their stock prices should have risen along with his influence.

The result? A big fat zero.

Despite widespread speculation that Halliburton and other Cheney-connected firms benefited from the Iraq war or were nefariously plotting to reconfigure America's energy future, there was no observable correlation between the powerful veep and a company's economic performance.

Either Cheney didn't have as much juice as we all thought, or the markets just weren't picking up on it.

Joshua E. Keating writes the War of Ideas blog for Foreign Policy, where he is associate editor.

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