“Google search for ’Dick Cheney’ and ’Halliburton’ produces about 123,000 web pages updated in the last year,” notes James Ringo on Tech Central Station. “The heat that topic generates is suggested by the fact that a similar search for ’Michael Jackson’ and ’abuse’ only produces 97,000 pages.”

Yep, the Google search indicates the high level of interest in a subject that is bound to come up tonight in the vice presidential debates: Did Dick Cheney corruptly use his influence to enrich Halliburton, the company he formerly led and which has many contracts for work in Iraq?

Yes, of course, Cheney can simply deny that the accusation–but the article on Tech Central Station offers a way to determine how likely it is that the veep used his clout to help Halliburton get undeserved contracts. It’s the stock market, Stupid.

“Since economists say the stock market reflects available information, we can turn that around and read information out of stock prices,” writes James Ringo. “So, if Cheney’s position as Vice President were a benefit to Halliburton, the investors in Halliburton would welcome that fact and bid up the stock price.
“There are a number of time points which can be examined for such an effect. These are the times at which the chances of Cheney becoming VP changed dramatically. Three stand out: 1, Bush’s selection of Cheney as the Republican nominee for VP, 2, the November 7 election and 3, the United States Supreme Court’s final ruling deciding the 2000 Florida election controversy.”

I hope you’ll read the whole article, but here’s Ringo’s conclusion after looking at Halliburton stock at these pivotal moments:

“What can be learned from these stock price movements? Investors didn’t think Dick Cheney’s becoming Vice President would mean higher profits for Halliburton. If they did, they would have bid the price up. And perhaps not incidentally, Halliburton today trades in the low 30s. The investors have spoken. All of this doesn’t mean that Mr. Cheney isn’t corrupt, just that if he is, the market doesn’t think he is very good at it.”

This just in: Today’s Wall Street Journal also has an excellent piece on how Halliburton may play tonight and what Cheney should say.