The CEO of Hunt Oil, Ray Hunt has defended his ties to the Bush family and the Republican Party saying they didn’t help his company get a deal last month to explore for oil in Iraq’s Kurdish region.

The agreement, which gives the closely held Dallas company access to a largely unexplored part of oil-rich Iraq, has been criticized by the Bush administration and Iraqi officials as undermining efforts to strengthen the war-torn country’s central government.

Some critics also suggested Mr. Hunt was cashing in on his ties to President Bush, while others claimed he was turning his back on the president. However in an interview in the Wall Street Journal, the 64-year-old Mr. Hunt says that, contrary to the State Department’s assertion, the company received no U.S. government advice before striking a deal.

“The State Department must have been misinformed,” he said. “We did not consult with anyone in the [U.S. government] prior to signing our agreement.” Mr. Hunt, a longtime friend of the Bush family, gave $75,000 to Republican Party fund-raising committees in the past two years, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But he said his political ties didn’t play a role; the company saw an opening in Kurdistan and jumped on it. “It’s another example where we’re able to move quickly when opportunity presents itself,” said Mr. Hunt, who says Kurdish oil executives turned to Hunt because of its oil-development record in Yemen.