WASHINGTON - Pentagon adviser Richard Perle came
under fire on Friday for failing to disclose financial ties to
Boeing Co., even while championing its bid for a
controversial $20 billion-plus defense contract.
Perle co-wrote a guest column in The Wall Street Journal
newspaper this summer praising the plan to lease then buy 100
modified refueling planes, a year after Boeing committed to
invest up to $20 million in Trireme Partners, a New York
venture capital fund in which Perle is a principal.
KNOWN AS THE 'PRINCE OF DARKNESS'
Right-wing US politician Richard Perle
"If ever there were an argument that traditional business
practices are ill-suited for defense 'transformation', the saga
of the tanker-leasing proposal would count as People's Exhibit
A," Perle and a colleague wrote in the Journal on Aug. 14.
"It stinks to high heaven," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers
for Common Sense, a Washington-based federal budget watchdog
group, of Perle's failure to disclose his ties to Boeing in the
Wall Street Journal piece.
"Mr. Perle's entitled to his own views on the tanker deal,"
said Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy
Center, a government and corporate accountability watchdog. "We
just think that the public's entitled to know that he has a
relationship with Boeing when he's expressing his views."
Perle's role adds to the ethical questions dogging the
tanker deal, placed on hold by the Pentagon this week for an
audit of suspected contracting improprieties that contributed
to the resignation on Monday of Boeing's chief executive.
Last month, lawmakers voted to allow the lease of no more
than 20 tankers and the purchase of up to 80, rather than an
approach that would have cost $5 billion or more over time.
As a high-profile assistant defense secretary under former
president Ronald Reagan, Perle carries a lot of weight in
Washington. He is widely credited with helping to lay the
political groundwork for the March invasion of Iraq.
CHARGES OF INFLUENCE-PEDDLING
Perle was overseas Friday and did not respond to requests
for comment e-mailed via colleagues.
Perle's business interests have raised repeated questions
about what critics call improper influence-peddling. On March
27, he quit as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, which
advises the secretary of defense, amid allegations of conflict
of interest for his representation of companies with business
before the Defense Department. He remains a board member.
It stinks to high heaven.
Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers
for Common Sense
Chicago-based Boeing pledged in the middle of last year to
invest up to $20 million over eight to 10 years in Trireme
Partners, which invests in defense- and homeland
security-related technologies. It is one of 29 such investments
in cutting-edge technology funds worldwide totaling $250
million, said Anne Eisele, a Boeing spokeswoman. To date,
Boeing has invested $2 million in Trireme, she said.
Boeing acknowledged in a recently released internal e-mail
that it ghost-wrote several opinion pieces by prominent figures
in favor of leasing tankers rather than buying them outright,
as has been standard weapons-procurement policy.
But a company spokesman, Doug Kennett, said of the Pearle
piece: "We did not write nor did we place it," only
fact-checked it, "which is a fairly standard thing."
The Wall Street Journal editorial-page editor who handled
the column was not available for comment but "normally, we do
like to disclose this kind of information," said Brigitte
Trafford, a spokeswoman for Dow Jones & Co Inc.,
publisher of the Wall Street Journal, referring to an author's
financial interests in the deal.
Boeing said it had briefed Perle on the tanker deal in his
capacity as a resident fellow at the Washington-based American
Enterprise Institute, a private research group. President Bush,
at the institute's annual dinner in February, said it was home
to "some of the finest minds in our nation ... at work on some
of the greatest challenges to our nation."
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd