Perle Failed To Disclose
Financial Ties To Boeing

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pentagon adviser Richard Perle came under fire on Friday for failing to disclose financial ties to Boeing Co. <BA.N>, 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.
"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.
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.
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 Perle 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. <DJ.N>, 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 Limited.




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