Viewpoint: Perle’s Boeing ties not disclosed

Pentagon adviser Richard Perle has stepped in it again. This past summer, the architect of the Project for a New American Century wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal.

He gushed about the government’s plan to lease and then buy 100 air tankers for use by the military.

“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,” he wrote on Aug. 14.

There was just one bit of information he forgot, according to Reuters, Perle did not disclose his financial ties to the Boeing Corp., even while supporting its bid for a $20 billion-plus defense contract.

His Journal opus came just a year after Boeing pledged up to $20 million investment in Trireme Partners, the New York venture capital fund that has Perle as a principal.

“It stinks to high heaven,” said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a federal budget watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C.

Peter Flaherty, who heads the National Legal and Policy Center, a government and corporate accountability watchdog, said: “Mr. Perle’s entitled to his own views on the tanker deal. 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 lack of disclosure adds to the ethical questions dogging the tanker deal and the larger ethical problems attached to this administration.

The Pentagon has put the tanker deal on hold for an audit of possible contracting improprieties that were a factor last week in the resignation of Boeing’s chief executive. He was replaced by two men: former Hewlett-Packard president, chairman and CEO Lewis E. Platt; and former Rockford resident and ex-Sundstrand CEO Harry Stonecipher.

Congress last month voted to permit leasing no more than 20 tankers and buying up to 80 of the aircraft, rather than a plan that would have cost $5 billion or more over time.

Perle was a high-profile assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and carries a good deal of influence in Washington. He is credited with helping lay the political groundwork for the March invasion of Iraq. (He has suggested the invasion was illegal).

Perle has been in hot water previously over his business interests. Last March, he resigned as chairman of the Defense Policy Board, which advises Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The cause was allegations that he represented companies that had business with the Department of Defense. He is still a member of that policy group.

Boeing has released an internal e-mail stating it ghost-wrote a number of articles by prominent figures favoring leasing the tankers. It denies, however, that it had any deep involvement with Perle’s article. “We did not write nor did we place it,” said Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett. He said Boeing did check the facts in the piece for Perle which, he said, “is a fairly standard thing.”

Boeing said it did brief Perle on the tanker deal in his role as a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a private research group in the capital.

At the institute’s annual dinner in February, President Bush said the group is home to “some of the finest minds in our nation…at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation.”

Maybe one of those challenges is how to avoid telling the American people what you are doing.

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