Former Pentagon official Richard Perle resigns as key Rumsfeld adviser
By Robert Burns, Associated Press, 3/27/2003 18:59
WASHINGTON (AP) Former Pentagon official Richard Perle resigned Thursday as chairman of a group that advises Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on policy issues, saying he did not want a controversy over his business dealings to distract from Rumsfeld's management of the war in Iraq.
In a brief statement, Rumsfeld thanked Perle for his service and said he was grateful that the former Reagan administration official had agreed to remain a board member. Rumsfeld made no reference to a reason for Perle giving up the chairmanship.
Perle said he was stepping aside voluntarily.
''I have seen controversies like that before and I know that this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged,'' Perle wrote in a resignation letter.
In the letter, made public by the Pentagon and dated March 26, Perle assured Rumsfeld that he had abided by rules applying to members of the Defense Policy Board. He has been chairman of the board since July 2001. The position is unpaid but is subject to government ethics rules that prohibit using public office for private gain.
The controversy centers on Perle's deal with bankrupt Global Crossing Ltd. to win government approval of its purchase by a joint venture of two Asian firms. Perle would receive $725,000 for his work, including $600,000 if the government approves the deal, according to lawyers and others involved in the bankruptcy case.
The deal is under review by a government group that includes representatives from the Defense Department.
Perle denied any wrongdoing.
''The guiding principle here is that you do not give advice in the Defense Policy Board on any particular matter in which you have an interest,'' Perle said in a recent interview. ''And I don't do that. I haven't done that.''
The Defense Policy Board is a bipartisan group that advises the secretary of defense on a wide range of policy issues. Its 30 members are a mix of former military and government officials. They include former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Air Force Chief of Staff Ronald Fogleman.
Perle wrote in his resignation letter that he could not ''quickly or easily quell criticism'' in the Global Crossing controversy, adding that it was ''based on errors of fact.''
Nonetheless, he wrote, ''I would not wish to cause even a moment's distraction from'' the war effort.
Perle said he was advising Global Crossing that he would not accept any compensation from the pending sale and that any fee for his past services would be donated to the families of American forces killed or injured in Iraq.
In his written statement, Rumsfeld thanked Perle for his service.
''He has been an excellent chairman and has led the Defense Policy Board during an important time in our history,'' Rumsfeld said. ''I should add that I have known Richard Perle for many years and know him to be a man of integrity and honor.''
Perle was an assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration.
He became involved in another controversy stemming from an article in The New Yorker that said he had lunch in January with Saudi-born businessman Adnan Khashoggi and a Saudi industrialist.
The industrialist, Harb Saleh Zuhair, was interested in investing in a venture capital firm, Trireme Partners, of which Perle is a managing partner. Nothing ever came of the lunch in Marseilles; no investment was made. But the New Yorker story, written by Seymour M. Hersh, suggested that Perle, a longtime critic of the Saudi regime, was inappropriately mixing business and politics.
Perle called the report preposterous and ''monstrous.''
Perle, 61, was so strongly opposed to nuclear arms control agreements with the former Soviet Union during his days in the Reagan administration that he became known as ''the Prince of Darkness.''
Having Your Souffle And Eating It Too
Filed March 26, 2003
For years now, political reformers have been railing against the unseemly -- and rampant -- practice of former government officials pouring through Washington's golden revolving door only to return a short time later as well-paid lobbyists, auctioning off their access and influence.
Well, compared to the latest trend, turns out those were the good old days. Today's new breed of public servants prefers to cash in while still stalking the halls of power and deeply involved in the highest levels of creating public policy.
Talk about eating your cake and having it too.
On second thought, better make that "eating your soufflé," because Richard Perle -- a close advisor to Don Rumsfeld whose side obsession has been to open a chain of souffle restaurants -- has taken this double-dipping scam to a whole new level.
As chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board -- a position that is unpaid but still subject to government ethics rules -- Perle has been the frothing pit bull of the Bush administration's dogs of war. At the same time, he is the managing partner of Trireme Partners, a firm that specializes in homeland security and defense, and serves on the Board of Directors of Autonomy, a software company whose clients include the Defense and Homeland Security Departments.
Perle's latest deal finds him on the payroll of Global Crossing. The bankrupt telecommunications company is struggling to win government approval for its proposed sale to Asian investors. The Defense Department and the FBI are both opposed to the $250 million deal since it would place Global's fiber optic network -- which is used by the U.S. government -- under the control of Hutchison Whampoa, a Hong Kong firm with close ties to those freedom loving folks in Beijing.
Enter Richard Perle. Global is hoping he can convince his good buddies in the Defense Department to put their national security concerns aside and let the dicey deal go through. And Perle is clearly confident that he can deliver: In a highly unusual arrangement for a Washington gun-for-hire, he's agreed to make $600,000 of his $725,000 fee contingent on his bringing home the bacon.
I guess he figures: Hey, I convinced the president to toss aside 200 years of historical precedent and launch a preemptive war despite the trepidation of the majority of the world, how hard can it be to persuade a few government bureaucrats -- including my old pal Rummy -- to look the other way while I do an end-run around the public interest and bank a quick 725 grand? After all, you know what they say about casting Perles before swine.
This sleazy state of affairs has caught the eye -- and turned the stomach -- of Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, who has called on the Defense Department to investigate whether Perle's business dealings constitute a conflict of interest.
During his years in the Reagan administration, Perle was dubbed the Prince of Darkness because of his hard-line stance on national security issues. But I suppose when you toss nearly three-quarters of a million dollars into the mix, the gloomy Prince is more than happy to click on his halogen nightlight and refashion his hard-line into a squiggle.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that Perle's windfall is coming from the coffers of a disgraced company that was among the worst of the corporate crooks. He's lining his pockets at the expense of the 10,000 laid-off Global employees who saw $32 million in severance pay wiped out -- and the shareholders who lost $57 billion in equity -- when the company declared bankruptcy.
The hubris is unfathomable. In legal documents drafted in connection with the proposed Global sale, Perle couldn't have been clearer about what the telecom company would be buying with its fat fee. "As chairman of the Defense Policy Board," declared Perle in an affidavit, "I have a unique perspective on and intimate knowledge of the national defense and security issues" likely to be raised by the governmental review of the sale. Knowledge, he pointedly pointed out, "that is not and could not be available" to the other lobbyists trying to get the deal approved.
In other words: "I've got Rumsfeld's ear and access to all sorts of super-top secret information that none of these other jokers on your payroll do. I know more. I can do more. So I'm worth more." And he had the unmitigated chutzpah to put this all in writing. And sign it. I guess this is what the Bush administration means by "transparency." And, to Perle’s credit, the whole thing is pretty transparent.
But, of course, when reporters began sniffing around the deal, Perle's power plumage shriveled up faster than George in the "shrinkage" episode of Seinfeld.
First he tried the classic Bush administration Plan A -- the simple, 180 degree lie. He just told reporters that he never signed the statement. That didn’t work, so onto Plan B -- claiming ignorance, admitting that he had signed it but insisting he hadn’t read it. Finally, no doubt realizing this all sounded a bit too much like "the dog ate my affidavit," Perle declared that none of it mattered anyway, since his position on the DPB actually, now that you mention it, had "nothing to do" with the Global deal -- so how could he possibly be using his public office for private gain?
So when there's money to be had, Perle's position at the Defense Policy Board affords him "a unique perspective" on advising Global Crossing, but when ethical questions are raised, his Defense Policy Board post has "nothing to do" with his work for the telecom company.
And this is the guy our president is putting his trust in when it comes to waging war on Iraq?
Perle's abuse of the public interest is in a class by itself, but he is far from the only one in Washington shaping public policy from the inside while skirting the ethics rules designed to keep people from cashing in on their positions of power.
Among the most prominent of the double-dippers are Karen Hughes, who continues to serve as one of the president's most trusted advisers while pulling in $15,000 a month as a "consultant" to the Republican National Committee; RNC Chairman Marc Racicot, a double-dip pioneer, who famously decided to forgo tradition after being elected party chairman in 2002 and hang on to his day job as a high-powered corporate lobbyist for companies such as Enron; and Haley Barbour, the former head of the RNC, who has unabashedly decided to continue working as a lobbyist for clients such as Citigroup, DamierChrysler, Lockheed Martin, and Nestle at the same time he is running for Governor of Mississippi.
It seems that after failing in their attempts to privatize social security, Republicans have decided to privatize public service.