By Joshua Chaffin in Washington and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in New York
Published: December 5 2003 0:50
Richard Perle, a prominent Pentagon adviser, lobbied on behalf of Boeing's bid for a controversial $18bn government contract a year after the aerospace company made a $20m investment in the venture capital fund he runs.
Mr Perle, a former Reagan-era assistant defence secretary, is considered one of the most influential civilian members of Washington's defence establishment.
He was appointed in 2001 by Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, to chair the Defence Policy Board, a group of former military and policy experts who meet regularly with Mr Rumsfeld and top Pentagon officials.
In August, Mr Perle co-authored an Op-Ed piece in the Wall Street Journal arguing in favour of a deal in which the Air Force would lease 100 767 aircraft refuelling tankers from Boeing. The piece was published at a time when the deal was under intense attack by critics who claimed the tankers were unnecessary and the deal too expensive.
Mr Perle and Thomas Donnelly, both members of the American Enterprise Institute think- tank, wrote that a "special government green-eyeshade mentality" was holding up a crucial deal.
Mr Perle did not disclose that Boeing had committed to invest $20m in his venture capital fund, Trireme Partners, in mid-2002. The investment marked one of the largest early stakes taken in the fund by a corporate partner.
Mr Perle on Thursday denied he had received any compensation from Boeing or any benefit related to the article. "The people involved in Trireme have nothing to do with the tanker deal," Mr Perle said. "I never discussed the tanker issue or my views on the tanker issue with anyone at Boeing that had anything to do with Trireme." He added that Trireme's relationship with Boeing was "fundamentally" handled by Gerald Hillman, a partner in the fund, who is also a Defence Policy Board member.
Boeing said it briefed Mr Perle on the tanker deal on July 14, giving him the same presentation it had made to several journalists, policy analysts and watch-dog groups.
But the company said it had "no hand" in writing or placing Mr Perle's Op-Ed piece. In addition to Trireme, Boeing said it had invested $250m in 29 similar funds.
Internal Boeing e-mails portray a lobbying campaign the company undertook to have "friends on the Hill" and "think tanks" drum up support for the deal. One Boeing e-mail refers to an Op-Ed article in support of the company by retired Admiral Archie Clemins as being "ghost-written".