McCain Questions Objectivity of Pentagon Nominee With Raytheon Ties

By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has raised a fresh challenge to the nomination of former Raytheon lobbyist William J. Lynn to become deputy secretary of defense, asking Lynn in a letter that he demonstrate by Friday how he will be able to function while disqualifying himself from key matters related to his former employer.

In a letter dated Monday, McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee and President Obama's foe in the election, wrote that even though Obama had waived his own tough new ethics rules to accommodate the nominee, Lynn will "nonetheless be required to adhere" to congressional standards and to existing executive branch ethics rules.

Further, McCain wrote, Lynn would be called upon in the job to decide many matters in which Raytheon, one of the nation's largest defense contractors, has a financial interest. Among those, McCain said, are "naval weapon systems, missile defense, precision-guided weapons and munitions, . . . space and other airborne systems" and "next-generation radar systems."

McCain said that before deciding whether he can support the nomination, he wanted to know what impact the existing ethics rules "might have on your ability to discharge fully your responsibilities" as the Pentagon's chief operating officer.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, a Bush administration holdover, has said that Lynn was his pick and that he did not want Lynn to withdraw from all decisions involving Raytheon. Lynn, a former aide to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), served as an undersecretary of defense and comptroller at the Pentagon under President Bill Clinton and was elected an officer of Raytheon in 2005.

Lynn was among a group of Raytheon officials who lobbied the Pentagon and Congress as recently as 2007 and 2008, according to records filed with the Senate. White House officials have promised as a result that Lynn would be subjected to special ethics monitoring over the next year to minimize any conflicts. But the scope of any planned recusals is uncertain.

Lynn's financial disclosures to Congress state that he has stock in Raytheon valued at up to $1 million, which will vest next month and which he can then sell under existing Pentagon rules. He also is eligible to receive a bonus from the company in March that is valued at up to $250,000. But he will presumably have to simply give up his rights to additional company stock, valued at up to $500,000, which is unvested and could not be sold within a 90-day deadline.

The financial disclosure information was first reported yesterday by the Associated Press.

Once Lynn no longer has a financial interest in Raytheon, the Pentagon's general counsel is authorized under existing rules to allow him to participate in policymaking that affects Raytheon if his participation is deemed important. An aide to Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) said the "committee has dealt with similar issues" involving other nominees from industry and has approved some that have even more substantial corporate financial ties.

McCain, speaking on "Fox News Sunday," said, "I don't like it. I think it's a bit disingenuous to announce strict rules and then nominate someone with a waiver from the rules that you just announced."

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