Michael Reagan, the president's 35-year-old son, has sent eight to 10 business solicitation letters to U.S. military bases invoking the name of his father on behalf of a private military equipment supplier.
"I know that, with my father's leadership at the White House, this countries [sic] Armed Services are going to be rebuilt and strengthened," young Reagan wrote a series of identical letters mailed in late March. "We at Dana Ingalls Profile want to be involved in that process."
Reagan signed the letters as the vice president of marketing and sales for the Burbank, Calif., firm which manufactures small machine-tool parts for aircraft and missiles. "We look forward to becoming an approved supplier of machined parts and small assemblies," he wrote.
In a telephone interview yesterday, young Reagan said he was not trying to use his father's influence improperly to secure business for the company. He said his reference to the president in each instance was a follow-up to telephone conversations with procurement officers.
The family connection, he said, "was not raised by me initially, it was raised by the person talking on the phone . . . where there was already a rapport established. They asked me if I was Ronald Reagan's son. If people get intimidated, that's their problem."
The four-paragraph letters were mailed to U.S. bases around the country including Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, Hill Air Force Base in Utah and a Martin Marietta Corp. defense facility, Reagan said.
The letter received by officials at the Oklahoma base was printed on the front page of The Oklahoma City Times yesterday after reporter Michael Carrier, acting on a tip, requested it under the Freedom of Information Act.
Maj. Gen. Jay T. Edwards, commander of the large maintenance and repair depot there, said that when the letter was brought to his attention, he did not take exception to young Reagan's approach. He said he checked with legal advisers to assure himself that no laws would be violated if the base did business with the president's son on a normal bid basis.
"We made no up-channel report that such a letter existed," Edwards added.
White House officials did not comment. Young Reagan said yesterday that he had not heard from anyone at the White House about the letter-writing campaign.
The letter to the Oklahoma base was addressed to Roy Sadler, a civilian defense employe who works in the office of small and disadvantaged business utilization. The definition of a small business, according to the base commander, is a firm with fewer than 500 employes. Certain contracts are set aside in the procurement process for small and disadvantaged businesses and are not available to large contractors.
Reagan said that his job as a salesman for the Burbank firm was "to get them qualifed with people to be able to bid on projects so they can run parts."
Though Reagan signed the letters as a vice president of the firm, he said in the interview that he was not an employe of the firm. "I'm a representative of him [Dana Ingalls]," Reagan said. The title of vice president "is kind of a position I hold."
One Reagan administration official reached yesterday said the letters from the president's son represented "a dubious sort of behavior."
"Why doesn't he just use a hammer?" the official, J. Jackson Walter, director of the ethics branch within the Office of Personnel Management, asked.
He added, however, that a financially independent son or daughter is beyond the reach of ethics and conflict-of-interest statutes.
"I think we have just been through an object lesson of a kind with Billygate," he said, referring to the influence-peddling allegations that attended Billy Carter's business dealings with the Libyan government.
"Presuming on the position of relatives is clearly a troublesome thing," Walter said, "but can I cite some regulations, statute or other source that says it is a mistake for the independent child of an executive branch official to use his parent's name in trying to get business? I'm not aware of any such thing."