Pentagon and Air Force officials violated criminal and civil anti-lobbying laws in waging a massive "cooperative" campaign with Lockheed Corp. to persuade the House to approve a $10 billion buy of C5B cargo aircraft, according to the General Accounting Office.
The auditing arm of Congress has asked the Justice Department to consider a prosecution under a 1919 law that provides fines and up to a year in prison for officials convicted of spending public funds to solicit outside pressures on Congress.
"Using contractors to do things that they could not do themselves," the officials spent "material, but undeterminable, amounts of appropriated funds to conduct the cooperative lobbying effort," the GAO charged in a report to Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Government Operations Committee.
"The director of the Air Force Office of Legislative Liaison [Maj. Gen. Guy I. Hecker Jr.] with the knowledge and consent of the Secretary of the Air Force [Verne Orr], the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs [Russell Rourke] and the Deputy Secretary of Defense [Frank C. Carlucci] invited officials of Lockheed and several C5B subcontractors to attend meetings held almost daily in his Hecker's office," the repobyists and subcontractor network to get the 'right' information about the president's program to the Congress quickly and to get feedback on congresional views. In other words, the purpose was to do things the Air Force was restricted from doing by anti-lobbying and legislative liaison appropriation restrictions, by bringing pressure to bear on members of the Congress."
Brooks released the report with a request for "a thorough investigation" by the Justice Department, which has never brought a prosecution under the 1919 law. The civil anti-lobbying law, on the books for a quarter-century, is similar in intent.
Brooks asked for the report June 24, two days after newspaper stories based on leaked copies of a Lockheed computer printout that detailed the ultimately successful daily efforts of the C5B Pentagon-Air Force-Lockheed "team" over 19 days in May and June to overcome a Senate decision to substitute military versions of new or surplus Boeing 747 airliners for the C5Bs.
The report said that Lockheed, learning of the leaks at least four days before the stories appeared, "destroyed all computerized records." The company said yesterday that "we felt that it was no longer safe" to maintain a computerized data base possibly accessible to outsiders.
Lockheed estimated its lobbying outlay at $496,000. Unless prevented by the Pentagon, the GAO said, Lockheed could be reimbursed for $287,840. The half-million-dollar figure excludes $265,190 for newspaper advertisements as well as "lobbying costs of Lockheed subcontractors and other companies that supported Lockheed's efforts."
The GAO findings may conflict with some recent sworn testimony to a House Armed Services subcommittee in an investigation of allegations by Rep. Norman D. Dicks (D-Wash.) and other C5B foes that the 1919 law was disobeyed.
Hecker and Lockheed President Lawrence O. Kitchen, who attended the daily meetings, told the subcommittee that they knew of no impropriety. Kitchen said the sessions were "informational," that no one told anyone else what to do and that the printout was a record, not a guide to action. By contrast, the GAO said that "on at least one occasion, an Air Force official called a Lockheed employe to report progress made on 10 to 15 tasks that the Air Force was responsible for accomplishing."
Carlucci testified that Pentagon officials "adhere rigorously" to the 1919 law and "did nothing wrong." Yesterday, the Pentagon stood by his testimony.