Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), in a letter to the Defense Department, has questioned whether defense officials knew that a director of General Dynamics Corp. was involved in a bribery case when they granted him a top-secret security clearance a decade ago.
Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigation, inquired about Lester Crown, a General Dynamics director since 1974 and son of the company's largest stockholder, Henry Crown.
Referring to the younger Crown's involvement in an Illinois bribery case, Dingell asked: "Did Lester Crown and the General Dynamics Corp. report this adverse information on official forms applying for the security clearance? . . . . Did the Department of Defense properly evaluate Lester Crown's security clearance case?"
A General Dynamics spokesman said the company was studying the letter and would have no immediate comment, and Crown was out of the country. Pentagon spokesman Bill Caldwell said it would be "inappropriate" to comment until the department responds to Dingell.
Crown's status as an unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery case is detailed in a 1977 Securities and Exchange Commission report.
In 1974, according to the report, several Illinois state legislators were indicted for accepting bribes from concrete companies in exchange for passage of legislation; four were convicted.
Lester Crown, who headed a General Dynamics concrete subsidiary, had contributed $15,000 of his personal funds to the legislators, the report said.
The report said that at Crown's direction, company employes submitted false expense vouchers worth $7,600 and gave him the cash to cover his personal contributions. (The legislators had returned $8,000 to Crown after the legislation failed to become law.)
Crown repaid the $7,600 after senior General Dynamics officials learned of the arrangement, the report said, and prosecutors granted him immunity for his testimony.
In March 1974, while the grand jury probe was pending, General Dynamics Chairman David S. Lewis nominated Lester Crown as a company director. The Pentagon granted the security clearance four months later.
A company proxy statement announcing the appointment made no reference to the bribery allegations, the SEC said. The company's 1975 and 1976 proxies disclosed Crown's status as an unindicted co-conspirator, but did not mention the falsified expense accounts, according to the report. The SEC obtained an injunction requiring the company to disclose such information to its stockholders in the future.