Government watchdogs and a veteran congressman are sharply criticizing a bipartisan consulting firm formed by a trio of former Obama administration insiders and the former staff director of the House Intelligence Committee, whose Republican chairman opposes a select committee in the deadly September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
J. Michael Allen resigned from the committee in August to join Beacon Global Strategies with Phillipe Reines, spokesman for former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; former Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro; and Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to former CIA director and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta.
The firm will specialize in foreign affairs, national defense and homeland security. Mr. Panetta, a Clinton ally, is its first client.
Beacon launched on Aug. 6, a day after Mr. Allen resigned, but started to come together in April — less than a month after Obama administration officials briefed the intelligence committee on internal emails regarding controversial CIA “talking points” in the Benghazi incident.
A Beacon spokesman said the firm is proud of its bipartisan credentials and will maintain the highest ethical and professional standards.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who has pushed for a select committee on Benghazi, said of Mr. Allen’s move, “It’s troubling. These guys have been with Hillary a long time, and made critical remarks about the [Benghazi] hearings. I’d want to make sure there’s a reason why [the committee] didn’t pursue it further.”
The intelligence committee said this week it is continuing to investigate Benghazi.
Open government advocates at both ends of the ideological spectrum were sharply critical of the new firm.
“There are a whole slew of ethical concerns here,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen. “Mr. Allen has one foot in the door of a congressional committee and one foot out the door ready to do business” with members of an administration under scrutiny.
Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, added, “This is what upsets people about Washington. Mr. Allen should’ve been providing oversight and not going into business with individuals he should be investigating.”
Scott Taylor, former Navy SEAL and president of Special Operations Education Fund, a non-partisan organization that advocates for protection of national intelligence assets, sharply criticized the new firm and said it provided even more support for a special investigation into the Benghazi incident.
“These guys are Washington at its worst,” he said, “putting their own personal business interests ahead of an investigation into the deaths of four Americans — and then bragging about it, which is the only way it was discovered. There is no better example of why we need a Select Committee on Benghazi. The regular committee process shows time and again that it is just not capable of a tough, focused investigation.”
The Beacon spokesman said Mr. Allen filed the required disclosures under the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act and Stock Act when he first considered joining, and recused himself from Beacon matters once he decided to do so.
Mr. Holman said that technical compliance with the rules, which Congress has scaled back, are beside the point. “There’s a difference between that and what is right,” he said, noting that Congress has made it impossible to ensure compliance by not requiring the House Ethics Committee to acknowledge such disclosures.
The ethics committee declined to comment — or to confirm whether Mr. Allen filed a disclosure form.