- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2003

Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark has parlayed his 35 years of military experience into a budding business career in the three years since retiring from the Army as a four-star general.

Mr. Clark “has been helpful to our company in putting them in touch with the right people both inside the military and in the commercial sector and in promoting our technology to them,” said WaveCrest spokesman Tom McMahon, whose company has sold the Pentagon prototypes of its first product.

“He knew the military structure so well he would counsel them who to contact,” Mr. McMahon said.

The former general serves on the boards of at least four other companies. He also has worked as a military consultant for CNN and started his own consulting firm in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark.

Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Mr. Clark’s presidential campaign, declined to answer questions about Mr. Clark’s business activities. He said campaign officials are working to compile detailed information that will document the candidate’s business dealings.

Mr. Clark’s entry into the business world was facilitated by the Stephens Group, the parent company of a privately held family financial giant in Little Rock that operates one of the largest investment banks off Wall Street.

The influential company has been on the periphery of several Washington political scandals in the past three decades, from the resignation of President Carter’s budget director in 1977 to the campaign fund-raising investigations of the mid-1990s.

Mr. Clark joined the Stephens Group as a managing director for merchant banking in mid-2001. That December, Acxiom Inc., a Little Rock data analysis company, signed a $300,000 contract with Stephens to obtain Mr. Clark’s help in lobbying the government for homeland security business.

Mr. Clark joined Acxiom’s board at the same time, and after leaving Stephens earlier this year, he signed another $150,000 consulting agreement with the company. That contract was terminated when he announced his candidacy for president, Acxiom said, but he remained a paid board member.

A privacy group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Acxiom and JetBlue Airways Corp., which acknowledged that, in violation of its own privacy policy, it gave information from about 5 million passenger records to a Defense Department contractor. Acxiom provided additional demographic information to the contractor, which produced a study, “Homeland Security: Airline Passenger Risk Assessment,” that was purported to help the government improve military base security.

One of Mr. Clark’s Democratic rivals, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, said yesterday that Mr. Clark should explain his service on Acxiom’s board given the privacy concerns he has raised about some post-September 11 antiterrorism laws.

At the Stephens Group, Mr. Clark’s role “was primarily that of evaluating and looking for investment opportunities in the technology and defense areas,” said Frank Thomas, a spokesman for the investment house.

In that capacity, Mr. Clark worked directly for Jackson Stephens, the billionaire chairman of the company; his son, Warren Stephens, the company’s president; and other Stephens family members and senior company executives, Mr. Thomas said.

It was Jackson Stephens who helped Bert Lance dispose of his stock in the National Bank of Georgia after Mr. Lance was forced to resign as Mr. Carter’s budget director in 1977.

Mr. Stephens also was a business partner with Indonesian tycoon Mochtar Riady and his son, James Riady. The Riadys owned the Lippo Group, which was a key player in the investigation into claims of illegal foreign campaign contributions during the 1996 election.

It was the Washington office of the Stephens Group that John Huang, a former Lippo executive, used in 1996 to make numerous phone calls while working at the Commerce Department, where he had access to U.S. intelligence. Mr. Huang, the Democratic Party’s chief Asian-American fund-raiser, pleaded guilty in 1999 to violating campaign finance laws.

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