- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A leading Washington watchdog on Wednesday filed a formal complaint and asked the Defense Department inspector general to investigate whether acting Pentagon chief Patrick Shanahan violated ethics rules by lobbying for major military contractor Boeing, where Mr. Shanahan worked for three decades.

In the complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) raised questions about whether Mr. Shanahan — who took over as acting defense secretary on Jan. 1 — privately lobbied for the Defense Department to favor Boeing over other contractors for lucrative military contracts.

Mr. Shanahan worked as a top executive at Boeing for 30 years. Before taking over for former Defense Secretary James Mattis on Jan. 1, Mr. Shanahan had no previous government experience.

Mr. Shanahan and other top Pentagon officials have said that the acting secretary has recused himself from all matters involving his former employer.

But the CREW complaint cites news reports — which the Pentagon has denied — that claim Mr. Shanahan privately pushed for Boeing to be given contracts over other leading firms such as Lockheed Martin.

“It is extremely disturbing that Acting Secretary Shanahan appears to be using his public office for Boeing’s private gain,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. “Ethics rules make clear that government employees cannot abuse their offices to promote a private company, much less work on official matters involving their former employer.”

A Pentagon spokesperson fiercely denied the charges.

“Sec. Shanahan has at all times remained committed to complying his ethics agreement, which screens Boeing matters to another DoD official and ensures no potential for a conflict of interest with Boeing on any matter,” Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for the secretary, said in a statement. “Secretary Shanahan remains focused on increasing lethality across the military and aligning the department along with the National Defense Strategy.”

CREW said the matter deserves further scrutiny.

“We don’t know whether Shanahan had direct involvement in decisions affecting Boeing, but even the appearance of bias raises serious concerns and potential ethics violations,” Mr. Bookbinder said. “It is imperative that the Office of Inspector General fully investigate Shanahan’s conduct.”

As part of the Trump administration’s budget rollout, Mr. Shanahan will testify on Capitol Hill Thursday. It will be his first appearance before lawmakers since taking over as acting secretary.

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