Members of Congress ought to divest from companies that hold military contracts with the US government, a former Senate appointee that served in the Bush administration, said in a recently published report.
“I am frankly surprised they are allowed to have these investments,” Gordon R. England, a deputy defense secretary that served in the Pentagon from 2006-2009, told The Washington Post.
Ethical standards between Congress and its staff and appointees to federal agencies differ, the later of which must sell off their assets in corporations that do business with the government before working for the state.
The prohibition on staff and appointees is in place to prevent them and their family members from taking financial advantage of privileged information.
However, Congress is privy to the same information, some of which contains classified plans on expensive weapon systems.
England said that he personally made a financial sacrifice to the tune of over $1 million in possible profits in 2006 so that he could serve his country.
Yet half of the 28 members on Senate Armed Services Committee held millions of dollars worth of assets in Pentagon-service companies from 2004 to 2009.
The current Senate ethics rules allow senators to keep their “worldly goods.” Their financial disclosures are the only check against conflicts of interest.
The Post published a summary of and their responses to questions about the military-financial disclosures made by the Senate panel.
The double standard among the Armed Services Committee and its appointees goes back to the height of the Cold War.
In 1961, senators on the panel attempted to require its members to divest from the “military-industrial complex,” but it failed to reach a vote.
The father and grandfather of two modern presidents, Sen. Prescott Bush (R-Conn.), also spoke out in a closed-door hearing against such an exemption.
“When you pass a law like that, you will have the greatest mass resignation that the world has ever seen,” Sen. Bush said.
“For heaven’s sake,” he continued, “if you want to bring together a lot of people that do not have any touch with reality in this country to make the laws, God help the United States, in my judgment.”
England explained that recruiting people to fill government jobs was hard because few qualified candidates are willing to make such a sacrifice.
“People aren’t going to give away their stock options that they have worked a lifetime to accumulate,” he told The Post.