THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

McCain signs off on Pentagon pick; Grassley unconvinced

By Bryan Bender
Globe Staff / February 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Raytheon executive and former top lobbyist William J. Lynn III moved a big step closer to becoming the second-ranking Pentagon official yesterday, but still must satisfy at least one top Republican lawmaker who is still questioning whether he can be impartial when presiding over decisions that affect his former employer.

Senator John McCain's office said yesterday that the Arizona Republican will no longer hold up the nomination of Lynn, who came under scrutiny after he was granted a special waiver last month to sidestep the Obama administration's new ethics rules prohibiting former lobbyists from overseeing industries they represented within the previous two years.

Last week, McCain had demanded more information on Lynn's role, ending last July, lobbying on behalf of the Waltham-based defense giant, which receives billions of dollars in contracts each year from the Pentagon. "He received an adequate response from Mr. Lynn and intends to move forward with the nomination process," McCain's office said in an e-mail.

But Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, remains unconvinced. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee wrote to White House budget director Peter Orszag last week to say the selection of Lynn "gutted the ethical heart" of the president's pledge to close "the revolving door" that has commonly allowed former lobbyists to have jurisdiction over the industries they represented in Washington just months before."He would be the final approval authority on most - if not all - contract, program and budget decisions," Grassley wrote. "Surely, a number of Raytheon issues would come across his desk."

Grassley's office said yesterday he is awaiting a fuller explanation for why the waiver was necessary, what decisions of Lynn's might require special circumstances, and whether he would be able to do an effective job.

In a separate letter to Lynn last week, Grassley also demanded an explanation of Lynn's role in some financial decisions that were made during his tenure as Pentagon budget chief in the late 1990s. Among them, according to Grassley, was the practice of paying Pentagon bills first and tracking down receipts for them later - what came to be derisively known as "Pay and Chase."

Grassley's office said yesterday he has not heard back from Lynn. "We are at a standstill," said Beth Levine, Grassley's spokeswoman.

Grassley, first elected in 1980, is a notoriously dogged congressional overseer who has ended the careers of more than a few government appointees over the years. While not a member of the armed services panel, Grassley can use his senatorial privileges to hold up Lynn indefinitely.

Lynn, 54, told McCain in a letter dated Friday that he lobbied Congress in 2007 and 2008 on "only a handful" of Raytheon weapons programs. They included a new destroyer program, an air-to-air missile, a radar system for the F-15 fighter jet, the Patriot missile program, a spy satellite project, and a missile defense warhead. He said he lobbied the Pentagon only on the missile defense weapon. If approved as deputy secretary of defense, Lynn told McCain he will seek written approval from Pentagon lawyers when "circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question my impartiality," according to the letter, first reported by the Associated Press. Lynn previously agreed to sell all Raytheon stock.

The White House maintains that the ethics waiver for Lynn is justified. Aides cite his unique experience wrestling with the notoriously resistant and wasteful Pentagon bureaucracy, both as budget chief and director of program analysis and evaluation, which is responsible for the military's long-range planning.

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