WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sold stakes this summer in at least five companies after they were identified as doing business with the Pentagon, according to his latest financial disclosure form, made available Wednesday.
Sold were all his shares in Millennium Chemicals Inc. , St Paul Companies Inc., Sonoco Products Co. , VF Corp. and Zebra Technologies Corp. , according to an aide's handwritten note on the disclosure report.
The note, dated June 28, said the companies had been "identified as DoD defense contractors." The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a query about the threshold for such identification, nor about the reasoning behind the sale.
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Described in ranges rather than exact amounts, his largest holdings included a trust in his name valued at $25 million to $50 million, farm land in New Mexico valued in the millions and a stake in Gilead Sciences Inc. worth $5 million to $25 million.
Rumsfeld served as chairman of Gilead Sciences, a Foster City, California, biotechnology company, before being sworn in as President Bush's defense secretary on Jan. 20, 2001.
As of July 27, Rumsfeld's designees were "in discussions" about divesting his shares in Community Health Systems Inc. which also was identified as a Pentagon contractor, according to the Pentagon's Standards of Conduct Office, which reviewed Rumsfeld's report for any perceived conflicts of interest. Community Health Systems was held via a venture called FLC Partnership.
Rumsfeld appeared to be under no legal requirement to sell the shares of any of the companies identified as Pentagon contractors, according to Alex Knott of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based government watchdog.
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You know, the arrangement might have been legal, but I remember a time when politicians would go to great lengths to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Why does this just seem so hinky to me? A guy who has a stake in the 'national security sector' is also the guy running the war. Hmmm . . . nah, he wouldn't consider his bottom line over the lives of our kids, would he? Can you say, 'conflict of interest'? Can you say 'morally unseemly'? I thought you could.