Air Force officers based on Capitol Hill violated lobbying laws by organizing congressional golf outings and inviting some of the nation's largest defense contractors to finance them, an internal Pentagon investigation has found.
Government sources confirmed a Defense Week report that the inquiry found contractors paid more than $10,000 between 1981 and 1986 for green fees and refreshments for up to 30 golf outings that typically included lawmakers, their aides, Air Force legislative liaison officers and industry officials.The sources told United Press International that, besides picking up the tab, the contractors gave away prizes such as golf balls, bags and umbrellas and investigators found the Air Force officers "always cheated" to ensure the congressmen and staffers won.
Neither the sources nor the industry magazine would reveal which lawmakers or their aides accepted the industry entertainment that began even as President Reagan was seeking congressional support for his $2 trillion military buildup.
The report by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service alleged that the Air Force liaisons violated a law barring Pentagon officials from spending tax dollars to support lobbying of Congress or assisting in such lobbying, the sources said. It reportedly alleged that a small group of Air Force personnel improperly organized the outings on government time and with Air Force resources.
The investigators also concluded that Air Force personnel had accepted illegal gratuities from contractors including the Grumman Corp., Westinghouse Electric Corp., the Boeing Co., Lockheed Corp.'s Georgia aircraft division and Logicon, Inc., the sources said.
Maj. Donna Pastor, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, said "there was a decision made in 1986 to terminate the activities" and that they are no longer permitted.
Defense Week said the report by the DCIS, an arm of the Pentagon inspector general's office, was referred earlier this year to Henry Hudson, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, but he declined to prosecute.
The report was then forwarded to Air Force Secretary Edward Aldridge for administrative action, but he did not respond, sources told UPI.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who also received a copy of the report, wrote Aldridge last week expressing anger over the apparent lack of disciplinary action, and asked the secretary to disclose his response to the findings.
Pastor said the Air Force's general counsel concluded on May 4 that the report "did not substantiate charges that any lobbying activity was illegal" and said the Air Force "considers the matter closed."
Asked whether any discipline was meted out, she said, "because a limited number of individuals were involved, we ... believe the Privacy Act prohibits responding to the question."
Sources familiar with the report said it found that the defense contractors did not bill golf expenditures back to the government. "They realized it was a lobbying expense," one source said.
Defense Week said the liaison officers nicknamed the small group of Air Force officers who organized the golf outings "Detachment I." It quoted retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Guy Hecker as saying he approved the initial outings in mid-1981 while heading the agency's legislative liaison office.
"A congressman would say, `Hey, let's go play golf,' and off we'd go to `Det 1,"' Hecker was quoted as saying. "Det. 1 would get the tee times. The more people you have, the more fun it is but it always takes time to set up and organize."
Defense Week also reported that the DCIS findings have been forwarded to the House ethics committee, but quoted a government source as saying the dollar value of the gratuities described would not exceed the $100 congressional limit on gifts from private industry.