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Jewish World Review April 18, 2002 / 7 Iyar, 5762

Art Buchwald

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Consumer Reports

Conflict of Interest | Thomas Gray, Secretary of Conflict of Interest, in the Pentagon, recently granted his first interview with a reporter. Gray, as you recall, was vice chairman of the Hidden Valley Gas and Power Co. before becoming secretary of the COL.

He seemed to want to talk to somebody. He defended himself by saying that his job was to find conflicts of interest and then recommend whether the Defense Department should sign a contract with them.

The reason he was appointed to his position was that while awaiting his confirmation he sold $50 million in stock options and received a bonus of $45 million from the company, as well as 100,000 frequent flyer miles for flying the firm's private 727 to attend his senate hearings.

As with everyone at Hidden Valley, Gray said he did nothing wrong. If you can't do business without having a conflict of interest, then you don't understand the capitalist system.

The phone rang and Gray answered it. He said, "Hello Harry," and then mouthed to me, "My golfing partner at Hidden Valley." Then he said, "How are the wife and children? You know, we're joining you on your boat in Monte Carlo. That's good. What's up at Hidden Valley? Right, you're stuck with a lot of surplus gas and wonder if we would take it off your hands? Of course we will. We're always looking for deregulated gas at any price. No problem, Harry. That's what friends are for."

Gray hung up and said, "Sorry, but if I don't take Harry's calls he gets into a snit. Now where were we?"

"We weren't anywhere," I said. "It says in the papers that Hidden Valley was your biggest supporter."

"They damn well better be. I did a lot for that company."

"Could you give me an example?" I asked.

"I can't because everything I've done for them has been shredded."

"They say you used Army helicopters for Hidden Valley business after you joined the Defense Department."

"It was the best way to get from here to there. But I didn't always use government helicopters. Sometimes I used refurbished B-52s."

"I'm glad to knock that one down," I told him.

The phone rang again. It was someone in the Houston office. He must have been important because Gray didn't mention his name. He said, "Hidden Valley wants to build a nuclear plant next to Disney World? .I don't see what the problem is. If the environmental nuts try to block it, the EPA will sue them."

Then Gray hung up and turned to me. He said, "Don't think I make conflict of interest calls only for Hidden Valley. If you gave money to the Republican Party, you'd be the first to get a hearing, and if it goes against you, you will be the first one permitted to appeal."

Comment on JWR contributor Art Buchwald's column by clicking here.

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04/08/02: The Young Audience
03/31/02: Safe Deposit for Sale
03/26/02: Au Revoir to Soft Money
03/21/02: Andersen Defense Fund?
03/19/02: Celebrity kickers
03/15/02: A Mickey Mouse solution
03/13/02: Shadow government in the sandbox
03/07/02: The Way It Is
03/05/02: Not telling the truth
03/01/02: Book flogging
02/27/02: The players are mad

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