Larry Klayman likes suing the United States government. Over the last seven years as chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch, a public interest law firm in Washington, he has filed over 150 lawsuits against the feds, including more than 80 against former president Bill Clinton himself. Called the Ralph Nader of the right, Klayman has litigation habits considered by some Beltway insiders as wildly ambitious. Others think he’s just plain crazy.
But now Klayman and Judicial Watch are pawing in disbelief through President George W. Bush’s past business connections with the Saudi-based Bin Laden family. The firm is demanding that GWB’s father, the original President Bush, immediately resign from his post as a paid senior adviser to the Carlyle Group, a private Washington equity firm that according to The New York Times has essentially become the nation’s 11th largest defense contractor.
Carlyle’s investors include the Bin Laden family, which has disowned its terrorist son Osama; Bush Sr.; and former Bush inner guard members Nick Carlucci and James Baker. Judicial Watch says all involved stand to benefit from any increase in U.S. defense spending.
“It’s mind-boggling,” says Klayman. “This conflict of interest has now turned into a scandal.” With the recent U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan, Klayman says, the conflict of interest is now “direct.”
Klayman questions why Bush the Younger is not aggressively pursuing Saudi Arabia, a country known to harbor terrorists. He points to Bush the Elder’s business connections there, like the Saudi-based Bin Laden family, through Carlyle. “President Bush should not ask, but demand, that his father pull out of the Carlyle Group,” says Klayman.
Neither former president Bush—who has continued advising his son on handling the war on terrorism—nor the Carlyle Group returned calls seeking comment.
In a case of “like father, like son,” President Bush also had connections to the Carlyle Group, the Voice has learned. In the years before his 1994 bid for Texas governor, Bush owned stock in and sat on the board of directors of Caterair, a service company that provided airplane food and was also a component of Carlyle. For his consulting position, Bush was paid $15,000 a year, according to a Texas insider, and a bonus $1000 for every meeting he attended—roughly $75,000 in total. Reports show Carlyle was also a major contributor to his electoral fund.
Upon hearing about the Bush-Bin Laden family connection, other Washington nonprofits have joined Judicial Watch in expressing their concern.
“Carlyle is as deeply wired into the current administration as they can possibly be,” Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, told Bushwatch.org. “George Bush is getting money from private interests that have business before the government, while his son is president. And, in a really peculiar way, George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his own administration’s decisions, through his father’s investments. The average American doesn’t know that. To me, that’s a jaw-dropper.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 9, 2001