Earlier this month, an Iranian official stated that his country had reached a deal to buy planes from Boeing — the first deal of its kind between Iran and a U.S. company since sanctions were lifted pursuant to the Iran nuclear deal. The deal reportedly will be worth $25 billion to Boeing.
Not long thereafter, Betsy Woodruff of the Daily Beast reported that Thomas Pickering, a prominent diplomat and a former ambassador to Israel and the United Nations, took money from Boeing while vocally and influentially supporting the Iran nuclear deal. Pickering supported the deal in testimony before Congress, letters to high-level officials, and op-eds for outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Several members of Congress stressed Pickering’s endorsement of the deal in defending theirs. For example, Rep. Mark Takai cited “hours discussing the matter with Amb. Thomas Pickering” in a press release announcing his support for the Iran deal.
Pickering confirmed his financial relationship with Boeing in an email to the Daily Beast. He said:
I was a Boeing employee from 1/2001 to 6/2006. I was a direct consultant to Boeing from 7/2006 until 12/2015. . . .
Pickering did not respond to the question of whether he disclosed his relationship with Boeing when discussing Iran with members of Congress and the press. However, the Daily Beast says it found no evidence that he “made a habit of making such a disclosure.”
Indeed, it is clear, according to Woodruff, that Pickering did not disclose his financial relationship with Boeing in key instances when he pitched a deal with Iran:
On June 19, 2014, [Pickering] testified before the House Armed Services Committee about his views on the need for a comprehensive agreement with Iran. He did not mention Boeing in the disclosure form he provided to the committee prior to his testimony. Boeing also isn’t mentioned in his bio that the House kept on file.
Besides testifying before Congress, Pickering also signed a letter on July 7, 2015, to congressional leadership, along with other former diplomats, urging them to support the nuclear agreement. That letter didn’t disclose his connection to Boeing, and it drew broad media coverage, including from the Huffington Post, Politico, and the AP. None of those reports noted his work for Boeing.
The White House also cited the letter in its publication “The Iran Nuclear Deal: What You Need to Know About the JCPOA.” Boeing is not mentioned anywhere in that document.
Speaking of scandals, readers may recall that Pickering chaired the Accountability Review Board (ARB) convened by Hillary Clinton to clear her of any wrongdoing in connection with the Benghazi attacks. We discussed the shambolic nature of the ARB’s work here.
The man does get around. He may get around even more if Hillary becomes president. She owes him.
So does Boeing. A $25 billion deal is nothing to sneeze at.
So does Iran. Its air fleet is said to contain some of the oldest and most dangerous planes in the world. Now Iran can modernize the fleet.
According to Rep. Pete Roskam, Iran could use its new planes to ferry troops and weapons around the Middle East. But that’s no skin off of Boeing’s back. Or Pickering’s.
No discussion is required to condemn Pickering. However, it is instructive to compare his situation in the Iran deal debate to the situation of experts in the debate over “climate change.”
At Breitbart, John Hayward observes:
There is some amusement to be found in the spectacle of this administration — normally so eager to discredit its opponents by claiming their positions are shaped by nefarious, undisclosed financial interests — treating Pickering’s ties to Boeing as a trifle. A scientist who ate lunch on an oil company’s dime cannot talk about global warming honestly, but Boeing consultants have no conflict of interest when pushing major foreign policies that will benefit their employers to the tune of $25 billion, just for starters?
Ira Stoll at the Algmeiner writes:
Imagine if, say, this were a former federal climate science official opining in the pages of the Times about global warming legislation without disclosing that he was a paid consultant to a coal company. Or imagine if this were a former federal cancer official opining in the columns of the Times about smoking regulations without disclosing that he was a paid consultant to a cigarette company.
In the words of John Lennon, it isn’t hard to do.