Published February 04, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The White House's nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled financial firms and from a firm that invests in contractors for federal national security agencies, according to financial disclosures released Wednesday and reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
Panetta received $56,000 from Merrill Lynch & Co. for two speeches and $28,000 for a speech for Wachovia Corp., according to disclosures released ahead of Thursday's scheduled Senate hearing on Panetta's nomination.
Both Merrill and Wachovia reported big losses last year and were acquired by larger firms. The Wachovia honorarium was dated October 30, and the last Merrill Lynch honorarium was dated October 11, according to disclosure forms filed by Panetta in connection with his nomination. At the time, Bank of America had agreed to a rescue of Merrill Lynch; Wachovia had agreed to be acquired by Wells Fargo & Co.
The former White House chief of staff's disclosure form also shows the delicate balance President Barack Obama is trying to strike -- trying to curb the influence of lobbyists in his administration, while relying on long-time Washington veterans who often help clients navigate the halls of power. Panetta's forms show that he performed government affairs consulting last year and also sat on the board of a public affairs firm that lobbies Congress, though Panetta doesn't violate Obama's ban on hiring registered lobbyists.
"We anticipate that tomorrow's hearing will focus on the substance of Mr. Panetta's views about how to strengthen our intelligence gathering and keep our nation safe, as all of Mr. Panetta's income and investments have been thoroughly reviewed by the Office of Government Ethics," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Panetta is a former Congressman from central California who served as White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.