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‘Revolving door’? Ties between consultancy, gov’t raise questions about Benghazi probe

 

Meet Beacon Global Strategies.

The online bios for its founders and managing directors suggest no group knows more about the Benghazi terrorist attack and the Obama administration's response. Yet the consulting firm has deep ties to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others involved in the controversy – ties so intertwined with the administration and Capitol Hill that they raise questions about an upcoming hearing where former CIA Acting Director Mike Morell is slated to testify.

"It is like a revolving door on steroids," Bill Allison, whose Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit that supports government transparency, told Fox News, adding that Washington's “revolving door” is a bipartisan problem.

"Republicans have gone through the revolving door, Democrats. … It says an awful lot about Washington and how hard it is to really be independent in Washington.”

READ BEACON'S REGISTRATION AS AN LLC

Morell, who also is a national security analyst for CBS News and has a book deal, joined the Beacon firm after retiring from the CIA last year. In doing so, he joined an organization already stacked with ex-government officials. Among them is Philippe Reines, whom the New York Times magazine recently described as Clinton's "principal gatekeeper." According to Beacon’s website, Reines traveled to more than 110 countries with the then-Secretary of State as part of her senior team.

Another employee, Jeremy Bash, was a former chief of staff to Leon Panetta at both the CIA and Defense Department. Andrew Shapiro was a Clinton policy adviser at the State Department whose portfolio included ridding Libya of shoulder-launched missiles called MANPADs. 

And it includes Republican J. Michael Allen, who was a former majority staff director for the House Intelligence Committee, headed by Republican Rep. Mike Rogers.

In November 2012, Morell testified before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed session about Benghazi, when Allen was still staff director. In May 2013, Morell testified for a second time in a closed session about Benghazi and the so-called talking points – the administration’s flawed public narrative initially blaming a protest for the attack, which killed four Americans.

Morell now is expected to testify for a third time in early April before the same panel -- the House Intelligence Committee, where his colleague Allen once worked -- after Republican allegations he misled the Senate Intelligence Committee over the talking points. The next hearing is expected to be public.

READ J. MICHAEL ALLEN'S FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

Business records reviewed by Fox News show that in April 2013, Beacon Global Strategies registered as an LLC. 

Congressional rules require immediate notice to the ethics committee when a senior Hill staffer, who earns more than $120,000, negotiates for outside employment. Allen falls into this category.

A Nov. 19, 2012 Memorandum to all House Members, Officers and Employees, posted on the Ethics Committee website states:

"Certain House staff must notify the [Ethics] Committee within three (3) business days after they commence any negotiation or agreement for future employment or compensation with a private entity. Staff subject to this disclosure requirement are those employees of the House who are paid at or above an annual rate of $119,553.60. …”

"The term 'negotiations' connotes 'a communication between two parties with a view toward reaching an agreement' and in which there is 'active interest on both sides.'”

It adds: "Employees also should avoid situations that might be viewed as presenting even a risk that the individual might be improperly influenced by personal financial interests."

Disclosure forms, obtained by Fox News from the congressional clerk's office and written in Allen's handwriting, state that he filed with the ethics panel in July -- almost three months after Beacon registered. Fox News asked Allen when he began informal discussions with Beacon, as opposed to formal negotiations for employment, and whether at the time of Morell's May 2013 testimony, Allen was aware the former deputy director of the CIA might join Beacon.

In light of Morell's upcoming testimony, and given the apparent discrepancy between Morell's November 2012 and May 2013 testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Fox News also asked Allen what steps he took to further investigate whether Morell had misled lawmakers.

After exchanging emails over a four-and-a-half hour period, Beacon Global Strategies LLC provided a lengthy statement to Fox News on behalf of Allen. While not providing specifics, Beacon provided "the overall timeline of the firm’s formation and the subsequent personnel actions."

While Allen is listed on the website as a founder, Beacon's statement indicates he was not approached until two months after its registration.

The statement said:

"This firm was founded on the strong belief that keeping America secure must be a nonpartisan endeavor, and is dedicated to acting in a truly bipartisan manner. We not only adhere to all governing ethics rules and laws, we strive to go above and beyond those requirements and hold ourselves to the high ethical and professional standards we did throughout our decades serving in government. As for the timeline: this company was formally created by the three original partners in April of 2013. Mr. Allen was approached at the end of June, at which point he filed a ‘Notification of Negotiations or Agreement for Future Employment’ with the US House of Representatives Committee on Ethics. He subsequently filed a ‘Statement of Recusal’ with the same committee. Upon accepting the offer to join the firm in July, he promptly and fully disclosed such to Congressional officials. Mr. Morell was not approached until November. Therefore, nobody could have been influenced by events that were not yet planned and had not yet occurred."

Fox News spoke Monday with Rogers, chairman of the committee, who underscored the fact that no congressional panel has done more to investigate Benghazi than his -- and that Morell is now being recalled for a third time, where, in an open forum, all issues can be addressed, including allegations that Morell misled the Senate Intelligence Committee. 

As for Beacon, in a September interview with Defense News shortly after the firm launched, Reines indicated it may be a temporary stop. "In terms of going back in, I think we all want to, but we also know that life doesn't necessarily work out so cutely."

 

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.