Negroponte Disclosures Unclear on Divestments

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John Negroponte (search), President Bush's choice for intelligence chief, is a multimillionaire who promised last year to sell stock in companies that have business stakes in Iraq's (search) reconstruction, according to his financial disclosure reports.

It is unclear from two April reports, Negroponte's most recent filings, whether he followed through on sales of General Electric (search) and other companies helping to rebuild Iraq, where he is U.S. ambassador. The White House did not immediately comment Monday.

Less than two weeks ago, Bush asked Negroponte to take on the new job of national intelligence director (search), bringing together 15 independent intelligence agencies.

That assignment may force Negroponte to take a fresh look at whether any financial holdings present conflicts of interest — a process he went through last spring when he was nominated ambassador to Iraq.

Then, Negroponte agreed not to participate in decisions that would effect his personal holdings. To minimize problems, he agreed to sell his interests in Citigroup (search), General Electric and GE Capital (search). The three companies are providing postwar Iraq with everything from power generators to help in restructuring the claims of private commercial creditors against the country.

Negroponte has not had to file another disclosure report since then to confirm the transactions took place.

In a letter to a State Department ethics official on April 23, Negroponte said he would "remain alert" on the possible need to remove himself from certain decisions or to request a written waiver to qualify for an exemption.

Government officials must file financial disclosure reports annually or when they receive a new appointment. That helps ensure that they are complying with federal laws and regulations that bar officials from making government decisions that lead to personal profit. The forms list the officials' holdings, but give the values only in broad ranges.

According to Negroponte's April reports, which cover 2003 and the first part of 2004, his portfolio contained investments in a number of banks and investment funds, retail stores such as Family Dollar and global technology and information companies.

Last spring, Negroponte's investments were worth at least $2.7 million, and possibly over $9 million. His largest single investment was between $1 million and $5 million in a trust called the Federated Investors' (search) tax-free obligations fund.

Because many national security-related contracts are classified, it is impossible to pinpoint all conflicts of interest that might arise should the Senate confirm him as national intelligence director, as expected. Yet some seem apparent.

Negroponte, for instance, owns $15,000 to $50,000 in California-based Hewlett-Packard (search), an information-technology company active in government work. The company has worked with Lockheed Martin (search) on defense and intelligence programs, particularly in areas of information sharing, security and systems management.

It also participates in the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board (search), a federal advisory panel that is studying the application of biometric technologies for counterterrorism purposes. The work is sponsored by the CIA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (search).

In September 2003, Negroponte sold $100,000 to $250,0000 of stock with his employer from 1997 to 2001, McGraw-Hill, a global information-services provider. The company has a homeland security division that offers search engines and databases aiding in infrastructure and border security.

According to the disclosures, Negroponte has continued to receive installments on a bonus deferred from 1999. One of the filings indicated that he received $208,000 in the 12 months ending last April. As ambassador, Negroponte promised not to participate in matters that would affect the company's ability to pay him.

Also in his disclosure reports:

— In February 2003, while U.S. ambassador to the United Nations (search), Negroponte invested $15,000 to $50,000 in AIG, which has insured people and companies doing business in Iraq. He sold the stock a month later.

— In December 2003, he purchased $15,000 to $50,000 of Kaydon Corp. (search), which makes shock absorbers, bearings and filtration products. The company is a supplier of the U.S. military and its stock value has increased since the March 2003 Iraq invasion.

— In June 2003, Negroponte invested $15,000 to $50,000 in Avery Dennison (search), a maker of adhesives and office supplies. Avery Dennison was the victim in a case involving the U.S. government's first criminal prosecution over economic espionage, in 2002. Prosecutors said the company's adhesive formula was stolen by a Taiwanese businessman.