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State Lawmakers Call for Cabinet Nominees to Embody Civilian Leadership Free From Conflicts of Interest

For Immediate Release
January 12, 2017

State Lawmakers Call for Cabinet Nominees to Embody Civilian Leadership Free From Conflicts of Interest

General Mattis Requires Congressional Waiver to Serve as Defense Secretary Questions Persist About His Financial Ties to Defense Contractors

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. House and U.S. Senate considered the nomination of General James Mattis (USMC, Ret.) for Secretary of Defense. Recently, more than 130 state lawmakers from more than thirty states signed a letter to Senate Majority and Minority Leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer calling on them to oppose any Cabinet nominees who “undermine the core American philosophy of civilian leadership.”   Further, it called on the U.S. Senate to oppose nominees with conflicts of interest. The letter was sponsored by the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WiLL), a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), a women’s organization advocating for progressive national security.

“What sets our republic apart from other countries is our commitment to civilian control of the government, including the military,” said Megan Amundson, WAND Executive Director. “In addition to serious questions about his conflicts of interest, General Mattis has not been out of the military long enough to meet the legal requirement for retired officers to serve as Secretary of Defense. Given this, we are disappointed that a waiver was rushed through the Senate, and will similarly be rushed through the House, rather than thoroughly debated.”

The letter reads in part, “While we strongly respect the experience and credentials of our military’s active and retired generals, we urge you to oppose nominees who would undermine the core American philosophy of civilian leadership.”

In a very disappointing move, the Trump transition team prohibited General Mattis from appearing before a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, although he agreed to do so and was scheduled to do so. This move has prevented the Congress from doing its job to ensure that nominees are being fully vetted and from putting the public interest above political expediency.

Addressing conflicts of interest, state lawmakers were also clear, “We urge you to oppose nominees whose personal or professional interests might conflict, or have the perception of conflict, with the interests of the public they serve.”

Earlier this week, the Project on Government Oversight sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and Ranking Member Jack Reed asking them to look closely at potential conflicts of interest pertaining to General Mattis, citing his membership on the board of both General Dynamics and Theranos and his more than $1 million compensation from General Dynamics, the fourth largest defense contractor.

Legislators signing this letter hail from more than thirty states, including Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The letter is endorsed by the Arms Control Association, Courage Campaign, Global Zero, National Priorities Project, Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Peace Action, Tri-Valley CAREs (Livermore, CA), and Win Without War.  More than 7,000 similar letters have been sent by regular citizens to their U.S. Senators.

The full letter with list of signing lawmakers can be viewed here.

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About Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND)

Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) is a grassroots advocacy organization that empowers women to be agents of change to reduce violence and militarism, support nuclear disarmament, and redirect excessive Pentagon spending to unmet needs in our communities. Twitter @WomensAction | wand.org

Press Contacts

Diane Russell
National Security Political Director
Cell/Text: (207) 272-9182, drussell@wand.org

Jessie Calkins
Communications Director
617.401.2877, jcalkins@wand.org


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