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Defense nominee made paid appearances during Pentagon hiatus

Ashton Carter.REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

WASHINGTON — Since leaving as the Pentagon's second-ranking official over a year ago, Secretary of Defense nominee Ashton B. Carter earned over $100,000 from private appearances before high-profile Wall Street firms, technology investors, and defense labs, according to disclosure forms.

Carter, a longtime Harvard scholar, defense consultant, and top Pentagon official whose Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for next month, also earned $120,000 last year as a consultant to the Markle Foundation, which has a stated mission of "leveraging technology and advancing public and private leadership."

Carter served on the foundation's task force on national security along with leading academics, government officials, and corporate leaders.

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Carter's confirmation as the next secretary of defense is widely predicted to get bipartisan support. If he is confirmed, he has agreed to resign two private-sector positions: as an adviser for computer technology companies Box Inc. and Palo Alto Networks Inc.

In a letter to the Pentagon's office of general counsel, Carter pledged to resign from all his positions with Stanford University, the Markle Foundation, Box Inc. and Palo Alto Networks Inc., "to avoid any actual or apparent conflict of interest."

He also agreed to recuse himself for two years from any decisions that might affect those entities unless he get authorization from the Pentagon's office of general counsel.

Carter left his previous Pentagon job of deputy secretary of defense in December 2013. Obama nominated him for the top job in December 2014. During that year, Carter made a series of private paid appearances before executives of investment companies, according to an 18-page disclosure form he filed this month with the Office of Government Ethics.

He received $30,000 for a meeting with executives at JMI Equity, a Baltimore-based investment company with a stake in a series of information technology firms; and a $22,500 honorarium from Barclays Capital, an investment bank.

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Carter, 60, also earned $20,000 for a meeting with the Gerson Lehrman Group, a New York business consulting firm; $5,000 for a private appearance at New York investment bank Goldman Sachs; and $15,000 from Boston-based insurance giant Liberty Mutual.

The Steel Tube Institute of America, which represents steel manufacturers, paid $13,500 for Carter's insights.

Carter — who was also a visiting lecturer at Stanford University last fall, which earned him $50,000 — made several other paid appearances, including at MIT's Lincoln Labs, which gave him a $10,000 honorarium, and at the federally funded Aerospace Corporation, which paid him $5,000.

If Carter does win the Pentagon job, he also will have to keep an eye on the business activities of his wife, Stephanie, to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Stephanie Carter is employed by ABS Capital Partners Inc., a venture capital firm with offices in Baltimore and San Francisco that has investments in two companies that do business with the Pentagon.

Although she is not aware beforehand of the identity of companies that the venture capital firm invests in, one of them is the ISO Group, a defense and aerospace engineering and technology firm, while another is Athletes' Performance, a fitness company that consults for the military and law enforcement agencies .

Carter agreed that he will not involve himself in any matters concerning those companies "as long as my spouse owns these interests."