Friends Could Give Reagan Bel-Air House : Ethics Office Confirms Tuttle, Jorgensen Are Among 20 Buyers
President Reagan’s wealthy friends who bought a California estate for him to occupy probably could give it to him without violating conflict-of-interest laws, a letter from the Office of Government Ethics says.
The opinion confirms that industrialists Holmes Tuttle and Earle Jorgensen are among the 20 or so businessmen who purchased a $2.5-million home for the Reagans to live in when they leave the White House next year.
The July 31, 1986, letter was written in response to a request from private attorneys who wanted to determine whether the arrangement would be ethically appropriate. It was made available to the Associated Press today by a Washington law firm.
The Reagans began paying rent under a three-year lease which took effect March 1 with an option to buy the Bel-Air house eventually. The White House says Reagan and his wife, Nancy, will pay “fair-market” rent for the property.
The opinion letter notes that criminal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to the President.
It says standards of conduct for the executive office of the President restrict an employee’s acceptance of any gift from a person who is doing business with the employee’s agency.
However, the letter notes that an employee may accept a gift from a friend, when the circumstances make it clear that the personal relationship is the motivating factor.
The letter was requested by Washington lawyers representing Wall Management Services Inc., the company in which the Reagans’ friends bought stock in order to raise the capital to buy the home for the Reagans in 1986.
In a July 21, 1986, request to the ethics office marked “confidential,” the lawyers for Wall Management Services said that a group of about 18 financially independent friends of the Reagans proposed to buy and renovate the Bel-Air home. In an interview Monday night, Wall Management’s chief financial officer, Ira Revich, said “approximately 20" friends of the Reagans had bought stock in the company.
The 1986 request did not identify the businessmen and Revich refused to name them. Under California law, companies incorporated there do not have to identify stockholders.
Tuttle and Jorgensen are listed as directors, and the 1986 request to the ethics office describes their business activities and says they are stockholders.
The confidential request says that at least one of the investors had loaned money to the President’s inaugural committee and that about six had given the President or the First Lady gifts in the previous six years. A number of the investors had served as informal, non-government advisers to the President.
But he has appointed some of them, or their spouses or relatives, to various commissions or federal posts, the request said.
In an interview, David Martin, the ethics office’s former director, said he recalled that his office had gotten the names of the investors after requesting them and that the office “went through the whole conflicts-of-interest” analysis.