WASHINGTON — Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III failed in May, 1985, to inform the Justice Department of a $60,000 investment with a businessman now involved in the Wedtech Corp. scandal, and the financial arrangement apparently remained secret for more than a year, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) disclosed Thursday.
Levin released copies of an internal Justice Department memorandum by Meese dated May 24, 1985, in which the attorney general omitted mentioning the fact that, on the previous day, he had invested $60,000 with W. Franklyn Chinn.
Chinn at the time was a consultant to Wedtech and later a director of the Bronx, N.Y., defense contractor. He is now a subject of federal and state criminal investigations into Wedtech, and Meese formally severed his business ties with Chinn on Tuesday.
The memo Meese circulated to department officials said that "to assist you in identifying matters from which I may be disqualified, the entities in which Mrs. Meese or I have a financial interest are shown" on an appendix.
The appendix, Levin noted, "does not mention the Chinn partnership investment, which, according to Mr. Meese's financial disclosure form, he purchased on May 23, 1985, one day before the date" of the memo that listed his financial holdings.
Levin asked the Justice Department two weeks ago to state whether Meese amended his May 24, 1985, memo, shortly after writing it, to notify other Justice Department officials of the Chinn investment. But, he said, "to date, I have received no response."
The Chinn investment was not listed publicly until mid-1986, when it appeared as a three-line notation on Meese's financial disclosure form as a "limited blind partnership" with Financial Management International Inc., the name of Chinn's firm. The Meese-Chinn-Wedtech tie-in first became publicly known when news stories began appearing about it in April.
Justice Department spokesman Patrick Korten said he did not know when the department first learned of the Chinn partnership.
He added: "This is an enormous amount of political ado about nothing. Carl Levin could have asked any question he wanted to ask about (the Chinn partnership) for the past 364 days, but he apparently wasn't interested."