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Members allege the American GI Forum has been shilling for Boeing, Big Oil, and AT&T

Photo: Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

Photo illustration by Chuck Kerr

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Peter Vallecillo in his home office.

In a late 2007 statement, delivered on Forum letterhead, Morales urges Congress to lay off “punitive tax increases on America’s oil companies.” After invoking the name of Dr. Hector P. Garcia, Morales writes of the disruptive and negative impacts of lawmakers trying to “micro-manage” oil and gas markets (Morales failed to return multiple requests for comment).

“At that time, we’ve got this guy representing us, and representing the American Petroleum Institute, and we all of a sudden start lobbying for oil and energy legislation? What the hell does that have to do with veterans?” Vallecillo said. “What purpose is there for us to lobby against taxing oil companies? That has remained an issue for us, for our organization.”

He wasn’t the only one getting concerned.

In an email sent out across the organization, Ret. Col Felix Vargas wrote that he had long worried about rumors within and outside the Forum that leaders “had committed the AGIF to private sector causes which did not have a clear link to us.” Vargas says he had warned Morales about his “cozy relationship with the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the contract for services that he signed with lobbyist Richard Stone.”

He also claimed there was a concerted effort within the organization to work with Boeing, just as the company was pushing hard to win a multi billion dollar tanker contract with the U.S. Air Force in 2007. In the email, Vargas says he, Morales, and others met with a Boeing lobbyist at the AGIF’s 2007 mid-year conference to work out a deal.

“The discussions, mostly between [Morales] and [Jeffrey Dodson, then-Boeing director for the Southwest region] were aimed at the following: In return for AGIF agreeing to take the lead in showing veteran support to Boeing on the tanker contract,” which the U.S. Air Force had awarded to the competitors Northrop Grumman and EADS, “Boeing would consider signing on to a long-term relationship with AGIF, which would include resources for the AGIF office in Washington, D.C., and other activities,” Vargas wrote.

Vargas was named lead coordinator on the Boeing project, but became increasingly uneasy with the relationship. “We just could not afford to be seen as accepting money for conferences, luncheons, and other social events and not have anything to show in the way of program support,” he wrote.

While Vargas tried to prod Boeing to commit cash to veteran-specific programs, rather than event funding, Morales and others within the AGIF wouldn’t back him up out of “fear that it would jeopardize the funding that Boeing would make available to the AGIF, with no strings attached,” he wrote.

The Pentagon awarded Boeing the $35-billion tanker contract in February.

When reached by phone last month, Vargas declined to comment any further on the allegations contained in his email, which surfaced in one of the recent lawsuits filed against the AGIF and Morales. “I think the letter speaks for itself,” he said, adding that he has washed his hands of the organization until the leadership changes.

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