Barak still doing business in US

'Post' learns former PM continues to serve as consultant, guest lecturer.

Barak smiles 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Barak smiles 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former prime minister Ehud Barak's campaign staff released a statement shortly after he started his run for the Labor leadership in January that he was going to the US to sever his business ties so he could focus his time and energy on the May 28 primary. But a Jerusalem Post investigation of US Securities and Exchange Commission documents on Thursday revealed that Barak continues to serve as a consultant for companies in the US and Israel. He has also lectured in at least four American states since declaring his candidacy. Barak's four rivals in the race called upon him to follow the lead of American presidential candidates and reveal his income and financial assets to ensure that he had no conflicts of interest. They said this was especially important after investigations in the US revealed this week that former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani has lobbied for a tobacco company and the Saudi government. The issue is sure to be raised on Friday when the five candidates face off in a Labor central committee meeting in Tel Aviv that will decide whether Labor should leave Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government. Barak and Defense Minister Amir Peretz tried unsuccessfully to get the meeting canceled due to the rocket attacks on Sderot. Barak's spokeswoman said he had not decided whether to speak at the event. Polls published in recent days have found that Barak's support has fallen significantly since he made his first public comments in a press conference last week. "With his poll numbers, if I were him, I wouldn't close my business in the US either," a spokesman for one of the candidates said. According to US Securities and Exchange Commission documents, Barak remains a director at Vector Intersect Security Acquisition Corp., a Pennsylvania-based company formed for the purpose of acquiring businesses in the homeland security, national security and command and control industries. A document filed with the SEC last month described the extent of his ownership and stock with the company. Barak serves on the advisory board of Caesarea-based Acro Security Technologies, a company that researches, develops and markets identification devices for explosives and illicit substances. According to one document, Barak received shares of the company's stock with a market value of $443,331 on December 31, a week before he joined the race. He is also on the advisory board of Medina International Corp., based in the northern community of Timrat, which is developing a small pen-like probe that can determine the presence of peroxide-based explosives. Another business Barak was associated with was Safe Environment Engineering, which he joined some three years ago, according to someone who had a contract with the company. The business constructs safety systems such as escape chutes from tall buildings, making Barak - with his security background - a good choice to be "the face of the company," the contract worker said. He speculated that Barak's pay arrangement would have been a small fee for coming on board along with an ownership stake in the enterprise, which would yield a nice return if the company succeeded. He said such arrangements are common for former political leaders, who often made stockholders in exchange for becoming "pitchmen" for companies. None of the companies responded to the Post's requests for comment. Barak's spokesman also declined to comment. Knesset officials said there was nothing illegal in Barak continuing to work and receive an income during the campaign. They said there was also no problem with him continuing to give lectures abroad. As a featured speaker represented by the Harry Walker Agency in New York, Barak earns an honorarium of up to $50,000 plus travel expenses for each lecture. Since the campaign began, Barak has spoken at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles on January 26 and 28, at Coe College in Iowa on February 20, at the University of Utah on February 22, and for the Ringling School Library Association in Sarasota, Florida. "During the speech, Barak joked about Muslim beliefs toward the afterlife, but some students didn't think the jokes were very humorous," an article about the Utah speech in the Daily Utah Chronicle reported.