Sibling tensions make congressional waves

Baltimore brothers occupy lofty posts, but their prickly relationship is now a public issue

November 16, 2007|By Stephen Kiehl and Jill Rosen | Stephen Kiehl and Jill Rosen,Sun reporters

They are graduates of City College and Princeton, members of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and high-powered professionals who have held top positions at the State Department and CIA. They are also brothers, and apparently they can't stand each other.

That animosity between the brothers Krongard - "Buzzy" and "Cookie," by the nicknames that have followed them through life - became more than a family matter this week.

It burst into public view at a Capitol Hill hearing and now intersects with issues of national security, the war in Iraq and possible perjury before Congress.

The younger sibling, Howard "Cookie" Krongard, told a congressional committee that his brother, A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, was not on an advisory board of the private security contractor Blackwater Worldwide.

But Buzzy Krongard is on the board, and he says he told his brother that weeks ago. Now each is essentially accusing the other of lying, putting further strain on a relationship that has been described as already at the breaking point.

"Generally, people know they don't get along as brothers," said Benjamin S. Shapiro, who has known the Krongard family for more than 40 years and grew up in Baltimore's Ashburton neighborhood with the brothers.

"They are both good guys. You hate to see them be at odds with one another."

Buzzy Krongard, 71, is a former chairman of Alex. Brown & Sons and the former No. 3 official at the CIA. He is an accomplished martial artist who is said to have once punched a great white shark in the jaw. Last summer, he was named to the advisory board of Blackwater Worldwide, which is now enmeshed in a scandal involving civilian deaths in Iraq.

Cookie Krongard is four years younger. After a successful legal career, he became inspector general of the State Department in 2005. But he has recently been embarrassed by scandals both public and private. He sued his son, Kenneth, and daughter-in-law last year for defaulting on a loan. They, in turn, asked for a restraining order against him.

Meanwhile, Congress began investigating allegations that he thwarted Blackwater-related probes in Iraq and verbally abused his employees at the State Department.

That investigation set the stage for this week's events on Capitol Hill. At a hearing Wednesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Cookie Krongard was asked about his brother's involvement with Blackwater. He said, "I am not aware of any financial interest or position he has with regard to Blackwater."

Cookie Krongard said he specifically asked his brother about Blackwater in a September phone conversation. "I do not believe it is true that he is a member of the advisory board," he told the panel.

Buzzy Krongard was watching that testimony at home in Lutherville and said he was "flabbergasted" by his brother's remarks. The pair had talked about three weeks earlier, Buzzy Krongard said. "I told him I was going on the advisory board, and he then said, `I don't think that's a very good idea,' and I said that was for me to figure out."

When the congressional hearing recessed, Buzzy Krongard tried to call his brother. At the same time, his brother was calling him. "I reiterated what I said," Buzzy Krongard recounted yesterday.

Cookie Krongard went back into the hearing room, said he had contacted his brother and learned that he was on the board. The committee chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, asked Cookie Krongard, "Have you had a difficult relationship with your brother?"

"No," he said. In response to another question, he said, "I'm not my brother's keeper, and we do not discuss our business with each other."

There's apparently very little they discuss with each other. Buzzy Krongard said in a telephone interview yesterday that the brothers speak rarely, usually only to discuss medical care for their mother, who is 96. They haven't seen each other in four months. Buzzy Krongard would not say what caused the frosty relationship between them.

"There have been times we've been close and times when we haven't been," he said. Asked whether the two brothers had been competitive with each other, he said, "You'll have to see Dr. Freud."

Buzzy Krongard said his brother is no longer on speaking terms with his own son and daughter-in-law. Referring to a congressional report that said Cookie Krongard's State Department office is "bleeding" employees, Buzzy Krongard said, "Is everybody out of step with him? It could be."

A son of Buzzy Krongard's, Alex Krongard, said yesterday that he has a normal relationship with his uncle. He declined to comment on the relationship between his father and uncle, but he said both are driven, competitive people. "Whether they're competitive with one another, I have no idea," Alex Krongard said.

Cookie Krongard declined a request for a telephone interview yesterday and did not respond to questions e-mailed to him.

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