Nov. 15, 2012 — -- In addition to the book and the romance, Paula Broadwell's role as a trusted confidant of General David Petraeus provided another benefit: rising-star status in elite military circles.
That meant, among other perks, a speaking slot at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an invitation to Washington's annual OSS Society dinner, and a role as an expert commentator in an infomercial for a gun manufacturer.
Watchdog groups say it is that last assignment -- promoting a futuristic-looking, high-tech gun for a company that may have been trying to catch the eye of military purchasing officials -- that they find troubling.
"It's one of these basic things that you see in Washington constantly, which is access for contractors to help them get a foot in the door," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project On Government Oversight, a non-partisan group that seeks to expose abuses of power, mismanagement, and government waste.
Brian said she suspects the company saw an opportunity to put its little-known product in view of one of the most powerful voices on military policy in the country. "I think it's honestly pretty brilliant on the part of the company," she said. "But it's one of these sad things that we're fighting so hard. It's an uneven playing field. That is not how a contract should be decided."
The Virginia Beach company, Kriss Arms, would say nothing about how Broadwell came to star in the six-minute promotional video, sharing her insights on the combat benefits of a lightweight automatic weapon. Nor would they say if Broadwell was paid for the appearance – though her co-star in the video told ABC News that he was provided airfare and hotel accommodations, but no other compensation.
"Mrs. Broadwell did participate as a subject matter expert and demonstrator … about the company's products, but has never had any official affiliation with the company," Kriss CEO John Spurrier told ABC News.
Broadwell appeared on a company promotional video once before – in 2006 – though back then she was billed not as an expert but merely as a demonstrator. She fires the company's weapon, but never says a word. Broadwell met Petraeus at Harvard in April 2006.
Spurrier would not say whether Kriss is currently seeking a military contract. ABC News left voicemail and emailed Broadwell's lawyer with questions about her efforts on behalf of Kriss, but did not get a response.
The filming of the promotional video took place at Kriss's Virginia Beach facilities on Dec. 7, 2011, and began with a sit-down interview, during which Broadwell described the advantages of a lightweight weapon.
"On the individual fighter, reducing weight is critical because of fatigue and stress," she says. "Weight reduction can greatly improve the efficiency of a firearm. It allows the trooper to carry it further, obviously, for the individuals out there on the battlefield. And that trooper should have more confidence in that system he is carrying, ideally."
Then they decamped for the firing range, where she is seen demonstrating the weapon from various positions and distances. Co-starring in the video with her is David Crane, an expert on military technology who runs DefenseReview.com. Crane told ABC News that during the daylong filming, Broadwell spoke openly and enthusiastically about Petraeus, and about her biography of him, which was just weeks from being released.
Crane said the company has been developing the Kriss Vector – the weapon they were demonstrating, with a goal of placing it in the hands of military special operations teams, but to his knowledge had not yet landed a military contract. CIA officials told ABC News the company has not bid on a contract to sell weapons to them.
Crane said he does not know if Broadwell's ties to Petraeus had anything to do with her appearance in the video --- he said she may have had connections to other company executives that led her to them. But if her ties to Patreaus led the company's to put her forward as an unofficial spokesperson, he said he sees nothing wrong with that.
"Petraeus has a lot of power," Crane said. "I can tell you this – Kriss is not wrong to utilize her in that capacity. That's how all companies like that work. It helps to have contacts in certain areas of the government because [the military is] a closed customer. You use what you can."
Retired Army Col. Steve Boylan, a friend and former spokesperson for ex-CIA Director Petraeus, told ABC News Gen. Petraeus knew nothing about Paula Broadwell's appearance in videos for an arms manufacturer.