- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lobbyists are billing the D.C. government up to $800 an hour and stand to collect nearly $1 million in fees since Congress decided in 2003 to permit the District to lobby the federal government.

Invoices obtained by The Washington Times through the Freedom of Information Act show lobbyists bill the city for a range of services — from seeking federal funds for transportation and health care to writing and editing testimony for Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and meeting with other lobbyists.

“We’ve helped the District expand its influence,” said Edward Newberry, a Patton Boggs LLP lobbyist for the District. He said the firm has helped secure $80 million to $90 million in federal funds for the city, including money for the District’s South Capitol Street bridge project.

Mrs. Norton questioned that assessment.

“Perhaps Patton Boggs has been helpful to the District, but she can see no evidence that Patton Boggs lobbying has assisted D.C. bills,” said Doxie A. McCoy, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Norton, a Democrat.

“For example, South Capitol Street bridge improvements came entirely out of [Mrs. Norton’s] work as a senior member of the transportation committee. She got the money for the bridge … and worked directly with appropriators.”

In 2003, the District announced it had selected five firms to provide lobbying for the city. Records show the majority of fees have gone to Patton Boggs, the prominent firm based in the District that also employs D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat.

Mr. Evans is chairman of the D.C. Council’s committee on finance, overseeing the D.C. Office of the Chief Financial Officer, which is handling the lobbying contract. He earns about $92,500 as a council member and reported earning a Patton Boggs salary in 2006 of $240,000 a year, a raise of more than $50,000 above what the firm paid him in 2005, city records show.

Mr. Evans, who declined to comment, has recused himself from voting on matters involving the Patton Boggs contract, on which the council has never voted because it does not exceed $1 million a year. So far, the city has authorized paying approximately $1 million since 2003.

Officials from Patton Boggs and the city’s finance office say Mr. Evans has not been involved in the contract or the city’s selection process. Patton Boggs officials also say Mr. Evans is paid a flat salary and that his raise last year was not related to the city’s lobbying contract.

Government ethics expert Jan W. Baran, an attorney with the D.C.-based Wiley Rein law firm, said with Mr. Evans’ recusal, he “sounds very much above board about his role.”

“But the separate governmental issue is: Who is minding the store while he is recusing himself,” said Mr. Baran, whose firm was not among those seeking the lobbying contract.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer spokeswoman Maryann Young said an outside panel that included officials from the offices of former Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp selected Patton Boggs based on factors such as “pattern of success,” “lobbying experience” and “familiarity with the District.”

Patton Boggs has more than a dozen lobbyists on the D.C. contract with experience on federal agencies and Congress, including John Deschauer, former director of Senate affairs for the Department of Defense.

But the invoices show competing firms also had personnel familiar with the District and federal government.

Van Scoyoc Associates employed Americo Miconi, former staff director of the D.C. subcommittee on the House Appropriations Committee. And Arent Fox LLP employed Jon Bouker, former legislative director for Mrs. Norton.

The Downey McGrath Group Inc., founded by former New York Reps. Thomas J. Downey and Raymond J. McGrath, also signed a contract to lobby for the District. But the company was never assigned work.

“We went through the process and were approved and nothing happened,” said Kathleen T. McLaughlin, Downey McGrath’s chief operating officer. “We don’t know why.”

Invoices show Patton Boggs lobbyists billed thousands of dollars for preparing, revising and editing testimony for Mrs. Norton in August 2005 before the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) hearings.

Mrs. Norton draws a federal salary as a non-voting member of Congress. The city’s lobbying contract is paid for with D.C. funds.

The Patton Boggs invoices list such charges such as “Revise/draft Norton testimony on Homeland Security role of Walter Reed,” “Revise and edit Congresswoman’s Norton’s testimony,” and “Revise draft letter to president per Rep. Norton’s suggestions.”

Miss McCoy said Patton Boggs worked closely with Mrs. Norton on BRAC matters “because of the specialized area.”

Mr. Newberry said the firm performed work for Mrs. Norton in part because the BRAC issue came about suddenly, it was a complicated subject and Mr. Deschauer had experience.

“At the end of the day, she delivered the testimony she felt comfortable with,” he said.

The District’s lobbying contract differs from most arrangements in which states and cities hire outside firms.

Most pay lobbyists on a flat-fee basis, usually monthly or yearly. But the District structured the arrangement to pay by the hour. A review of invoices found more than dozen examples of Patton Boggs billing the District for internal meetings between lobbyists.

Mr. Newberry said such meetings are important so the firm can plan strategies, and Miss Young called the charges “appropriate.”

Mr. Newberry said the contract has more than paid for itself and that other cities pay as much if not more money for lobbying. He said the return the city is getting for its investment in the lobbying arrangement “is as good as any city in the country.”

Mr. Newberry also said Patton Boggs has helped the District save $2 million for the Fort McNair sewer project and lobbied on foster care, Metro and Medicaid issues while seeking more federal money for the care of D.C. inmates.

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