- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 29, 2012

From the District’s lawsuit against him to his plea to stealing public funds, former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. has made few comments in public without a barrage of attorneys to insulate him from the heavy scrutiny of the media.

But one of several heavy hitting attorneys linked to Thomas, Abbe Lowell, came and went without entering the public eye. That’s not the case in North Carolina, where he has bigger fish to fry ahead of Thomas‘ sentencing in U.S. District Court to a potential prison term for taking earmarked funds and filing false tax returns.

Mr. Lowell, whose law firm describes him on its website as “one of the nation’s leading white-collar defense and trial attorneys,” is busy being photographed next to another political bigwig who quickly fell from grace - former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. The former North Carolina senator and presidential contender is steeped in a corruption trial on charges that he used $1 million political contributions to cover up an affair.

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Mr. Lowell, a popular lawyer who has defended the likes of lobbyist Jack Abramoff and pop culture mogul Sean Combs, has been grilling a former campaign aide to Mr. Edwards, a witness for the prosecution, at a courthouse in Greensboro, N.C.

Some D.C. observes raised their eyebrows when Mr. Lowell’s name appeared on settlement papers connected to a civil case the city’s attorney general filed in June against Thomas, especially considering the cost of such high-profile representation.

Abbe was never really part of the defense team,” one of Thomas‘ remaining attorneys said. “Abbe worked on the civil case.”

Luckily for Thomas, he can still rely on the representation of the city’s top legal brass, including Seth Rosenthal and Karl Racine of the Venable law firm and Frederick Cooke, the go-to lawyer for D.C. politicians who find themselves in legal trouble.

Federal prosecutors likely will be well-represented on their side of the courtroom, as well, on May 15.

Message recycling

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s political action committee started a feel-good ad campaign last week touting the state’s accomplishments over the past two years.

“Jobs and opportunity are thriving again,” Mr. McDonnell says at the end of the first ad. “Virginia’s growing strong - and so is our future.”

Some were left scratching their heads, since Mr. McDonnell cannot run for a second term. Others, notably Democrats, derided it as a less-than-subtle nod to Mitt Romney for a spot on the GOP presidential ticket.

Mr. McDonnell’s communications director, J. Tucker Martin, took to Twitter with a wry, somewhat bemused attitude on the hubbub that somehow spiraled into a debate about who exactly was first to come up with “jobs and opportunity” as a slogan.

Politico’s Dave Catanese tweeted that Mr. McDonnell had “swiped” the Democratic Governors Association’s slogan.

Mr. Martin pointed to Mr. McDonnell’s using the slogan in 2009 and 2010.

“This says ‘New Jobs, More Opportunities.’ DGA’s is ‘Jobs. Opportunity.’ Yeah, I know. But still,” Mr. Catanese responded.

The triviality of the syntax snafu was not lost on Mr. Martin.

“So I’ve spent day arguing about who had ‘jobs and opportunity’ ” first. Take that medics in Haiti. Who contributed to society today, eh?” he concluded.

At least he can joke about it

It took two weeks, but one of the head honchos in Annapolis finally has shown a sense of humor about the General Assembly’s meltdown earlier this month.

It was Gov. Martin O’Malley who finally cracked a smile last week, joking with reporters after his meeting with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, during which the three discussed the possibility of one or two special legislative sessions in coming months.

All three Democrats have grown more impatient in recent weeks, seething publicly and speaking in grim, clipped tones about the assembly’s failure to pass revenue and gambling bills, with Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Busch blaming Mr. Miller for lawmakers’ inaction.

After their breakfast meeting last week, Mr. Busch and Mr. Miller were typically stone-faced, offering few answers to reporters and generally looking miserable over the possibility that they might have to return for session next month and again in August.

The governor, however, played hard-to-get when reporters caught up with him later that morning after an appearance in Baltimore where he spoke to the State Board of Education.

“Governor, what happened this morning?” asked the first reporter - who, like most press members there, was not there to hear about reading, writing or ‘rithmetic.

“I just talked with the state school board about the priorities of education and the things we’re doing well and the things we need to do better,” the governor replied, smirking all the while before he was cut off by a reporter who rephrased the question.

“Ah, breakfast?” he said before finally getting down to business.

Tom Howell Jr., David Sherfinski and David Hill contributed to this report.

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