Newly disclosed lobbying records and other documents show that the chairman of the House ethics committee, Doc Hastings, a Washington State Republican, has had a close relationship for years with lobbyists at the Seattle-based law firm that is at the center of ethics accusations involving Tom DeLay, the House majority leader.
The records from the law firm, Preston Gates & Ellis, show that the firm's former star lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Mr. DeLay who is now the focus of a federal corruption investigation, boasted to a client in the mid-1990's that the firm had "excellent" ties to Mr. Hastings. The firm repeatedly billed the client for meetings and telephone conversations between Mr. Abramoff's lobbying team and Mr. Hastings's staff.
The records do not show any direct contact between Mr. Hastings and Mr. Abramoff ... (or that) Mr. Hastings introduced any legislation or cast any vote requested by Preston Gates.
But they do show that Preston Gates pressed Mr. Hastings and his staff several years ago for help on behalf of Mr. Abramoff's most important lobbying client at the time, the government of the Northern Mariana Islands, a small American commonwealth in the Pacific, in blocking the imposition of the federal minimum wage on the islands' clothing factories; human rights groups have long described the factories as sweatshops.
... Ed Cassidy, the congressman's chief of staff, said such contacts were routine since Preston Gates is "one of our home-state firms" and "represents important community interests" in Mr. Hastings's district.
Federal Election Commission records show that the firm and its partners have been consistent campaign contributors to Mr. Hastings, donating more than $14,000 since he entered Congress a decade ago, $1,000 of that from Mr. Abramoff.
Ethics watchdog groups said they were surprised to learn of how closely and for how long Mr. Hastings and his staff had worked with Preston Gates, which reaped millions of dollars in fees from the Northern Marianas and other lobbying clients brought to the firm by Mr. Abramoff.
Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Unknown | Wednesday, June 08, 2005 |