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Holding the Government Accountable

"Which came first, the client or the legislation?"

A Washington Post article from a few days ago recounts the rise of indicted former Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy David H. Safavian, but largely passes over Safavian's year-long tenure as Rep. Chris Cannon's (R-UT) chief of staff. According to the September 19, 2005 Salt Lake Tribune article “Cannon's stands benefitted former aide's ex-clients,” (unfortunately, this article is no longer available online):

[A]n analysis of Cannon's positions on key issues during Safavian's tenure shows a trend benefitting clients at Safavian's former lobby firm.

What hasn't been reported is that Safavian intended on possibly returning to the lobbying shop he co-founded Janus-Merritt Strategies and retained the right to his stock in Janus-Merritt (which was acquired by Williams Mullen to becomeWilliams Mullen Strategies). Safavian wrote in his March 2001 House Financial Disclosure form (pdf) that terms of an agreement reached on January 22, 2001 were that Safavian had a “Leave of absence from Janus-Merritt Strategies while working for Mr. Cannon. Shares returned to firm with a right to repurchase for five years.” (Also, here are Safavian's May 2002 (pdf) and October 2002 (pdf) disclosure reports.)

In the same March 2001 form, Safavian disclosed that he had between $250,000 and $500,000 in Janus-Merritt stock and $15,000 and $50,000 in The Merritt Group stock. Parties to this agreement, according to the disclosure document, were Mark Robertson, Scott Hoffman, Bethany Noble (who went from Janus-Merritt to Cannon's office as well, then to Williams Mullen Strategies to, most recently, Jack Abramoff's lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig), Grover Norquist and Dan Walsh.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, here are "Cannon's policy intersections with Safavian clients" (Also, here are Federal Election Commission data on Cannon and Senate Office of Public Disclosure results for Janus-Merritt Strategies):

-- Cannon fought a House bill seeking to ban on-line gambling, saying it could open the door to gambling in Utah. Safavian had lobbied for numerous gambling interests, including the Interactive Gaming Council. From 2001-2003, Cannon received more than $ 33,000 from groups and lobbyists opposing the gambling legislation.

-- Cannon went to bat for the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians during a House Government Reform Committee hearing in 2002 when the band was having a dispute with a neighboring tribe. The Viejas band was a client of Janus-Meritt and contributed $ 5,000 to the congressman.

-- Cannon sponsored an Internet file sharing bill in 2002, introduced shortly after Napster hired Janus-Merritt to lobby on the issue. Napster executives contributed $ 2,750 to Cannon's campaigns.

-- Cannon was a leading opponent of a major satellite television merger between EchoStar Communications and DirecTV. Janus-Merritt lobbied on behalf of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which opposed the merger and acquired DirecTV when the FCC blocked the EchoStar deal. Cannon received thousand [sic] from opponents of the EchoStar.

-- Cannon issued a press release praising Covad Communications for lowering its rate for Internet access. Covad was a client of Janus-Meritt. Covad and its executives have contributed more than $ 5,200 to Cannon.

An anonymous commenter who has contacted POGO has asked:

"Did Safavian tee up Janus-Merritt clients while on House payroll? Which came first, the client or the legislation?"