Real Time Communications Industry News

[January 10, 2006]

Ashcroft breaks with tradition by lobbying, has earned $269,000

(Chicago Tribune (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) WASHINGTON _ Less than three months after registering as a lobbyist, former Attorney General John Ashcroft has banked at least $269,000 from just four clients and appears to be developing a practice centered on firms that want to capitalize on a government demand for homeland security technology that boomed under sometimes controversial policies he promoted while in office.


Three clients of Ashcroft's lobbying firm want his help in selling data or software with homeland security applications, according to government filings.

A fourth, Israel Aircraft Industries International, is competing with Chicago's Boeing Co. to sell the government of South Korea a billion-dollar airborne early warning system.

While Ashcroft's lobbying is within government rules for former officials, it is nonetheless a departure from the practice of attorneys general for at least the last 30 years. While others have counseled corporate clients or perhaps even lobbied in a specific case as part of law firm business, Ashcroft is the first in recent memory to open a lobbying firm.

Former lawmakers and other senior government officials routinely pass through the Washington revolving door and become advocates for commercial interests seeking to influence government, but the practice of former attorneys general has been to move to think tanks or academia, or return to the practice of law.

The office of the attorney general, along with the secretaries of state, defense and treasury, is among the oldest and most prestigious in the president's Cabinet.

"One would have thought that a former attorney general wouldn't be doing that," said John Schmidt, a former associate attorney general in the Clinton administration, who is now a lawyer at Mayer Brown. "To take the kind of prestige and stature of the attorney general (and lobby) ... It seems a little demeaning of the office, honestly."

Attorneys general, while not always apolitical, have tended to avoid the role of "a hired gun selling his connections," said Charles Tiefer, a former deputy general counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives and author "Veering Right, How the Bush Administration Subverts the Law for Conservative Causes."

"The attorney general is very much supposed to embody the pure rule of law _ like the (Justice Department's) statue of `Blind Justice' _ and he's not expected afterwards to cloak, with the mantle of his former office, a bunch of greedy interests," said Tiefer, who teaches law at the University of Baltimore.

Attempts to obtain comment from Ashcroft's firm were unsuccessful, but in the past, a senior company official has defended the business as proper.

The official, Juleanna Glover Weiss, a former press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, also worked for Ashcroft when he was a senator.

In an interview late last year, Weiss said, "Ashcroft is, of course, one of the most knowledgeable people in the world in the antitrust and homeland security fields, and so it's natural that companies like Oracle and ChoicePoint would approach him."

The changes in government operations following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks opened up numerous new commercial alliances between the private sector and the government. Prior to the attacks, "there hadn't really been the commercial opportunities in the Justice Department. There hadn't been a lot of call for lobbying," said Elizabeth Garrett, a law professor at the University of Southern California and a member of President Bush's Advisory Panel on Tax Reform.

Since the attacks, however, the Justice Department has become a key clearinghouse for huge homeland security-related contracts. "That's big bucks," Garrett said.

During a frequently contentious four years as attorney general, Ashcroft championed a series of measures, including the USA Patriot Act, which gave police and intelligence authorities greater latitude to conduct secret surveillance and gather information on people even if they were not alleged to be terrorists.

Now, Ashcroft could sign up to advocate for interests "who are arguably making it possible for the government to infringe on our privacy," said Garrett. "That will give people more pause."

And the totals that Ashcroft has reported so far represent in some cases only initial retainers or billings.

In year-end filings, Ashcroft's firm, The Ashcroft Group, LLC, reported collecting $269,000, including $220,000 from Oracle Corp., which won Justice Department approval of a multi-billion acquisition less than a month after hiring Ashcroft in October.

One of the world's biggest software companies, Oracle makes large databases, including some used by intelligence services, and plans to use Ashcroft as a consultant for business opportunities on homeland security issues, according to a company spokesman.

As attorney general, Ashcroft sued Oracle in 2004 to try to block an earlier acquisition by the company.

Ashcroft's clients also include ChoicePoint, a data broker that sells credit reports and other personal information to the FBI and other federal agencies, and LTU Technologies Inc., a Washington and Paris-based maker of software for analyzing large batches of video and other visual images.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

The Ashcroft Group reported payments of $15,000 from ChoicePoint, and $20,000 from Israel Aircraft Industries.

ChoicePoint hired the Ashcroft firm to solicit business with the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security, a ChoicePoint spokesman said.

The Alpharetta, Ga., firm has been criticized for security breaches discovered in 2005 that allowed thieves to collect personal information on at least 162,000 people.

(EDITORS: STORY CAN END HERE)

It also has been under fire over inaccuracies in the data it collects.

LTU Technologies, which already supplies software to the FBI for use in child pornography investigations, seeks "to dominate the `image mining' market worldwide," according to an April 2005 company press release.

An LTU spokesman said the company hired the Ashcroft firm because "they have relationships within the (Justice) department."

A fifth Ashcroft client, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, paid the firm $14,000 for unspecified lobbying services. The institute was a client of Weiss before she joined Ashcroft, an institute spokeswoman said.

In addition to his lobbying work, Ashcroft is a law professor at Regent University, with campuses in Virginia Beach, Va., and Washington, D.C., run by televangelist Pat Robertson.

___

(c) 2006, Chicago Tribune.

Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at http://www.chicagotribune.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

_____

ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): John Ashcroft

For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail reprints@krtinfo.com.

[ Back To Real Time Communications's Homepage ]

Featured Videos

GenView Real Time Session Manager Demo

Session-based VoIP and rich media services such as video can place unique demands on the network.

GENBAND SPiDR - WebRTC Gateway

Contact GENBAND about the SPiDRâ„¢ WebRTC Gateway by clicking here.

A videoconference that calls you

On the busiest of days, who has time to stop and search for that bridge information, to have to dial or hope the link works...only to wait for the chairperson to arrive?

Call Grabber Demo

Move calls seamlessly between phones, soft clients and mobile devices at the push of a button.

Hosted Unified Communications

GENBAND's Hosted Unified Communications is a SMART OFFICE™ solution that enables voice over broadband to Business users, providing flexible migration from legacy services, supporting full regulatory features, and offering advanced services.

Featured Whitepapers

Is Your Network Ready for the Internet of Everything?

The telephone industry is undergoing a dramatic transformation that began with the introduction of IP-based data networks in the early 1990s and then with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in the late 1990s, and it now includes all forms ofvoice, video, and messaging communications.

Building a Secure and Scalable Multimedia IP Exchange

As fixed and mobile operators increasingly move to IP-based networks, the complexity required to interconnect these networks grows dramatically. Faced with increasing competition from all corners and constant challenge to grow revenues, operators are struggling with the variety and disparities in partner and customer networks.

How Carriers Can Optimize for LTE Roaming

Connectivity between mobile network operators (MNO) in 4G LTE is much more complex than it was in legacy networks.This complexity is primarily due to the change in focus. LTE is not a voice-focused roaming environment, but rather a datacentric environment.

Featured Case Studies

CASE STUDY: Real Time Communications Made Easy Via The Mobile Web

HubRTC offers the world's first WebRTC communication as a service to small and medium businesses, combining browser-based voice, video and messaging over WiFi that works on personal computers and Android smartphones and tablets. Their basic and premium solutions work with existing PBX applications servers, and support rich feature sets including voice mail and visual voice mail, audio and video conferencing, all for a fraction of the cost of old fashioned "phone systems." They have combined their Real Time Communications experts with software, devices and accessories, and cloud platforms to deliver a true office-on-the-run.

CASE STUDY: TW Telecom Accelerates Market Adoption of SIP Trunking Services

tw telecom is one of the top three largest providers of Business Ethernet in the US, connecting approximately 20,000 commercial buildings and third-party data centers to its national fiber network.

CASE STUDY: Embedding Real-Time Communications Into Digital Interactive Publishing Platforms

X-Factor Communications (XFC) is a premium provider of easy-to-use, interactive digital media software and services delivering single point publishing of Mass Notifications, advisories, emergency messages, rich informational content and advertising to any connected device.

Featured Webinars

WebRTC Applications for Service Providers using GENBAND'S SPiDR Gateway


GENBAND's SPiDR WebRTC Gateway provides an intelligent bridge between SIP/IMS based VoIP networks and the open ecosystem of the Internet. WebRTC holds great promise to revolutionize the nature of our daily communications. But what should you, as a service provider, be doing today to take advantage of this movement?

Best Practices in Deploying Hosted IP Telephony


Speaker: Sara Hughes and Mitch Layman

LTE, How Can You Accelerate The Payback? Diameter Signaling Controller


Speaker: Ashish Jain - Director Solutions Marketing