Evans linked to firm with D.C. tax breaks

Coun­cil mem­ber de­nies lob­by­ing for CareFirst

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - By Jim McEl­hat­ton THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Jack Evans voted to give a tax break to CareFirst in 2004 even after his em­ployer filed pa­pers stat­ing that the long­time coun­cil­man lob­bied Congress for the health care com­pany, fed­eral and city records show.

Mr. Evans, Ward 2 Demo­crat and chair­man of the coun­cil’s fi­nance com­mit­tee, voted for tax breaks for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

His vote for the tax breaks came more than a year after his em­ployer, law firm Pat­ton Boggs LLP, had filed a re­port with the Se­nate that listed him as a lob­by­ist for CareFirst.

The re­port states that Mr. Evans was among 10 Pat­ton Boggs em­ploy­ees who lob­bied for CareFirst dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2002 on “health in­sur­ance reg­u­la­tory is­sues.”

Pat­ton Boggs of­fi­cials and Mr. Evans re­sponded to ques­tions about Mr. Evans’ work for CareFirst by say­ing the lob­by­ing-dis­clo­sure re­port on file with the Se­nate is wrong.

“Though Jack Evans was listed on a lob­by­ing re­port for CareFirst in 2002, he never ac­tu­ally lob­bied or had any con­tact with CareFirst” or govern­ment of­fi­cials, said Brian Hale, a Pat­ton Boggs spokesman.

Stu­art Pape, manag­ing part­ner for Pat­ton Boggs, called the fil­ing “a sim­ple mis­take.”

The ex­pla­na­tion marks the sec­ond time in re­cent weeks that Pat­ton Boggs has cited a cler­i­cal er­ror in re­sponse to in­quiries from The Wash­ing­ton Times about doc­u­ments re­lated to Mr. Evans’ em­ploy­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to records ob­tained by the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, Pat­ton Boggs has re­ceived more than $500,000 to lobby fed­eral of­fi­cials for the District. One in­voice ob­tained by The Times listed a $395 charge for Mr. Evans, as a Pat-

ton Boggs em­ployee, to have a “ break­fast meet­ing” with Mayor An­thony A. Wil­liams.

When The Times in­quired about the March 2005 charge, Pat­ton Boggs and D.C. of­fi­cials said it was a cler­i­cal mis­take, and it was cor­rected within weeks.

“All I can say is that while we work to get these things right, we don’t claim to be per­fect,” Mr. Pape said.

Such er­rors, even if only cler­i­cal, are trou­ble­some be­cause the doc­u­ments raise ques­tions about the ap­pear­ance of a con­flict of in­ter­est, said a govern­ment-ethics ex­pert.

“Whether he’s re­cus­ing him­self or not, he’s moon­light­ing for a com­pany that has a con­tract with the city govern­ment and he’s get­ting a quar­ter-mil­lion dol­lars a year,” said Mered­ith McGe­hee, pol­icy di­rec­tor for the District-based Cam­paign Le­gal Cen­ter, a group that stud­ies fed­eral and state cam­paign and ethics is­sues. “I don’t know if that’s le­gal, but it prob­a­bly shouldn’t be.”

Mr. Evans, who earns $92,500 an­nu­ally as a coun­cil mem­ber, is paid $240,000 a year by Pat­ton Boggs. First elected to the D.C. Coun­cil in 1991, he has been an at­tor­ney for the law firm since at least 2003.

An Evans spokesman said that the coun­cil mem­ber had no con­tact with CareFirst and that he did not know his name was on the fed­eral lob­by­ing re­port when vot­ing on the CareFirst tax pack­age.

CareFirst spokesman Jef­frey Valen­tine said Pat­ton Boggs was hired to lobby Congress on a bid to con­vert the com­pany to a for-profit com­pany, “a to­tally sep­a­rate is­sue” from the tax breaks, which he said ul­ti­mately were not en­acted.

“We had no di­rect con­tact or in­di­rect con­tact [ with Mr. Evans] to our knowl­edge,” he said.

D. C. law al­lows coun­cil mem­bers — ex­cept for the coun­cil chair­man — to have out­side jobs. Coun­cil mem­bers David A. Catania, at-large in­de­pen­dent, and Kwame R. Brown, at-large Demo­crat, are among sev­eral who have re­ported out­side in­come in re­cent years.

Pat­ton Boggs, which no longer works for CareFirst, is among the top lob­by­ing firms in the coun­try. It has more than 500 em­ploy­ees in eight of­fices and is run by prom­i­nent lob­by­ist Thomas H. Boggs Jr., whom Mr. Pape refers to as “King of the Hill” in the com­pany’s most re­cent an­nual re­port. Mr. Boggs also is paid $800 an hour to lobby for the District.

“I think we have been very care­ful in mak­ing sure that Jack is not in­volved in mat­ters that re­motely” re­late to his role as a coun­cil mem­ber, Mr. Pape said be­fore adding that the firm will work to im­prove its record-

Fed­eral law re­quires lob­by­ing firms to file a reg­is­tra­tion re­port with the Se­nate, which in­cludes the names of lob­by­ists reg­is­tered for a par­tic­u­lar client. In ad­di­tion, firms also must file ac­tiv­ity re­ports ev­ery six months list­ing lob­by­ists who ac­tu­ally pro­vided ser­vices. Mr. Evans’ name ap­pears on the ac­tiv­ity re­port that Pat­ton Boggs filed on its lob­by­ing for CareFirst.

Mr. Evans has re­cused him­self from mat­ters in­volv­ing the city’s lob­by­ing con­tract with Pat­ton Boggs.

In a story last month, The Times re­ported that Pat­ton Boggs has re­ceived most of the $1 mil­lion the District has au­tho­rized since 2003 to pay five lob­by­ing firms for “ad­vo­cacy ser­vices.” Pat­ton Boggs has got­ten more money than the other four firms com­bined.

The D.C. Of­fice of Cam­paign Fi­nance ruled in 2003 that Mr. Evans’ role as fi­nance com­mit­tee chair­man, which over­sees the city of­fice han­dling the lob­by­ing con­tract, poses no con­flict of in­ter­est if he con­tin­ues to re­cuse him­self from Pat­ton Boggs mat­ters.

Pat­ton Boggs of­fi­cials have said the money has been well­spent, with lob­by­ists help­ing the city se­cure tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral fund­ing for projects such as the South Capi­tol Street Bridge. But D.C. Del­e­gate Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton, the District’s non­vot­ing mem­ber of Congress, has said she was re­spon­si­ble for se­cur­ing fed­eral money for the bridge.

Jack Evans

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