Evans linked to firm with D.C. tax breaks
Council member denies lobbying for CareFirst
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.