REGISTERED LOBBYIST, attorney, and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, a member of the new Sept. 11 intelligence-review commission, hasn't publicly revealed his list of business

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Slade's Slate

Is it clean enough for the lobbyist and former senator to serve on the president's 9/11 commission? You decide.

REGISTERED LOBBYIST, attorney, and former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, a member of the new Sept. 11 intelligence-review commission, hasn't publicly revealed his list of business clients, a prerequisite to remaining on the panel and a rule that recently prompted Henry Kissinger to resign. But according to federal disclosure records already on file, Gorton has lobbied for an eclectic list of 27 clients ranging from nuclear-industry insurance companies to the Seattle Art Museum (SAM).

Gorton—who is a freelance lobbyist as well as an influence peddler for his Seattle/D.C. law and lobbying firm, Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds—sees no conflict between his commission work and his lobbying. But some of his clients are seeking to gain the inside track on public funding for homeland security and to escape costly new government requirements. Will he be impartial and unflinching if his private and public roles collide? Gorton's panel membership has already drawn critical reviews due to his long, cozy relationship with Boeing and the airline industry, which are expected to be topics on the panel's review of 9/11 intelligence and policy failures. Gorton says the corporations and his connections are "irrelevant" to the review (see "Gorton answers 9/11 call," Dec. 18).

Federal records for 2001 and 2002 show that Gorton's lobbying clients included American Nuclear Insurers, who paid his law firm $10,000 a month in a quest for regulatory and funding breaks, hoping to hold down the costs of nuclear-energy security. The ex-senator also stumps for his old friends at Microsoft, which recently formed a new Homeland Security Department. (Microsoft paid Gorton's law firm $120,000 in the first six months of this year for a litany of lobbying services.) Another Gorton client, Evergreen International Airlines, is seeking loan guarantees related to the Aviation Security Act.

GORTON ALSO OWNS a stake in, and lobbies for, Omega Oil Co. of Houston, which is seeking to drill new oil wells. Such drilling could, among other things, benefit national security, says the company. The Texas startup hopes to use greener extraction techniques in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska should the Bush administration open it to drilling. Omega also hopes to drill in the Rocky Mountains and extract methane gas from Montana coal beds.

Energy Department documents, highlighted in May by the Natural Resources Defense Council, show that Gorton and Omega president Wayne Kelley met twice last year with Robert Kripowicz, the deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy. Gorton and Kelley were seeking U.S. funding and backing to drill at the 10,000-acre federal Teapot Dome reserve in Wyoming, according to the records.

Neither Gorton nor his firm responded to requests for comment.

In effect, Republican Gorton is reaping the benefits of his 18 years in the Senate and his reputation for politicking on behalf of energy, airline, and software companies. (And for opposing efforts to aid Indian causes: His client list includes Citizens for Safety and Environment, a group opposed to the Muckleshoot Indian tribe's controversial Enumclaw concert amphitheater.) The millionaire ex-senator, defeated in 2000 by Democrat Maria Cantwell, was quoted in the Vancouver Columbian last year as saying, "People are paying me for what I used to do for free" as a $145,000-a-year senator.

Gorton has lobbied for some of the top clients of Preston Gates. The firm once earned $10 million annually on lobbying, but its receipts tumbled after it lost legendary GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff to a rival firm last year. Gorton, 74, was hired to help take up the slack. His presence on the review panel for the next year or more also is expected to boost Preston Gates' clout and keep Gorton's name alive in D.C. Rolodexes. For one year, law prohibited the former senator from directly contacting his former Senate and House colleagues for lobbying purposes, but that ban expired Dec. 31, 2001.

ACCORDING TO DISCLOSURE documents, the Magazine Publishers of America has paid $220,000 so far this year for Gorton and other Preston Gates lobbyists to fight for favorable telemarketing and postal legislation. The Tri-City Industrial Development Council paid Gorton and his firm $40,000 in the battle over the Fast Flux Test Facility at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation earlier this year. (It was later determined that the breeder reactor would be dismantled.) Gorton's clients also include dredging contractors, insulation contractors, and energy groups. He also works for and with Washington2 Advocates, a consulting/lobbying firm that includes two of Gorton's former chiefs of staff—Tony Williams and J. Vander Stoep. Gorton also has found time to lobby for Olympic Sculpture Park funding for the Seattle Art Museum; for the Evergreen Forest Trust, Voicestream Wireless (now T-Mobile USA), and Ramgen Power of Bellevue; and for grant money and other legislation sought by Washington State University.

randerson@seattleweekly.com

 
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