When Michael Deaver left his post as Ronald Reagan’s deputy chief of staff last May after five years, the President’s master image-maker hired a White House decorator to set the tone of his new Washington public relations business. The result is a luxurious Georgetown office suite with a view all the way to the Lincoln Memorial. And the English countryhouse decor was not the only resemblance to the White House.
Deaver also brought along two former White House aides to work on his staff, as well as his White House driver to chauffeur his new telephone-equipped Jaguar XJ6.
Pass: Deaver, 47, was the only departing top administration official allowed to keep his White House pass. Using it, he continues to drop in on Reagan and his wife, Nancy —who insiders say regards him as a son —not through the normal West Wing business doors but through the East Wing’s private residential entrance. In that unofficial capacity, he choreographed Reagan’s fireside chat with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva last November and he has twice sorted out Nancy Reagan’s staff problems. Said one former associate: “He took the White House with him.”
That extraordinary access to the President has made Deaver the hottest and most controversial lobbyist in Washington. In his 10 months out of public service, where his top salary was $70,000, he has amassed at least $2 million in business from a dozen corpora-
tions and foreign countries. Among them: the Canadian government, which has paid Deaver $100,000 a year to advise and represent its interests. The Deaver contract coincides with Ottawa’s campaign to cement relations with Washington and promote a new trade agreement.
But Deaver’s work for Canada has put him at the centre of a growing storm of protests over lobbying practices in Washington. The dispute has led to an investigation of his activities by the Congressional General Accounting Office under the Ethics in Government Act. The controversy could ultimately stifle his effectiveness as one of the leading promoters of Ottawa’s interests.
Last October The Washington Post
reported in a front-page story that during planning for last year’s Shamrock Summit in Quebec City, Deaver took what White House staffers regarded as an “unusual interest in acid rain.” And only two months before opening his own business—with Canada as one of his first clients—White House aides credited him with persuading the President to ease Canadian concerns by agreeing to the appointment of two special acid rain envoys whose joint report eventually advocated a much stronger stance on the problem than the Reagan administration had previously taken. As a result, Congressman Don Bonker (DWash.), who opposes Canadian softwood lumber imports, declared that “former high-ranking officials are now employed by law firms and consultants to represent foreign interests often at odds with our nation’s best interests.”
Bill: In the House of Representatives, Congressman Howard Wolpe (D-Mich.) cosponsored a bill to bar top government officials from lobbying for foreign governments or corporations for at least 10 years after they leave the administration. Said Wolpe: “Every country ought to be confident that their representatives in negotiations are putting their country’s interests first and not looking down the road to their future employment.” Last November, citing The Washington Post story, Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.), who opposes any tough U.S. action to clean up acid rain without further study, asked the General Acounting Office to investigate a possible conflict of interest in Deaver’s activities. Since then, the Canadian Embassy in Washington has declined to cooperate with the inquiry.
Indeed, the controversy has made officials at the Canadian Embassy in Washington so nervous that spokesman Bruce Phillips called Maclean ’s, unsolicited, to say that Deaver was “not a lobbyist” for Canada. Phillips insisted that Deaver only gives the embassy advice, despite the fact that Deaver’s contract stipulates that he “may engage in political activities” or “communication” with top government officials and congressmen on Canada’s behalf. Deaver himself admitted to The Washington Post in November that he has spoken to government officials about Canada’s problems with acid rain. The Ethics in Government Act bars him from talking about any business only with the White House within a year of departure.
Whatever the results of Deaver’s efforts, Ottawa got a bargain of sorts. Deaver charges the governments of Singapore and Mexico $250,000 each and the International Cultural Society of Korea, through which he may act for the South Korean government, $475,000.
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