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Thompson Joins Firms, But Not to Lobby

By Judy Sarasohn
Thursday, March 10, 2005; Page A19

Tommy G. Thompson, secretary of health and human services during President Bush's first term, is joining the law and lobby firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld as a partner and Deloitte & Touche USA as a senior adviser.

At both, Thompson will, of course, specialize in health care issues and "life science" matters, which involve pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

_____Special Interests_____
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"Akin Gump gave me a wonderful deal. . . . I could assist them in building a health care practice," Thompson said in an interview yesterday.

Hands-on lobbying is not part of the job description, although "strategic advice" is.

"They have not asked me to lobby, and I've not indicated that I would," Thompson said.

R. Bruce McLean, chairman of Akin Gump, said the firm is not expecting Thompson to lobby. "Our experience with people like Tommy is their value is depreciated if they lobby," McLean said.

The other part of Thompson's new career is at Deloitte, where he will be the "independent chair" of the still-forming Deloitte Center for Health Care Management and Transformation. The center will be a sort of think tank that will come up with ideas and solutions for clients.

This probably will result in some of what they call "synergy" in the law and lobby biz. McLean noted that Akin Gump and Deloitte have had a long working relationship.

Ladd Wiley, who was counselor to Thompson at HHS, will follow him to Akin Gump. Wiley also served as his chief legal counsel in Wisconsin. Thompson is expected to start Monday at Akin Gump.

A Lobby for Sunshine

The Sunshine in Government Initiative, a new coalition of news media groups, is lobbying Congress to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act.

SGI is supporting legislation sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and in the House by Rep. Lamar S. Smith (R-Tex.). The bills, SGI said, are "aimed at . . . expanding the accessibility, accountability and openness of the federal government. It has been nearly a decade since reforms were made to FOIA. Since then, terrorism has created new pressures to restrict access to information."

"It's a bit rusty," Walter Mears, the now-retired Associated Press executive editor, said of FOIA. He said the proposed legislation would tighten the time requirements for federal agencies to respond to FOIA requests and establish an ombudsman position to oversee how the government is handling FOIA requests and to mediate complaints.

Coalition members include the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the AP (for education purposes only, not lobbying), the Coalition of Journalists for Open Government, Cox Newspapers, the Newspaper Association of America, the Radio-Television News Directors Association and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. (The Washington Post is a member of the NAA but is not directly involved in the coalition.)

Claudia James of PodestaMattoon is lobbying on behalf of the coalition, and Aker Partners Inc. is handling public relations and coalition management.

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