Police union lobbyist has influence in gun debate, beyond

By James V. Grimaldi and Sari Horwitz
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; A11

An important figure in the national gun debate is the Washington lobbyist for the nation's largest police officers union, the Fraternal Order of Police.

James O. Pasco Jr., as national executive director for the union, worked against the nation's big-city mayors and police chiefs in 2007 when those groups launched a major campaign to reverse a decision by Congress that kept federal records about guns used in crimes from being made public.

The FOP's backing was crucial in deflecting the chiefs' criticism that the secrecy undermined crime fighting. "It was very effective," said Arkadi Gerney, special assistant to New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), who has crusaded for tougher gun laws.

Pasco is a product of the capital's revolving-door culture. Before joining the FOP in 1995, he was the chief legislative representative for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the agency that regulates the gun industry and enforces federal gun laws. People who know him describe him as a charming operator whose motives can be opaque.

"Jim knows everybody in Washington," said James Cavanaugh, a former high-ranking ATF official and a friend of Pasco's. "And he moves like a shadow through the halls of power, as if it's a little town. If you want something done in Washington, there's only one guy to call, and that's Jim."

As the national police union, the FOP primarily focuses on labor issues, such as collective bargaining or Social Security and pension benefits. But the FOP has frequently weighed in on gun-related issues during Pasco's tenure.

In 2008, the FOP wrote the Justice Department questioning "ballistics microstamping," which involves a firing mechanism that puts a microscopic code on a bullet, an aid to crime-solving that would impose additional costs on the gun industry. Last year, the FOP asked the Justice Department to fund the gun industry's "Don't Lie for the Other Guy" program to teach dealers how to avoid making illegal gun sales.

In May, gun industry lobbyist Lawrence Keane gave the FOP's charitable arm $100,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the industry group representing gun manufacturers. Keane said the gift was unrelated to the FOP's positions on issues.

Pasco is more than a lobbyist for the FOP. At the same time that he has worked for the police union, he has kept a lucrative side business representing beer, cigarette and entertainment companies out of the FOP's Capitol Hill offices. His firm, Jim Pasco & Associates, has represented Philip Morris, MillerCoors Brewing Co. and Sony BMG Entertainment, according to his disclosure reports filed with Congress. The filings show that Pasco used the FOP's address and phone number and his FOP e-mail address while working for corporate interests.

"I'm allowed to have my own clients provided there is no conflict with the FOP," Pasco said.

The FOP's president, Chuck Canterbury, said Pasco can have outside clients as long as he has Canterbury's permission. Pasco has earned $4.5 million since 2000 for this private lobbying work while also working as the chief lobbyist for the FOP, his reports to Congress show.

Positions overlap

It is unusual for an in-house lobbyist for a nonprofit to have a side business representing corporate interests, according to specialists in tax law. The practice is not prohibited under the rules for fraternal organizations in the U.S. tax code, but it raises questions about possible conflicts of interest, said Roger Paul Colinvaux, a Catholic University law professor who is an expert on tax-exempt organizations.

There have been times when the FOP has taken positions that coincided with the interests of companies represented by Pasco or his wife, who is also a lobbyist.

In 1998, the FOP stepped into a debate over a bill that would have given the Food and Drug Administration authority to regulate tobacco and raised the federal cigarette tax by $1.10 a pack, costing the industry an estimated half-trillion dollars over 25 years.

The FOP wrote letters and bought ads attacking the bill, saying it could create a black market in cigarettes. At the time, Pasco was working for Philip Morris, which has paid him $600,000 over the years, records show.

Newspapers linked Pasco to Philip Morris, putting him on the defensive. The FOP is "not doing this for Philip Morris," he told USA Today. "I don't make the policy here. . . . Obviously, I'm concerned. I don't want it to be construed that I have a conflict."

Pasco said recently that he saw no conflict of interest and that he eventually secured money from the Clinton administration for police to combat black-market cigarettes.

Between 2002 and this year, Miller paid Pasco $1 million to represent the company before the Senate and ATF on issues such as labeling, advertising, marketing and taxation.

While Pasco represented Sony, the FOP joined a 2005 friend-of-the-court brief backing the music industry in an intellectual-property case against the music-sharing Web site Grokster before the Supreme Court. That year, Sony paid Pasco $200,000 to lobby for the company on "Internet theft of intellectual property," his disclosure report said. Pasco said he did not remember the case and referred questions to Canterbury, the FOP president.

"The relationship we've had with Sony has always been good for the FOP," Canterbury said. "We've worked with them on anti-piracy and trademark infringement issues."

In 2006, Pasco got involved in a controversy with his wife, Cybele Daley, then a Justice Department official working in the Office of Justice Programs. Daley was investigated by the department's inspector general for participating in the process of awarding grants to businesses represented by Pasco, according to a confidential report obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act.

The report did not conclude that her participation was substantial, but it chastised Daley for falling "significantly short" of government ethical standards. Daley said she was not involved in the decision on the grants and did not know her husband represented the companies.

Pasco told The Post that he and his wife "don't even talk about business."

FOP reversal

Recently, the FOP has again butted heads with police chiefs - this time over whether to allot airwaves for public safety after broadcasters moved to digital television.

In fall 2009, the chiefs and the FOP approved a statement calling for the freed-up airwaves to be given exclusively to public safety for emergencies. Before the vote, Pasco's wife, Daley, was working as a registered lobbyist for Motorola and AT&T, two companies likely to benefit from the handover - Motorola as a vendor for police and fire radios and AT&T as a wireless company that would face increased competition if the airwaves were sold at auction instead of donated to public safety.

Daley's firm was paid $180,000 by Motorola in 2008 and $140,000 by AT&T in 2009, records show. Daley's firm said she was not paid to lobby on the airwaves issue.

This year neither company hired Daley's firm, according to lobby reports. On Feb. 19, the FOP stunned the law enforcement community by reversing its position on the airwaves issue.

"We were surprised when the FOP came out with a contrary position when they had supported the position," said Harlin McEwen, the police chiefs' point man on the issue.

Pasco said he did not make the decision about the airwaves issue and referred questions about the reversal to Canterbury. The FOP president said he decided to oppose turning over the airwaves after receiving a recommendation from a lobbyist who worked on Pasco's FOP staff. Canterbury said the airwaves should be auctioned to benefit the taxpayers and smaller police departments.

The police chiefs were infuriated. "If there is a terrorist attack or major disaster, those officials who will be held accountable are the chiefs and the sheriffs and state and federal law enforcement - not officials of a police labor union," said San Jose Police Chief Rob Davis.

In April 2007, the FOP became pivotal to the debate on the Tiahrt Amendment, which Congress passed four years earlier to prohibit the public release of tracing data linking guns recovered in crimes to the dealers who originally sold them. Big-city mayors campaigned for its repeal, buying TV ads in the Wichita district of the sponsor, Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.).

Three weeks later, Canterbury wrote an op-ed defending Tiahrt in the Wichita Eagle. Pasco joined National Rifle Association lobbyists to talk to members of Congress, telling them that the release of the data compromised undercover investigations. With Tiahrt and the gun lobby citing the FOP, the Tiahrt repeal effort has failed annually.

In May, the FOP accepted the $100,000 check, for the FOP's memorial for fallen officers, from Keane, general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Pasco said there was no connection between the donation and the FOP's positions.

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

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