A Senate committee vote on the nomination of F. Keith Adkinson as a member of the Federal Trade Commission was canceled abruptly yesterday after Adkinson was accused of lying at least twice during earlier confirmation hearings.
Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.), ranking minority member of the committee, made the charges in light of a staff investigation of Adkinson.
Commerce Committee Chairman Robert Packwood (R-Ore.) abruptly canceled the session after another member, Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.), said he could not ask questions in the public session based on secret FBI reports. An effort by Democrats to close the session to the public lost by an 8-to-7 vote.
Although President Reagan had made several calls directly to committee members to urge that Adkinson be confirmed, sources said Packwood believed the nomination was in jeopardy. All the committee Democrats and at least one key Republican appear ready to reject the nomination.
Packwood, however, said after the hearing that he still supports Adkinson, although the vote is unlikely until next year.
Adkinson, director of Democrats for Reagan in the 1980 campaign, signed a contract in December 1978 to split the profits from a proposed book on organized crime with Gary Bowdach, a subcommittee witness and convicted felon, without notifying his superiors on the Senate panel.
Adkinson also was charged last month by the man who then was chief counsel of the subcommittee of working on Bowdach's case with the contract in hand.
Cannon criticized Adkinson for not revealing the book contract to committee members. "The committee only learned of the book contract when members began reading the nominee's FBI file," he said.
And Cannon said yesterday that despite public and private denials by the nominee, Adkinson also had explored the possibility of serving as a consultant to a film studio considering a television series on the work of the Senate panel, the permanent subcommittee on investigations. Adkinson was a staff member of the subcommittee from 1974 until August 1979.
When asked by Cannon at a confirmation hearing last month whether he had discussed other movie or book projects, Adkinson said, "No, sir." Adkinson also told a committee investigator the same thing in a private interview, Cannon said.
But Cannon, quoting 1977 memos written by Adkinson, said he had met with representatives of Universal Studios about a proposed television series. Adkinson would have served as adviser to the series, Cannon said. The committee's leadership ultimately turned down the television offer, saying the project might raise conflict-of-interest charges.
"I think he knew that this incident, coupled with the Bowdach contract, would be too much for this committee to swallow," Cannon charged. "Not only did he not reveal it to the committee, he lied about it twice."