The Reagan administration's nominee last year to the Federal Trade Commission has accused Sen. Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) of a "gross abuse of his public office" for making charges against him during confirmation hearings in November.
F. Keith Adkinson made the accusation in a lengthy document rebutting Cannon's charges aired last month that Adkinson perjured himself during confirmation hearings by the Senate Commerce Committee. Adkinson demanded an apology from Cannon.
Cannon, ranking minority member of the committee, said this week that Adkinson's statement has not altered his views. "I stand behind all of my previous statements, without exception, regarding last year's nominee to the Federal Trade Commission," Cannon said in a prepared statement.
Adkinson, who served as director of Democrats for Reagan in the 1980 presidential election campaign, was nominated to fill the Democratic vacancy on the five-member commission. His nomination was sent back to the White House during the recent congressional recess. The administration is reported to be leaning toward resubmitting the nomination, sources said yesterday.
Adkinson has asked Commerce Committee Chairman Robert Packwood (R-Ore.) to refer some of the charges--particularly those made by investigations subcommittee counsel Martin Steinberg--to the Justice Department for investigation.
The Adkinson papers offer his first rebuttal to Cannon's charges that he acted improperly while a staff member of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee. At issue is Adkinson's signing of a book contract with Gary Bowdach, a felon who was serving as a subcommittee witness. The committee did not become aware of the controversial contract until members read an FBI report on Adkinson.
Adkinson denied in testimony Nov. 20 that he worked on Bowdach's legal problems at the time the contract was in effect. According to Adkinson, the contract was abandoned after one month, in January 1979, because Adkinson failed to write an adequate manuscript draft on Bowdach's experiences with the witness protection program and the jail system.
But Senate investigators say both the relationship and the contract continued through 1979, with telephone logs and letters showing Adkinson as the committee staff contact on legal complications surrounding Bowdach's release from prison and negotiations with the Justice Department on his parole.
Cannon charged that Adkinson also participated improperly in a 1977 effort to prepare a television show on subcommittee activities, a move that Senate Governmental Affairs Committee leaders later said would be improper. Cannon said during questioning at the confirmation hearing that Adkinson lied about the matter.
"I have at all times been 'forthright' with the committee members and committee staff, not only on the book contract, but on all 'other matters'," Adkinson wrote.
Cannon's accusation stems from an exchange that he and Adkinson had during the Nov. 20 hearing. "Did you ever discuss with anyone besides Bowdach a book or a movie of any kind?" Cannon asked. "No sir, Senator," Adkinson replied. Cannon said Adkinson also denied any film or television discussions in a conversation with a Cannon staff counsel, Aubrey Sarvis.
In his statement to the Senate, Adkinson said he "understood the question in the context of the preceding questions," which were queries about his relationship with Bowdach.
"While it is true that I 'did not reveal it,' it is not true that I withheld it or lied about it," Adkinson said in his statement. "There was nothing to reveal." Had he understood the question, he would "have freely discussed the matter," he wrote.
Adkinson admits, however, that he met with Robert Metzler, producer of "Columbo," the television series, to discuss the possibility of a pilot program about subcommittee investigations, a move later vetoed by Adkinson's superiors. Before an intense Commerce Committee investigation of Adkinson began, some Senate members had expressed concern about Adkinson's Democratic credentials, in light of his role in the 1980 presidential campaign. Committee officials deny, however, that the probe was related to the politics of Adkinson's appointment to the Democratic seat, a term that runs eight more months.