One company has enlisted a former Virginia attorney general. Another boasts a just-retired Fairfax Conty supervisor and the former county attorney. A third lists a senior Fairfax legislator and the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.
The companies are cable television firms, only three of 19 so far who have expressed intense interest in winning permission to operate lucrative cable TV systems in growing, affluent Fairfax.
At least 13 former or present public officials are now affiliated with these companies. "Every time I turn around, someone says "I just signed up to work with a cable TV company.'" says Fairfax Supervisor Martha V. Pennino, "I guess it means they're hoping to get a franchise and get rich."
The stakes are enormous -- with potential profits in the millions from Fairfax alone, according to industry estimates -- and the race to get locally prominent figures in on the business is well along, a full eight months before the coveted cable franchise may be granted.
Some of these public figures stand to gain substantially if the company they are associated with is selected. Others have been retained as lawyers and are receiving legal fees from subsidiaries formed to get the franchise.
The big-name attorneys create pressure on Fairfax officials simply by being there, says Pennino. "The pressure isknowing that these firms consider it so crucial that they've got to hire whom they consider the best," she says.
"There's little substantive difference between the companies' ability to deliver the hardware," says one Fairfax cable lawyer. "The difference is going to be in the bells and whistles -- the tinsel designed specifically for Fairfax."
Among the locally prominent figures and their affiliations:
Alan H. Magazine, former Fairfax supervisor, now chief promoter in the county for Storer Cable Communications Inc. for Miami;
F. Lee Ruck, former Fairfax County attorney, has agreed to represent Storer locally, pending salary talks;
State Sen. Adelard L. Brault, a lawyer representing Fairfax Telecommunications Inc.;
Frederick W. Ford, former FCC chairman, a director of Fairfax Telecommunications;
Andrew P. Miller, former Virignia attorney general,lawyer representing Cross Country Cable Ltd.;
Randolph W. Church Jr., Fairfax County Water Authority lawyer, representing Cross Country;
John T. Hazel Jr., zoning lawyer, representing American Television and Communications Corp. (owned by Time Inc.);
Robert C. Fitzgerald, former Fairfax cheif prosecutor, a founder of Community Cablevision of Fairfax Inc.;
Winfield M. Kelly Jr., former Prince George's County executive, now Washington area busines representatives for Storer;
Richard Ryder, a former Virginia state legislator, now secretary of Fairfax Telecommunications;
L. G. Byrd, former chairman of the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission who was appointed by Fairfax board chairman John F. Herrity, now president of Fairfax Telecommunications;
Richard R. G. Hobson, former delegate from Alexandria, now a legal representative of Warner-Amex Cable Corp., a partnership between Warner Communications Inc. and the American Express Co.;
John Watkins, a twice unsuccessful Republican candidate for the state Senate, now treasurer of Fairfax Telecommunications;
Thomas W. Richards, a former member of the Arlington County Borad, now president of Arlington Telecommunications Corp. ARTEC).
Magazine, the former supervisor, was a supporter of strict conflict-of-interest rules while on the county board and helped write a county policy that bars cable representatives from lobbying individual supervisors.
His decision to join Storer has prompted some of his former colleagues to question whether he would try to trade on his political influence.
"I was absolutely flabbergasted," said Pennino, a Magazine supporter during his eight years as a supervisor. "I really question the ethics of it." d
Magazine, who also earns $50,000 a year as a federal bureaucrat, denied any intention to lobby board members.
Former county attorney Ruck, who is expected to join Storer soon, has also drawn criticism from some board members, but says, "I am convinced no ethical probelm exists."
Supervisor James M. Scott, whose wife is employed by Time-life Books Inc. in Alexandria, a branch of the parent firm that is also a cable contender, says he sees potential difficulty in voting on a cable franchise winner.
Scott is undecided on whether he would abstain.
In sharp contrast to the companies' rosters of the prominent, the county government, the richest in Virginia, has one full-time cable employe operating out of a small office in the Department of Consumer Affairs.
He is cable administrator William Rossi, an electrical engineer whose experience includes a stint as Montgmery County's communications chief, where he oversaw contracts for police and fire radio systems. He has never participated in the awarding of a cable TV franchise.
"There's a certain amount of pressure, particularly when there are so many entities involved and they're pushing so hard," says Rossi, who was hired less than a month ago at a salary of $35,000 a year.
It will be Rossi's job, with help from the Washington consulting firm of Malarkey, Taylor and Associates, to sort through the competitors' complex claims of technical and marketing superiority and make a final recommendation to the county Board of Supervisors.
"They're trying to overpower us," fumes Pennino about the companies. "They're put together bigger staffs working on getting the franchise than we have workning to set up the authority for it."
A key step in establishing that authority will come Monday, when the board is scheduled to vote on a proposed cable ordinance that would give up to three companies monopoly rights to sell cable in the county for the next 15 years.
Meanwhile, some supervisors have noted privately that Rossi is a past chairman of the Fairfax Democratic Party's Springfield district and that the wife of Archer Taylor, senior vice president of the consulting firm, is treasurer of the Fairfax's Democrats.
Both Rossi and Taylor said they keep politics out of their work for the county, and no one has suggested otherwise.