The General Accounting Office has been told that former White House deputy chief of staff Michael K. Deaver met with a top adviser to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in February 1985 to discuss plans to appoint special envoys on acid rain at an upcoming U.S.-Canadian summit, informed sources said yesterday.
Deaver met with Fred Doucet, a senior adviser to Mulroney, on Feb. 28, 1985, the sources said. The meeting came just before President Reagan's March 17-18 meeting with Mulroney in Quebec City, where they announced agreement to appoint special envoys from each country on the acid-rain problem.
After leaving the White House last May, Deaver signed a contract to represent Canada on acid rain and other issues for $105,000 a year.
Deaver then attended an Oct. 25 meeting at the River Club in New York with the two special envoys, former transportation secretary Drew Lewis and former Ontario premier William G. Davis, according to an informed source. Doucet and Canadian Ambassador Allan E. Gotlieb also attended the meeting, the source said.
Deaver's role in these meetings and in the selection of the special envoys on acid rain is being scrutinized by the GAO at the request of Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Deaver's February meeting with Doucet was mentioned in a letter sent to the GAO last week by White House counsel Peter J. Wallison, the sources said. Although a date was not specified in the letter, it was independently determined by the GAO, the sources added.
Federal law prohibits former officials from lobbying on issues in which they were personally and substantially involved while in government.
Deaver could not be reached for comment yesterday. He has previously stated that he was involved in the acid-rain issue while at the White House but only as part of his regular duties, and has denied any wrongdoing.
Canadian Embassy spokesman John Fieldhouse, asked about Doucet's meeting with Deaver, said: "We believe it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage on an internal U.S. communication between the White House and GAO."
Also yesterday, David H. Martin, director of the Office of Government Ethics, was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying he expects to ask the Justice Department to investigate whether Deaver violated criminal conflict-of-interest laws in the acid-rain matter. Martin did not respond to repeated telephone calls to his office.
At the Oct. 25 meeting, Lewis outlined for the Canadians what he had done so far on the acid-rain issue, the source said. Lewis said he wanted to publish the report in early January, and raised the question of whether Mulroney's planned visit to Washington in March of this year should be scheduled earlier, the source said.
Deaver was involved in the discussion on the timing of the summit and the release of the report, according to the source, who added that Deaver did not seek to influence the report's content. Mulroney's visit to Washington was not moved up.
Canada had been seeking stronger U.S. action to combat acid rain, a pollution problem that many experts say is harming forests, lakes and wildlife in the northeastern United States and Canada.
Lewis and Davis, his Canadian counterpart, later recommended a more aggressive acid-rain cleanup program. Reagan, who had resisted such an approach, shifted his position and endorsed their report.
Sources who participated in the internal discussions leading up to last year's appointment of special envoys on the acid-rain issue said Deaver played an active role.
Wallison's letter to the GAO was based on interviews with administration officials. It quoted some as saying that Deaver was interested in the public-relations aspects of the Reagan-Mulroney meeting, and others as saying he tried to change Reagan's policy on acid rain.
According to a participant, who spoke on condition he not be identified, Deaver was "knee-deep" in the internal discussions at the White House.
"Out of the blue the Reagan-Mulroney summit is coming along and here comes a reopening of the acid-rain issue and a shift in policy through the subtlety of an emissary who's going to negotiate for a year with a pre-ordained conclusion that we would have a new policy. And Deaver was just in the thick of all of that."
The participant said there was a fight over whether the special envoys should be named. Once that was decided, "the second struggle was, what was the charter of the emissary? Was it presumptive in favor of an acid-rain policy agreement and therefore a change on our side? Or was it as antiseptic and neutral and vague as possible? We fought those papers for several days and Deaver was in that." The charter that was written "strongly implied between the lines we would shift policy," the participant said.
Finally, there was disagreement about who should be U.S. envoy.
Several sources said Deaver played a role in choosing Lewis, a highly regarded political negotiator and tactician. Another candidate was Ed Harper, a former deputy to budget director David A. Stockman, who was considered less likely to favor a shift in policy.
A White House official familiar with the Wallison report said "it indicated Deaver had been part of the selection process" that led to Lewis. "He was a strong supporter of Lewis."