Faced with congressional demands that it turn over documents about gift giving that preceded Atlanta's selection as host of the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the Georgia Amateur Athletics Foundation has turned to Georgia's biggest law firm for help on Capitol Hill.
The nonprofit foundation, controlled by the same people who ran the Games, is relying on King & Spalding to help it with questions from the House Commerce Committee over whether any federal laws were violated by the gift giving. Two of the firm's Washington lawyers, William C. Talmadge and Theodore M. Hester, have been handling the inquiry, which got testy when foundation officials in Atlanta tried to limit copying of some documents.
In the end, the foundation sent the records to King & Spalding's Washington office (partners include former Democratic senator Sam Nunn and former attorney general Griffin B. Bell), where investigators examined them. Foundation spokesman Lee Echols said the committee had full access to 1,400 boxes of records, including eight boxes for which the foundation has gone to court to keep away from Atlanta newspapers.
"We were not perfect in Atlanta, but we were also very open about our bid efforts from the very beginning," said Echols. Atlanta officials have acknowledged providing $94,000 in gifts to International Olympic Committee members in advance of the city's selection.
Some of the gifts exceeded the IOC's guidelines, but Atlanta officials have maintained their largess was less substantial than other competing cities. "None [of the gifts] was excessive," Echols said.
Atlanta officials believe the House inquiry gives the city "a chance to clear the air" about the gifts, Echols said.
King & Spalding lawyers were involved from the outset in the effort to bring the Games to Atlanta. In 1987, senior partner Horace H. Sibley was one of the four people who organized the effort to win the Games and he served as lead counsel for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. Echols, speaking for the law firm, said that there was no conflict of interest between the role of its lawyers in the games and the firm's current work.
Spinsters: End of a Network
Lauren J. Belvin, senior counsel to the Senate communications subcommittee, has decided to end her business relationship with Maureen A. O'Connell, lobbyist for Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Belvin disclosed the decision to dissolve their partnership in Spinsters, a small antique store in a Kensington mall, after their relationship was questioned by Mother Jones magazine.
The magazine said Belvin, who works for Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), was the "chief architect" of a McCain plan that would allow television networks, such as Murdoch-owned Fox, to own more local TV stations. It said O'Connell "has worked feverishly to lift the ownership cap."
In a letter to the Select Committee on Ethics, Belvin said that O'Connell lobbies the Federal Communications Commission, not Congress. "Nor has she ever lobbied me," Belvin added.
She asked the ethics panel for an opinion as to whether the relationship violated Senate rules. Spinsters is "operated strictly as a limited partnership," with each woman deciding on her own what she wants to buy and sell in the shop, Belvin said.
"It is better to to put this matter to rest rather than give it further time and attention it does not deserve," she said. O'Connell, who held about $3,500 worth of stock in the venture, will withdraw from the shop and Belvin said she alone will operate it.
API's Gusher of Pink Slips
Workers at the American Petroleum Institute, one of the oldest and most influential trade lobbies in the city, are being told this week who gets the ax in a staff reduction that will shrink the payroll from 364 a year ago to 203 people. Four vice presidents already have been told they are losing their jobs in a cost-cutting move triggered by lower oil prices and members of big petroleum companies.
API president Red Cavaney expressed confidence his group will be the better for the changes. "I think this is actually going to improve our effectiveness," he said, noting API will concentrate only on the issues that are most important to its members.
The institute began shedding staff last year as many of its member firms demanded a leaner trade association. The group is shrinking to three vice presidents from seven, realigning its operations into three groups, each headed by a vice president: Charles E. Sandler will head the advocacy council, executive vice president William F. O'Keefe will run research, analysis and service, and G. William Frick, API's general counsel and secretary, will head industry operations.
About 85 API employees who produce reports and do other work that is sold to member companies will not be affected by the staff reductions, officials said.
Retired Adm. Peter H. Cressy, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, was named president and chief executive of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, effective Sept. 1. He succeeds Fred A. Meister, who is retiring after 18 years as head of the liquor industry's trade group.
McAllister's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org