Few things make a former member of Congress madder than losing a big lobbying contract. Especially to a young upstart, a former congressional aide who isn't even listed in the current "Washington Representatives" book.
That's why former House Ways and Means Committee chairman Sam M. Gibbons (D-Fla.) and his son, Cliff, a former Carter White House aide, are furious. Last Christmas Eve, Cliff learned that the Florida Board of Regents had decided to strip Gibbons & Co., the family-owned lobby shop, of a $250,000 contract with the state university system. The Gibbonses had represented the schools in Washington for eight years.
Worse yet, the contract went to JCP Associates of Alexandria, a firm that the Gibbonses couldn't find listed anywhere. It's run by James C. Pirius, who is a friend of the president of the University of South Florida and works out of his Northern Virginia home.
"How does this outfit beat everybody? Verner Liipfert, Patton Boggs, Hogan & Hartson?" said Gibbons, referring to competing firms from Washington. "All of the giants were in the bidding. I mean, everybody in the town was in this."
Cliff Gibbons said he worked over the Christmas holidays to file a formal protest with Florida officials. That set the stage for a series of sometimes-emotional public hearings played out over two months before a state administrative law judge in Tallahassee. At the hearings, Gibbons and his lawyers repeatedly accused Pirius of being "a phantom lobbyist" whose credentials are almost nonexistent compared with those Sam Gibbons had developed in 34 years on the Hill.
"It's not who you know, it's who knows you," the 79-year-old former legislator said in testimony that left Cliff in tears. He recalled introducing legislation that created USF, and quoted the Bible on lobbying. "You don't do it by strong-arming people, you do it like Isaiah did in the Bible when he said, 'Come, let us reason together.' You do it honestly and believably."
Pirius, 52, a former aide to Rep. Bruce F. Vento (D-Minn.) and once an APCO Associates vice president, took the stand to call the Gibbonses' charges outrageous and to drop a few Washington names of his own. "A lot of people know me," he said. "I was invited to [Rep.] Carrie Meek's birthday party last week, and I didn't see Mr. Gibbons there. [Sen.] Bob Graham know me very well. Call Dick Riley, commissioner [sic] of education, or Maggie Williams, former chief of staff for Hillary Clinton, or Mike Cohen, Clinton's education adviser, or [former Rep.] Buddy MacKay. I am known in Washington."
Both Pirius and the Gibbonses predict they will get the contract. The judge is expected to rule by mid-September, and a final decision in the matter will be up to the regents. "It would be remarkable if we don't win this thing," said Cliff Gibbons.
"Their allegations are fallacious," Pirius countered. "I wrote a good, visionary proposal."
Unlike the Gibbonses, Pirius said controversy has brought his business to a halt. He still is representing the University of South Florida, but since he agreed to give the Florida university system 80 percent of his time, he says he can't pick up any new clients until the regents decide who will be their man in Washington.
A GOP Bond With Labor
Former senator Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) is not the only Republican lobbyist who is tapping into labor money. Former Republican National Committee chairman Rich Bond, head of Alexandria-based Bond & Co., is representing the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America on the same pension law change for which Packwood has been lobbying in the Senate. Bond also is working with the Service Employees International Union, helping that union talk to several GOP presidential candidates and Republican governors.
A Fall in Colorado
A second Washington lobbyist has died accidentally in Colorado in recent weeks. Gregory J. Koczanski, 42, co-director of federal relations for Citigroup Inc., was killed Saturday when winds blew him off a hiking trail near the summit of Longs Peak, a 14,255-foot mountain near Castle Rock. On July 27, Dan Dutko, chairman of Dutko Group Inc., died of head injuries after he fell off a mountain bike while attending a Democratic fund-raiser in Aspen.
The Revolving Door
Mary Grealy, chief Washington counsel for the American Hospital Association, has been named president of the Healthcare Leadership Council, a coalition of the chief executives of major health care companies. She replaces Pamela G. Bailey, who had served as council president since the group's formation in 1988 and recently assumed the presidency of the Health Industry Manufacturers Association, another trade group.
Once Again, a TAP Dance
Robert E. Jordan III recalls it was "the first case I worked on" when he joined the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson in the early 1970s. "And I'm still working on it," he adds with a laugh. This time, however, it probably won't get as hectic as it did the first time. Then the idea of an oil pipeline across the Alaska wilderness was a hot environmental topic. Twenty-five years later, the oil companies are seeking a renewal of rights of way for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. If it becomes another major environmental flap, Jordan will once again be at the oil companies' side. But Jordan hopes the renewal will prove far less contentious because the pipeline has become a part of the Alaska landscape.