The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

In business proposals, D.C. Council member Jack Evans pitched influence to legal and lobby firms

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) attends a meeting of the council in Nov. 13, 2018. (J. Lawler Duggan/For The Washington Post)

D.C. Council member Jack Evans has repeatedly emailed business proposals to law firms that lobby District officials, offering his connections and influence amassed as the city’s longest-serving lawmaker.

In a January 2018 pitch to Nelson Mullins, a law firm that had lobbied his office on behalf of a client just months before, Evans said the firm should employ him because as an elected official and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, he could engage in “cross-marketing my relationships and influence to Nelson Mullins clients.”

Read a 2018 business proposal from Jack Evans

Using her government email account, Evans’s chief of staff sent similar proposals on his behalf in 2015 to the firms Venable and K&L Gates, as well as to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which hired him.

Read a 2015 business proposal from Jack Evans

Evans, a Democrat representing Ward 2, and his chief of staff, Schannette Grant, did not respond to requests for comment.

The pitches — obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request — show how one of the District’s most powerful public officials sought simultaneously to work in the private sector on behalf of companies looking to navigate the landscape of local government.

And the proposals come to light as federal prosecutors are scrutinizing Evans’s business affairs. In September, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to D.C. officials for documents relating to legislation Evans promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital-sign company, Digi Outdoor Media. Evans had received and has said he returned money and stock from the company.

“While I would not be able to directly lobby the District government, I could certainly use my knowledge of local government to strategize with someone looking to do business locally,” Evans said in the 2015 pitch.

D.C. law permits elected officials to hold jobs in the private sector. But of the 13 members of the D.C. Council, just one other, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), reports significant and continuing outside income on required financial disclosures. Cheh is a constitutional-law professor at George Washington University.

Throughout his 28-year tenure on the council, Evans has engaged in outside legal and consulting work. In required disclosures, he has listed law firms for which he has worked but has not named his clients. D.C. ethics rules require him to identify clients only if they have contracts with the District or stand to benefit from pending legislation.

As chair of the committee on finance and revenue, Evans has significant sway over the city’s tax policy, finances and tourism industry. As chairman of WMATA, Evans oversees contracting and policy for a regional transit agency with a $3 billion budget.

From 2001 to 2015, Evans worked at the powerhouse law and lobby firm Patton Boggs, where his focus included “government and Congressional relations, business law and corporate securities,” according to his résumé. He has said he earned $190,000 per year from the firm in outside income. He earns $140,161 annually as a D.C. Council member.

Evans sent his 2018 proposal to Nelson Mullins lawyer Timothy Fitzgibbon, who did not respond to a request for comment. There is no indication that the firm hired or retained Evans.

In the pitch, Evans remarked that the District’s government “is the flattest political organization in the country.”

“There are just 15 elected officials in the city: one mayor, 13 councilmembers, and one attorney general,” Evans wrote. “A contract, bill, or regulation can go from idea to consummation in a matter of months.”

Evans continued: “Despite this fertile ground, no local firm has yet to establish itself as the ‘Go-To’ government relations firm. The opportunity to claim this mantle is clear.”

Among the recipients of Evans’s 2015 pitch was John Ray, a former council member and a partner at Manatt. Ray or an associate had lobbied Evans on behalf of energy giant Exelon only months earlier. Ray did not respond a request for comment.

That proposal included the District of Columbia in a list of potential clients Evans said he could help attract. The list also included businesses with which he had dealt as a council member, among them Xerox, Uber, Fort Myer Construction and the hotel company Marriott.

“I am looking to continue my law practice while continuing to serve on the City Council,” Evans wrote.

Evans began working for Manatt in October 2015. That month, his signature was first among those of seven council members who, under D.C. Council letterhead, urged the Public Service Commission to approve a merger between Exelon and Pepco. The letter did not disclose a relationship between Evans and Exelon’s lobbying firm. A spokeswoman for Exelon declined to comment Friday.

Evans was reelected to his latest four-year term in 2016. He stopped working at Manatt in October 2017, according to his financial disclosures. By that time, he had created his own firm, NSE Consulting, which was named in the grand jury subpoena in September seeking information relating to Evans and the digital-sign company.

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