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GOD AND GAYS IN AUSTIN Pg. 2 A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES MAY 20, 1994 $1.75 Wheeling and Dealing with Akin, Gump BY KEN SILVERSTEIN Washington, D.C. EAGER TO demonstrate that CEOs need not fear the Democrats, Bill Clinton has been just as accommodating to big business as his Republican predecessors. The President pushed through the North American Free Trade Agreement, extended a research and development tax break worth billions to major companies and broke a campaign pledge to force the auto industry to increase fuel efficiency by 40 percent. Meanwhile, major donors to the Democratic National Committee receive special briefings from government officials, both in Washington and, in late February, at a weekend retreat at Florida’s Boca Raton Resort & Club. Corporate titans are delighted with their commander-inchief. “We’ve been pleasantly surprised from the beginning with this administration,” AT&T exec William Marx has been quoted as saying. “We’re getting along much better with this administration than we did with previous ones,” chimes in recently retired Ford chairman Harold Poling. As with any government, the actual division of spoils is greatly determined by who has the best connections. And in Washington today, perhaps the best connections belong to the Texas-based law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld. Always a powerhouse, Akin, Gump’s prestige has reached new heights under the current administration. Among its dozens of clients, many of whom signed up after Bill Clinton took office, are AT&T, American Airlines, Upjohn, Warner-Lambert, Bechtel, Pfizer, Bank of America and several major insurance associations. A tune revelers sang at a company affair a few years back well captures Akin, Gump’s smug self-assurance: We keep all well-heeled oil men out of trouble, protect each cattle baron’s precious rump, recession times we only charge you double, at Akin, Gump. Senior partner Robert Strauss, a professional fixer with strong links to Wall Street and the multinational sector, is one of Akin, Gump’s prized assets. The ultimate Washington insider, Strauss is a former chair of the Democratic National Committee and was special trade representative under Jimmy Carter. In the spirit of bipartisanship, he served on Ronald Reagan’s presidential commission on Central America and was George Bush’s Ambassador to Russia between 1991 and November of 1992. After returning from Russia, Strauss rejoined Akin, Gump’s D.C. office, now bigger than any of its four Texas branches. A key colleague in the capital is Vernon Jordan, who chaired the Clinton-Gore transition team and is a board member for 11 major companies. Another senior partner is Joel Jankowsky, known on Capitol Hill as the “Wizard of Oz” because of the behindthe-curtain role he has played in so many business deals. Jordan and Strauss reportedly selected a number of top cabinet and sub-cabinet presidential appointeesin addition to the five firm lawyers who received important posts in the administration. Strauss’ choices included Robert Rubin, a former investment banker at Goldman, Sachs and Company, who Clinton named to head the National Economic Council. In 1991, Strauss hosted a party at the plush F Street Club to introduce Rubin, then a rising star in New York but largely unknown in the capital, to the cream of D.C. society. This substantial base of influence is enhanced by Akin, Gump’s Political Action Committee, the legal industry’s most generous. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the firm donated $30,000 to the Democratic National Committee during the first half of 1993 alone. Akin, Gump’s PAC, its employees and employees’ spouses gave nearly $500,000 to Congressional candidates during the 1991-92 election cycle. Akin, Gump clients have superb access, Washington’s most precious commodity. At least a dozen of 80 top executives who the Wall Street Journal lists as having lunched with the President have ties to the law firm. These include John Bryan of Sara Lee, Gerald Levin of Time Warner, and Dwayne Andreas of agribusiness giant Archer-DanielsMidland, all clients, and Xerox’s Paul Allaire, whose board of directors includes Strauss and Jordan. Under Clinton, Akin, Gump cronies have Continued on pg. 5