X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
WASHINGTON — In the wake of top lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s abrupt departure from Greenberg Traurig last week, some advocates for Native American tribes are wondering whether the controversy could damage their image and that of the tribes they represent. Fallout is already being seen on the business side. One major Abramoff-Greenberg Traurig client, the Michigan-based Saginaw Chippewa tribe, has moved its work to D.C.-based lobbying firm Chesapeake Enterprises and Ietan Consulting, a lobby shop linked with Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. But political impact was on tribal lobbyists’ minds last week. “I think it might lead to some tarnish to Indian representation overall, which would really be unfortunate,” says Michael Anderson, a partner at D.C.’s Monteau & Peebles, a 20-lawyer firm that counts Sioux and Chippewa groups among its clients. “There could possibly be some short-term, broad-brush negatives emerging from this incident.” Another well-known D.C. attorney active in Indian advocacy agrees with Anderson that there may be negative fallout for the whole practice area. “It might be difficult for tribes down the road to lobby effectively on the Hill if there is a perception by those being lobbied that the lobbyists are pulling in millions of dollars,” says this lawyer, who declines to be identified. On Tuesday, Greenberg Traurig announced that Abramoff had resigned, following articles in The Washington Post that described Abramoff’s huge fees and complex financial dealings with Indian clients. The Post linked Abramoff to Michael Scanlon, a public relations expert and former Greenberg Traurig employee who had allegedly received tens of millions of dollars from the tribes. Richard Rosenbaum, Greenberg Traurig’s national operating shareholder, said in a statement that some of Abramoff’s “personal transactions and related conduct” were “unacceptable to the firm.” The firm says it has retained Henry Schuelke III, a partner at D.C.’s Janis, Schuelke & Wechsler, to “conduct a comprehensive investigation of these matters so the firm can take any additional action that may be appropriate,” according to a statement. Abramoff, who has turned to litigator Abbe Lowell, a D.C. partner at Chadbourne & Parke, responded last week. “It is regrettable that Greenberg Traurig would indicate that my resignation was based on anything other than our mutual decision to ensure that recent events did not interfere with the representation of our clients,” Abramoff said in a statement. “I had hoped that the leadership that I brought to the firm’s government practice — guiding it to become the fourth-largest lobbying practice in the nation — would have elicited more professional treatment.” For the rest of Washington’s Indian tribe lobbying community, it’s the high-profile public revelation of Abramoff’s huge fees that is causing the most immediate concern. Each of Abramoff’s four tribal clients at issue had been paying a retainer of $180,000 a month, the Post reported. “I do strategy and political thinking for Indian tribe clients,” says Virginia Boylan, a partner at the D.C. office of Chicago’s Gardner, Carton & Douglas. “I charge on a fee-for-service basis, with hourly rates. And no one has ever complained about my fees.” Gardner, Carton bills tribal lobbying clients between $300 and $400 an hour for partners, and between $220 and $280 for associates, says Boylan. Boylan, a former staff director at the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has spent 10 years at Gardner, Carton. Before that, she practiced Indian law for nine years at Dorsey & Whitney, another firm with a strong Indian practice. At both firms, she says, she billed strictly by the hour. Gardner, Carton has represented the Mohegan tribe of Connecticut and the Council of Energy Resources Tribes, among other clients. Monteau & Peebles’ Anderson, who served as deputy assistant secretary for Indian affairs in the Interior Department during the Clinton administration, says most firms that represent Indian tribes have “very reduced fees that equate value to service.” Anderson says his firm charges tribes between $225 and $275 an hour for partners. “We’re cheap,” he quips. ‘A VERY ISOLATED ISSUE’ Abramoff — who joined Greenberg Traurig in January 2001 from Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds with a team of lobbyists and a big book of business — maintains that his high-end services for Indian tribes are cost-effective because he gets good results for his clients. “It would be unfortunate if the swirl of publicity caused people to ignore the enormous results Jack and the firm achieved for clients in each matter. These results more than account for the fees charged,” says Marina Ein, a spokeswoman for Abramoff. Rosenbaum of Greenberg Traurig — which earned more than $4.3 million in fees in the first half of 2003 from tribal clients — says the firm is carrying on. “This is a very isolated issue,” he says. “It’s one person out of 700-plus professionals. His entire team is still in place at our firm.” Rosenbaum says the Saginaw Chippewas is the only lobbying client to leave the firm in the past few weeks. Audrey Falcon, the chief of the tribe, wrote in an undated letter, posted on the tribe’s Web site, that the tribe had “taken steps already to save � millions of dollars by replacing two lobbying firms that have charged our Tribe over $14 million! That’s right. $14 million was spent by lobbyists that yielded little or no results for our Tribe.” Joseph Sowmick, a spokesman for the tribe, confirmed on Friday that the Saginaw Chippewas have since hired Ietan Consulting and Chesapeake Enterprises. “We’re looking forward to great things from them,” says Sowmick. He declined to comment about how much his tribe is going to pay its new lobbyists. Ietan Consulting specializes in federal Indian law and lobbying. In the first half of 2003, 11 tribes paid approximately $520,000 to the firm, according to Senate filings. Chesapeake Enterprises registered to lobby for five new Indian tribe clients in 2003. Ietan Consulting and Chesapeake Enterprises did not respond to requests for comment. Ietan works closely with Akin Gump — perhaps the second-biggest player in Indian tribal lobbying behind Greenberg Traurig. Akin Gump brought in $1.1 million from six Indian tribes in the first half of 2003, according to Senate records. In the last half of 2003, the Gila River Indian Community was the firm’s top revenue-generating lobbying client, paying $1.12 million. Akin Gump partner Donald Pongrace says that client is a “fairly unique case.” “They are involved in the largest Indian water rights settlement in U.S. history,” says Pongrace. He says the firm accounts for that work “on an hourly basis.” Despite the size of this client, Pongrace says, tribal representation “is by no means — even within our public law and policy group — our bread and butter.” Another firm that does a lot of tribal work is Holland & Knight. Nine tribal clients were responsible for $680,000 in lobbying revenue in the first half of 2003 for Holland & Knight. Other firms with tribal clients are Dorsey & Whitney; Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry; and Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker. Jonathan Groner is a reporter with Legal Times , a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C. Kristen A. Lee is a reporter at affiliate Influence . Influence . Senior reporter T.R. Goldman contributed to this article.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.