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Mark Tuohey was having a long week. On Tuesday he was planted at the right hand of D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, getting grilled by City Council members about a proposed lease for a new, publicly financed stadium for the Washington Nationals — a mammoth, $667 million deal Tuohey has negotiated as chairman of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. Councilman David Catania, a lawyer, was upset over one provision and unloaded on Tuohey with both barrels. “The fact that we don’t have a construction management contract is outrageous,” he told Tuohey. Tuohey puffed his cheeks and furrowed his brow. “You’re mixing apples and oranges, respectfully,” he testily responded. But even as the council threatened to torpedo the stadium project, to which Tuohey says he has dedicated two years and 2,000 unpaid hours, you couldn’t blame him for being distracted. Tuohey also has a starring role in another of Washington’s hottest dramas. Soon after the hearing, he was whisking across town to appear on ABC’s “Nightline” on behalf of his client Rep. Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican facing possible criminal charges for his ties to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff. “Congressman Ney has always operated in a very proper manner,” Tuohey told “Nightline” reporter Chris Bury. Tuohey’s week didn’t get any easier when the Justice Department announced that a former associate of Abramoff’s had cut a deal with federal prosecutors and would testify against the former lobbyist and Ney. Abramoff goes on trial in South Florida next month on fraud charges. Juggling two headline-making dust-ups in one month, Tuohey concedes, has made for a hectic holiday season. “There have been frustrating episodes,” he says. “There are fewer hours to sleep.” It’s also meant fielding some political hardballs on behalf of his clients. Former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, now on the council, has called the stadium deal “the biggest stickup since Jesse James and the Great Train Robbery.” And one of Ney’s challengers for his Ohio seat launched his campaign by declaring that Ney “personified the corruption of politics in America.”
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But then Tuohey is no stranger to unpopular causes. He’s involved in helping his firm, Vinson & Elkins, clean up the fallout from its involvement in the Enron scandal. And his r�sum� includes a stint working with Kenneth Starr on the Whitewater investigation. While there’s nothing unusual about D.C. lawyers mixing politics and power, it’s rare to find a white-shoe partner shuttling between the corridors of power on Capitol Hill and the downmarket environs of local government. Tuohey, 59, is one of the few who can make the crossover, balancing $700-an-hour white-collar-crime work with a long record of public service to the District. “He knows his way around not only the city but Congress as well,” says Michael Madigan, a partner at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld who worked with Tuohey when they were both federal prosecutors in the 1970s. SWINGING FOR A STADIUM Tuohey makes any short-list of those most responsible for bringing Major League Baseball back to Washington. In 2003 the city’s push to land the Montreal Expos was in the doldrums. Washington faced stiff competition for the team from a group in Northern Virginia, and its bid was vigorously opposed by Peter Angelos, the litigious owner of the Baltimore Orioles. That fall the mayor’s office approached Tuohey about becoming the unpaid chairman of the moribund D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, an independent city agency charged with attracting professional sports to the city as well as with managing RFK Stadium. Tuohey agreed and stepped down from his administrative duties as co-managing partner of Vinson & Elkins’ D.C. office to take the job. He and Mayor Williams were not strangers. In 1998 Councilman Jack Evans had recommended Tuohey to the mayor to lead a yearlong special counsel investigation into corruption in the city’s police department. In 2000 the city turned to Tuohey again, this time to head an independent investigation into the management of the city-run group homes for the mentally disabled. “I grew up in a law enforcement family,” says Tuohey, whose father was an FBI agent. “I was anxious to help when I was asked.” The addition of Tuohey and Winston & Strawn partner William Hall to the Sports Commission’s board energized the city’s bid. Tuohey is among those credited with convincing the mayor that the city would have to offer baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig a stadium wholly financed by the city in order to win the team. “He helped get the mayor over the line to be more aggressive,” says one pro-stadium lawyer with knowledge of the talks. “[Tuohey] recognized that there was a serious chance that if people didn’t step up and make a serious effort that Angelos’ opposition would carry the day.” Less than a year later, Washington’s stepped-up lobbying effort paid off. In September 2004, Major League Baseball agreed to move the team to Washington and to play an inaugural season at RFK. But Tuohey had little time to rest. The City Council, which had cheered on the efforts to lure the team to town, began to balk as cost estimates for a new stadium soared. The deal was nearly undone last fall when council Chairwoman Linda Cropp nearly blocked authorization of the funds for the stadium, saying she wanted more private financing. She relented after MLB offered a number of concessions. That cleared the way for Tuohey to go to work hammering out a formal lease for the proposed stadium with Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, the head of baseball’s relocation committee. The results of that yearlong process come up for council approval this week. Tuohey, Hall, the commission’s outside lawyer, W. Andrew Jack of Covington & Burling, and a small group of city officials negotiated directly with Reinsdorf and Major League Baseball’s lawyer, Richard Weiss of Foley & Lardner. Those discussions rotated among Vinson & Elkins’ office next to the Willard InterContinental Hotel, Covington & Burling’s building on Pennsylvania Avenue, and Foley & Lardner’s digs in Georgetown. Yet by late last week it was still unclear whether the council would agree to the proposed lease agreement as negotiated by Tuohey and Reinsdorf. Four council members appeared to be dead set against the deal, four in favor, and five remained on the fence. Behind the scenes, Tuohey joined the mayor and the various prospective team owners in lobbying swing council members Cropp and Vincent Gray. The job wasn’t made any easier by Major League Baseball, whose public statements about the stadium came across to many on the council as dictates. Despite that, by Thursday, Tuohey declared that he was confident that with “Linda Cropp’s leadership we’ll have the votes” to approve the deal. But Cropp has previously proved a fickle supporter of the mayor’s public financing plans, and no one’s calling the deal done until the council votes on Dec. 20. Leading up to the vote, Tuohey would not even address the possibility of failure. “The mayor and the council have worked very hard to create a lot of confidence in this government on Wall Street and around the country,” he says. “They’re not going to take an action that would compromise that.” Tuohey clearly enjoys the spotlight the baseball negotiations have focused on him, as well as the perks that come with his unpaid role on the Sports Commission (he’s scheduled two trips to the Nationals’ spring training next year in Florida). But Tuohey has never been the type to bury himself at the office, billing into the night. He’s a magnet for citizen-of-the-year-type awards, and his office walls are filled with ceremonial plaques of appreciation. He’s sat on a host of American Bar Association committees, taken part in selecting judges for the District’s local courts, served as president of the D.C. Bar from 1993 to 1994, and spent five years as head of that organization’s charitable foundation — which rewarded him with the title D.C. “Lawyer of the Year” in 2001. That public service ethos also seems to have transferred to Tuohey’s sons, two of whom run a nonprofit called “Playing for Peace,” which holds basketball camps in conflict-torn regions such as Northern Ireland and South Africa. A trustee at Catholic University, Tuohey says, “I’m a product of the old Jesuit philosophy of �men for others.’ “ LAWYERING THE ELITE Among the “others” Tuohey serves are people such as Ney. The Ohio Republican has had a rough fall. In late November former Abramoff associate Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to conspiring to offer bribes to public officials and to bilking his Native American tribal clients. In a statement at the hearing, Scanlon detailed how Ney accepted foreign travel, campaign contributions, meals, and gifts from the lobbyists in return for supporting legislation and performing official acts favorable to gambling interests represented by Scanlon and Abramoff. Then, last week, New York businessman Adam Kidan, a business partner of Abramoff’s in a Florida-based fleet of gambling boats, pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges and agreed to cooperate in the government’s probe. Tuohey isn’t new to high-profile clients or tough cases. As a prosecutor in the 1970s, he gained acclaim for his handling of the Hanafi Muslim hostage case, an incident in which 134 people were taken captive in Washington. He also successfully prosecuted former Rep. Daniel Flood, a powerful Pennsylvania Democrat who pleaded guilty to an influence-peddling scheme in 1980. In private practice he’s represented defense contractors caught up in the Reagan-era “Ill Wind” defense procurement scandal and, more recently, done work for former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay (before the company’s collapse) and his son Mark Lay, who had a number of lucrative business dealings with the company. Vinson & Elkins, of course, is inextricably linked to Enron through the work of its corporate lawyers — work that has since been questioned by outside investigators and that is the subject of pending shareholder suits. Tuohey himself says he never performed any of the legal work now under scrutiny, though he sits on a special committee on Enron that the firm set up to oversee its defense. Enron has dealt a blow to Vinson & Elkins’ reputation, and, like other partners, Tuohey could potentially be on the hook for any firm payments made to the company’s shareholders. But he says he has no regrets about jumping to V&E from Reed Smith, in 1994. “Not for a New York minute have I rethought coming here,” Tuohey says. In fact, Tuohey’s experience dealing with scandal may have only enhanced his prospects when Ney went looking for a lawyer late last year. Those familiar with the search say that Republican operatives vetted Tuohey with members of D.C.’s white-collar bar. Among those who vouched for Tuohey were Venable’s Gerard Treanor, a friend of Tuohey’s from their days in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and Democratic lobbyist Thomas Quinn. One Republican who could have given an informed assessment of Tuohey, a Democrat, is former independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Through a spokeswoman, Starr declined to comment for this article, but he chose Tuohey in 1994 to be his principal deputy in the then nascent Whitewater investigation. Tuohey took leave from Reed Smith and stayed with the investigation for its first year, coordinating its Little Rock, Ark., and Washington teams. He left for Vinson & Elkins in 1995, in what he calls a “planned departure.” “By September of 1995 I thought things were moving to a final stage,” Tuohey says of his decision to leave. “Boy, was I on the moon.” COVERING THE BASES Those who know Tuohey describe him as something of a bon vivant, with a taste for red wine and expense-account restaurants like Caf� Milano. He’s a social fixture whose wide range of contacts encompasses the Irish Embassy, managing partners of the city’s largest law firms, and the African-American legal and political community centered around City Hall. Each winter he and a dozen or so Washington white-collar attorneys — who refer to themselves as “The Boys” — take a weeklong ski vacation in the Rockies. Among the group are a host of alums from the federal prosecution bar, including former U.S. Attorney Earl Silbert, William Jeffress Jr. (currently a defense lawyer for I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby), E. Lawrence Barcella Jr., and Robert Trout. In the summers, Tuohey and his wife, Marty, a psychiatric therapist, host an annual “white hot dog party” for Vinson & Elkins associates and staff at their home in the Colonial Village neighborhood of Washington. White hot dogs are a peculiar pale-colored veal-and-pork delicacy native to Tuohey’s hometown of Rochester, N.Y. “Next summer they’re going to be served at RFK,” he says with ill-concealed pride. Despite the damaging claims against Ney, Tuohey remains optimistic he can ward off an indictment. But even if Ney is charged, he’s confident he won’t be replaced by another white-collar attorney, as was the case with Libby when he brought in Jeffress and defense lawyer Theodore Wells after he was indicted. “If Ney gets indicted, it would still be me,” Tuohey says. “But that’s not going to happen.” As for the Sports Commission, Tuohey says he plans to stay on to help oversee the construction of a new stadium and the renovation of the D.C. Armory. He’ll be helped by the fact that even some of his most ardent foes in the stadium deal seem to respect him. “I think he has people who feel strongly he could have negotiated a better deal for baseball,” says Councilman Adrian Fenty. “That doesn’t mean they think of him as an enemy.” Fenty, a staunch opponent of the public financing plan Tuohey negotiated, nevertheless praises Tuohey’s passion. He’s also asked for and received a donation from Tuohey to his mayoral campaign. But Fenty shouldn’t feel too grateful. Cropp, a key fence-sitter in the stadium debate, has also received a check for her campaign from Tuohey — as has fellow councilman and mayoral hopeful Vincent Orange, an ardent backer of public financing. As usual, Mark Tuohey has all his bases covered.


Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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