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John Ashcroft made an unusual career move for a former attorney general last spring: He became a lobbyist. But government rules barred him from representing clients before the U.S. Department of Justice for one year. That ban ended in February, however. Now that Ashcroft can lobby without restraint, the question is whether he’s too rough for K Street. While lobbying is all about smoothing the way, Ashcroft has been a lightning rod throughout his long political career. His friends think he’ll do just fine. “The controversies that he was involved with were never personal,” says David Israelite, a former top aide to Ashcroft at the Justice Department who is now president of the National Music Publishers Association. “The fact that [Ashcroft is] tough is an added benefit to companies,” Israelite says. “They know he’s going to be a straight shooter. He’s not going to pull punches in the advice he’s going to give.” Other politicians turned lobbyists see value in having a conciliatory reputation. John Breaux, a former Democratic senator from Louisiana, says that his bipartisan nature and experience brokering compromises on Capitol Hill eased his transition to a lobbying career at Washington, D.C.’s Patton Boggs. In Breaux’s opinion, “[Ashcroft's] controversial; either [people] loved him or they didn’t like him at all.” Former attorneys general often choose to feather their nest at law firms where they can earn seven figures while billing clients $700 an hour on white-collar criminal cases. That’s why Ashcroft’s move to K Street stands out � he’s the first AG to open his own lobbying shop. Juleanna Glover Weiss, a lobbyist for The Ashcroft Group, which opened its doors in May 2005, says that her boss isn’t “at the of counsel point of his life. He still wants to play on a very high level.” Ashcroft declined to be interviewed for this article. Ashcroft’s corporate background is limited. Though he taught business law in the early 1970s and served as state auditor and ultimately governor of Missouri, he has never held a management position in the private sector. But Adam Ciongoli, a former Justice Department official, counters that as attorney general, Ashcroft “was basically the CEO of a 130,000-person law firm. … He managed really significant litigation over a four-year period [at Justice] and understands complicated civil litigations and how to deal with regulatory agencies.” A former general counsel at Time Warner Europe, Ciongoli is currently a clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito, Jr. Since last fall the Ashcroft Group has signed several corporate clients (including eBay Inc., Oracle Corp., and ChoicePoint Inc.) and taken in $289,000 in lobbying revenue. In its marketing pitch the firm emphasizes a broader mission than simply lobbying Congress. Oracle is a case in point. It hired Ashcroft’s firm just as it was facing a Justice Department investigation of its takeover of technology giant Siebel Systems Inc. It is Ashcroft’s most lucrative client, paying his firm $220,000 for three months of work. (As of February, Oracle was the only client that Ashcroft had personally registered to lobby.) The Ashcroft Group’s Weiss says that her boss provided Oracle with strategic advice about the antitrust review process. That’s noteworthy because in 2004, as attorney general, Ashcroft sued the company to block its takeover of PeopleSoft Inc. (Oracle won that round against the Justice Department in court.) Less than a month after Oracle retained Ashcroft, the Justice Department dropped its antitrust inquiry into the Siebel acquisition. Weiss declined to go into detail about the firm’s work for Oracle, citing a nondisclosure agreement. Another area of focus for Ashcroft is consulting on corporate governance issues. In the post � Sarbanes-Oxley era, nervous officers and directors have created a growth market for such advice, and Ashcroft Group members like David Ayres have been shuttling regularly to meetings in New York to pitch their expertise as D.C. insiders. Ayres, a longtime aide to Ashcroft, sees his firm’s role as discreetly helping companies with corporate governance issues to navigate the Justice Department. Getting a big gun on your side in Justice investigations � especially one with ties to the administration and who knows the inner workings of the agency � can be key, say white-collar lawyers. “There is no question, particularly in corporate internal investigations, that a client really wants someone who has been in government and who has a big-time reputation, because it adds a lot of credibility,” says Dan Webb, a partner at Winston & Strawn and a former U.S. attorney. Though Ashcroft has stature because he was once the nation’s top cop, he faces significant competition as a corporate governance adviser from more established names such as Warren Rudman. A former Republican senator from New Hampshire, Rudman is now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison where he has done external reviews for Boeing and Fannie Mae. “[Ashcroft's] not a name you usually associate in this area, because of his politics and being the attorney general,” says Peter Henning, a white-collar-crime expert and law professor at Wayne State University. “Whenever [a company] hires a consultant . . . they want someone who’ll get their phone calls returned.” Nevertheless, Ashcroft’s firm claims it has 11 clients in the corporate governance arena. It declines to reveal any of their names or discuss what they are doing, however, and unlike with its lobbying work, it isn’t required to. This reluctance highlights another aspect of Ashcroft’s firm: a high degree of secrecy that is emblematic of the ex � AG’s Justice Department days. The Ashcroft Group is so tight-lipped about its advice to clients that it has taken the unusual step of making all of them sign nondisclosure agreements as part of the standard contract. “Clients must receive specific permission before using Ashcroft’s name in any way, and vice versa,” says Weiss. It appears that keeping secrets is one old habit that John Ashcroft is in no hurry to break.

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