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Wednesday, February 08, 2006 

"Nonsensical Allegations Coming From Jason Willett"

Hutchinson Campaign Statement (David Kinkade):

"These are nonsensical allegations coming from Jason Willett and our political opponents. While we're disappointed that Mr. Willett is making such allegations, we're not suprised and are happy to discuss Asa's record of public service. "

"When Asa announced he was stepping down from the Department of Homeland Security to return home to Arkansas, he worked with the Department's legal and ethics team to ensure that he took all appropriate steps and complied with the law fully. "

"When he entered into discussions with the Venable law firm, for example, he recused himself from all matters, if any, that the firm may have had before the Department and also filed a letter of recusal with the Department, as is the proper procedure."

From Arkansas Times Blog (Democrat Party Press Release):

Little Rock – Republican gubernatorial candidate Asa Hutchinson appears to have broken the law when negotiating his job as a lobbyist for security interests while still in office as the undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security, according to Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Jason Willett.

Despite rules outlawing federal officials from negotiating jobs with a lobbyist firm involved in, or hoping to involved in, matters handled by those officials, Hutchinson has admitted to doing just that while undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

“This is millions and millions of taxpayer dollars in the form of federal contracts we are talking about,” Chairman Willett said. “When exactly did Mr. Hutchinson begin negotiating with which lobbying firm? Did he ‘waive his ethics’ or just step over the law? If he waived his ethics, what exactly was he doing that required him to waive off the ethical standards? Were contracts awarded that otherwise might not have been because of Hutchinson’s on-the-job influence.”

While he was still employed to work at the Department of Homeland Security, Hutchinson said he “was negotiating with a Washington law firm, which he declined to name,” according to Associated Press reports (2-25-05). March 2, the day after Hutchinson effectively resigned from DHS, he announced that he had accepted a position at Venable LLP, where he remains a lobbyist.

Venable LLP and its clients had major dealings with parts of DHS under Hutchinson’s authority as an Undersecretary of DHS, according to a March 3, 2005, New York Times article.

“Venable LLP, the law firm where [Hutchinson] will serve as chairman of the domestic security practice, has represented the Lockheed Martin Corporation, which, along with its business partners, was awarded $513 million in Homeland Security contracts [in 2004]. Among Venable’s other clients, according to federal lobbying records, are American Airlines and the Cargo Airline Association, both of which have regulatory matters before the Transportation Security Administration, which Mr. Hutchinson supervised until this week. The firm has also represented the chemical industry before U.S. Customs, which Mr. Hutchinson also oversaw,” the Times reported.

“Mr. Hutchinson owes us an explanation,” Willett added. “When did he begin these negotiations? With what companies and what interests was he negotiating with?”

Title 18 U.S.C. 208 (a) outlaws federal officials from taking part in decisions or oversight of companies or firms with which they are negotiating post-government employment unless an ‘ethics waiver’ is sought under subsection (b) of Section 208.

“Federal law generally bars presidential appointees … from discussing possible employment with firms involved in, or hoping to be involved in, matters handled by those officials … At issue is a law that forbids federal officials to work on matters in which they have a direct financial interest. Negotiating for a private-sector job is considered one kind of financial interest.”(Washington Post, 1-14-04)

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