N.Y. Times News Service
WASHINGTON _ The top officials of Bill Clinton's presidential
transition team are lawyers and lobbyists whose collective client
lists and board memberships include virtually every American
industry and many foreign companies and governments.
The clients of these officials' firms sell everything from
Kermit the Frog to the uranium used in nuclear power plants. The
clients drill oil, build cars and run banks. They sell
cigarettes, fighter jets, spy satellites and wine.
Many of these clients have important matters pending before
federal agencies and Congress, which is precisely why they turned
to Washington lawyers.
For a president-elect who came to Washington pledging to
"limit the influence of lobbyists," these business connections
have created a tension. On the one hand, Clinton has unveiled new
ethics rules that he says will in the most forceful way ever
prevent transition staff members from influencing areas of
government that could affect their private financial interests or
those of their clients.
On the other hand, the staff has interpreted those rules in a
way that has resulted in the disqualification of only one
transition aide from a staffing discussion.
Transition officials insist there are no other financial
conflicts involved as a handful of prominent business lawyers
helps staff the government that will then regulate their clients,
a contention that has brought criticism from some legal scholars
and public interest groups.
The transition team has also refused to make public the
financial-disclosure forms it announced with some fanfare two
weeks ago. To do so, aides said, would unfairly violate the
privacy of transition officials, who are mostly unpaid and
serving in a temporary capacity. In withholding the information,
team members said they are only following past practice.
An examination of the top officials' business connections,
drawn from filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission
and other public documents, offers new details on their extensive
business connections and those of their law firms.
Vernon E. Jordan, the transition chairman, earns at least
$442,000 a year in fees on the boards of 11 corporate giants,
including Union Carbide, American Express, Xerox and RJR Nabisco.
Jordan also holds approximately $911,000 worth of stock in these
companies, not counting stock options, and will qualify, upon
retirement, for pensions from them worth more than $200,000.
His law firm, Akin Gump Hauer Feld, represents at least
seven of the corporations, and as a senior partner he shares the
law firm's profits.
The transition director, Warren M. Christopher, is the senior
partner in one of the nation's largest law firms, O'Melveny
Myers, and he has led it during a decade in which it added an
array of leading Asian industries to its client base. …