How Did Koch Industries’ Law Firm Grab Control at the White House?

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: July 30, 2018 ~ 

Don McGahn With President Trump and First Lady Melania

Don McGahn With President Trump and First Lady Melania

Wall Street On Parade has previously reported that despite the majority of contributions from the Jones Day law firm’s partners flowing to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign during 2015-2016, an unprecedented 12 of its lawyers headed to important posts in the Trump administration in one fell swoop on January 20, 2017 – Trump’s inauguration day.

Equally disturbing, in May of last year, the National Law Journal reported that the former Jones Day lawyers, now firmly entrenched in the corridors of power in the Federal government, had “received a blanket waiver clearing them of ethical conflicts,” and allowing them “to take up some matters they may have worked on in prior jobs.”

That might come in handy for White House Counsel Don McGahn and his Chief of Staff, Ann Donaldson, both of whom hail from Jones Day. They previously represented Freedom Partners, the Koch Industries front group. Freedom Partners quickly provided the Trump administration with a list of regulations it wanted gutted – like the Paris Climate accord (which Trump revoked on June 1, 2017) and numerous EPA rules – and threatened those lawmakers who didn’t get on board, writing that “Freedom Partners will hold lawmakers who oppose regulatory relief accountable for their positions.”

In addition to Jones Day, which has been a lead law firm for Koch Industries’ mergers and acquisitions for years, Freedom Partners is also a stand out for how many of its former employees ended up in the Trump administration. SourceWatch reported in April that another dozen people who previously worked at Freedom Partners are now working in the Trump administration. Among that group was Marc Short, former Freedom Partners President, who became Director of Legislative Affairs for Trump, pushing through many of the directives on the Freedom Partners’ list of demands. Short stepped down this month from his post.

There is very little daylight between Freedom Partners and Koch Industries. As of earlier this month, eight of its nine members of the Board of Directors is a current or former Koch company employee. The Board Chair of Freedom Partners is Mark Holden, the General Counsel of Koch Industries. The 2016 tax return for Freedom Partners lists Robert Heaton as CFO and BDK LLP as the tax form preparer. Those two names also appear on the 2016 tax filing for the Charles Koch Foundation.

On July 23, we reported at CounterPunch that a massive voter database and media targeting operation called i360, which has been widely reported for years to be part of Freedom Partners, a tax exempt organization subsidized by the American taxpayer, actually seems to be part of Koch Industries. The sprawling multi-national conglomerate with interests in fossil fuels, chemicals, paper products, and commodities trading is running help-wanted ads for data scientists on its own website to staff i360, showing both its own logo and that of i360 side by side. Equally of note, Koch Industries’ own trademark attorney, Warren L. Zeserman, obtained the trademark for i360 in May of 2016. The help-wanted ads make clear that the voter database operation will be deployed in this year’s election.

We can now report that there was actually a 13th person that was working for Jones Day who also moved to the White House on January 20, 2017 and came from Freedom Partners: Michael Roman. While Roman’s primary salary was coming from Freedom Partners, his financial disclosure form indicated that he had also received compensation “exceeding $5,000” from Jones Day for “research consulting” prior to moving to the White House.

According to Ken Vogel, writing for Politico in 2015, Roman headed a CIA-lite intelligence operation at Freedom Partners. Vogel writes:

“The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular ‘intelligence briefing’ emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.

“The competitive intelligence team has gathered on-the-ground intelligence from liberal groups’ canvassing events in an effort to assess the technology and techniques of field efforts to boost Democrats, according to the sources. And they say the team utilizes high-tech tactics to track the movements of liberal organizers, including culling geo-data embedded in their social media posts.”

On April 28 of this year, Politico reported that Roman was leaving the Trump administration, where he had worked directly under Don McGahn in the White House counsel’s office. Nancy Cook of Politico reported:

“As a former Koch operative and longtime opposition researcher, he cut a mysterious figure in the White House — as one of the few high-level non-lawyers working in the White House counsel’s office. Few were certain of his exact job.”

Jones Day has a troubled history of fronting for corporate interests over the public good. Jones Day has represented R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company for decades. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice sued the largest tobacco companies under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Government attorneys charged that the tobacco companies engaged in a 40-year conspiracy to mislead the public about the dangers of smoking, distort the dangers of secondhand smoke, and target the youth market as “replacement smokers.”

Following a nine-month bench trial, on August 17, 2006, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a 1,683 page opinion.  The Court found that “Cigarette smoking causes disease, suffering, and death. Despite internal recognition of this fact, defendants have publicly denied, distorted, and minimized the hazards of smoking for decades.” The Court further found that lawyers for Big Tobacco had played an unconscionable role in the conspiracy, writing:

“At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes. They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified ‘friendly’ scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney client privilege.”

Judge Kessler calls out Jones Day in numerous instances, including the following:

“When Huber was subpoenaed by the State of Texas to testify in its case against the Defendants in 1997, lawyers for Defendants, including Robert McDermott at Jones Day and Lee Stanford at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, contacted him and urged him ‘to keep the faith, to hold the line.’ (Huber PD, Texas v. American Tobacco, 9/20/97, 99:21-100:2, 100:4-8.) The attorneys implied to Huber that he did not ‘fully appreciate the full weight of Shook, Hardy & Bacon and Jones Day’ representatives of the tobacco industry. The calls caused Huber to fear for the safety and financial security of his family. Huber perceived a clear message: Defendants wanted to keep him silent.”

As the U.S. Justice Department keeps the public focused on Russia’s involvement in U.S. elections, it’s left to investigative reporters to focus on how the Koch agenda is changing America into something that increasingly feels like creeping corporate fascism masquerading as “freedom.”

Donald Trump Tweet on Charles Koch-ii

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