Friday, March 17, 2006

Nice to see John Ashcroft has found something to keep himself busy in his golden years: the era of the Jack Abramoff scandal, Mr. Ashcroft has become a Washington lobbyist, setting himself up as something of an anti-Abramoff and marketing his insider's knowledge of how Washington works.

To do so, he has amassed a staff of Republican insiders and rented fancy offices. For corporations seeking contracts from the growing homeland security budget, Mr. Ashcroft promises to draw on his central role in the war on terror and in helping set up the Department of Homeland Security. For companies in trouble with regulators, he says his experience in cracking down on corporate corruption can provide valuable insights.

"Clients would call in an individual who has a reputation for the highest level of integrity," he said in an interview in his office. "Those who have been in government should not be forbidden from helping people deal with government, which is what I see myself doing." In the hourlong interview, Mr. Ashcroft used the word "integrity" scores of times....

Yeah, this has "integrity" stamped all over it:

One of Mr. Ashcroft's newest clients is ChoicePoint, a broker of consumer data that is increasingly being used by the government to keep tabs on people within the United States. The company received millions of dollars in contracts from the Justice Department under Mr. Ashcroft as part of the war on terror and has now hired him to find more.

"The Ashcroft Group contacted us and we initiated a relationship," said Chuck Jones, a ChoicePoint spokesman. "He's got a lot of knowledge that could benefit ChoicePoint."

... A further opportunity for Mr. Ashcroft arises from an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission into insider trading by the company's chief executive and chief operating officer.

Chris Jay Hoofnagle, senior counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington digital rights group, said Mr. Ashcroft had the inside edge.

"As attorney general, Ashcroft created the conditions that allow companies like ChoicePoint to flourish," Mr. Hoofnagle said. "Ashcroft can open doors that others can't." ...

This, too:

After helping prosecute executives at Enron and WorldCom, Mr. Ashcroft also says he can counsel troubled companies on how to deal with government regulators and avoid the fate of Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm that collapsed after it was indicted in the Enron scandal.

"They need someone who can take threatening circumstances and neutralize them," Mr. Ashcroft said. "I'll be a lightning rod for people facing serious challenges." ...

As does his staff:

His staff includes David T. Ayres, his former chief of staff; Juleanna Glover Weiss, a Republican lobbyist and a former press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney; and a Republican fund-raiser, William C. T. Gaynor II, who helped raise more than $300 million in the 2004 election. He opened his office 10 months after leaving the Justice Department.

Whom would Jesus schmooze?

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