June 5, 2011 : Council member was being paid by legal firm, claims editorial
One of the notable online gambling breakthroughs in the United States this year – the adoption of an internet gambling legalization proposal in Washington DC – is back under the media microscope following allegations that the measure's author was in the pay of a legal firm at the time and did not disclose this.
In an editorial this week, the Washington Post is critical of independent councillor Michael A. Brown, chiefly because he did not disclose his $200 000+ employment by a law firm with significant interest in the issue – Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge – which allegedly has an active gaming practice.
Brown has defended his position, saying that there was no conflict because no company represented by the firm, which he has since left, was interested in doing business in the District.
The newspaper takes issue with this, claiming that the legalization nonetheless might be of benefit to his then-employer.
"His failure to disclose the association at the time is yet another troubling example of the secrecy that has surrounded the District’s decision to legalize and promote online poker and other games," the editorial claims.
"At Mr. Brown’s initiative, an amendment to allow the D.C. Lottery to offer online gaming was slipped into the District’s supplemental budget enacted in December. If the technology works as envisioned and the federal government raises no objections, adults in the District will be able to access a geographically contained intranet to play games such as online poker and fantasy sports from their laptop computers, with additional plans for gambling “hot spots” to be set up in hotels, bars and other venues across the city," the op-ed piece continues.
"The city’s chief financial officer and its attorney general both raised questions about the legality of the measure, but there was no public hearing or committee review. Adrian M. Fenty, who was mayor at the time, was not consulted. There was no public debate. And to this day no explanation has been offered for why the normal process of enacting legalization wasn’t followed. “Not sure” is what Mr. Brown told us when we first wrote about it in April."
The newspaper examines the possible value to Brown’s then-employer or its clients of the nation’s capital becoming the first local government to permit online gaming, potentially a highly profitable industry.
"If some now follow the District’s lead, new markets could open for Edwards Angell clients, which according to the firm’s Web site include “public and private companies that provide gaming equipment, software and/or services; casino owners; lenders to gaming facility developers; and companies and individuals involved in gaming-related investigations and disputes,” opines the newspaper.
Among those represented by the law firm is GTech, whose subsidiary GTechG2 is intimately involved in online gambling as a software provider.
The editorial also points out that Edwards Angell was among the sponsors of a recent conference in San Francisco that featured a session on internet gambling, on which Mr. Brown was a speaker discussing “political insights” into legalising and regulating the practice.
Brown said that his conference expenses were paid by his D.C. office and that he received no honorarium.
Whilst employed at Edwards Angell, Brown was a senior public policy adviser in the government relations department, paid around $240,000 in 2010. He left Edwards Angell earlier this year for greener pastures with lobbying and consulting firm Madison Group, where he lobbies on behalf of clients in Congress and the White House.
When approached for its perspective, Edwards Angell told the Washington Post:
“With respect to Michael Brown’s activities as a member of the DC Council, we maintained a strict boundary between the firm’s professional endeavors and Mr. Brown’s activities – as is the case with all of our professionals’ outside activities. Firm management was thus unaware in 2010 of Mr. Brown’s intent to sponsor legalization legalizing online gaming in the District.”