Lobbyist Michael K. Deaver, former White House deputy chief of staff, asserted Friday that it was "mean-spirited . . . groundless and impertinent" for critics to charge that he had improperly used his close friendship with President Reagan for personal gain.
"Like the other charges that have been leveled against me, such an accusation is obviously politically motivated and calculated to damage me and my former colleagues and friends still in government service," Deaver testified at a House hearing that focused on his lobbying activities.
The charges, he added, were "an implicit attack on the integrity of the President."
Deaver, appearing under oath, testified for five hours before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, which is examining a broad array of allegations, including charges that he may have violated federal conflict-of-interest laws.
The session was closed, in compliance with House rules and Deaver's wishes, but Deaver supplied copies of his opening statement to reporters. On his way into the hearing room, he declared: "After five months of leaks, rumors and innuendoes, today it's my turn."
After the hearing, which will resume at an unspecified later date, Deaver said he "was not in a position to comment until I complete my testimony."
Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) and other members of the subcommittee also refused to give details of the testimony but said Deaver had answered all questions. Dingell said the panel was trying to determine not only whether laws had been violated but whether Congress needs to tighten statutes governing ethical standards of government officials who leave to become lobbyists.
Questions Ethical Tone
"Those standards should, without question, be the highest possible, and the tone of every Administration is obviously set by the person who heads it," Dingell said. "There are serious doubts about that tone in the current situation."
Dingell said that a major focus of his panel's inquiry was evidence developed by the General Accounting Office that Deaver may have violated the Ethics in Government Act by participating in White House meetings on acid rain and, shortly after leaving his government post, lobbying on behalf of the Canadian government on the issue. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, has referred its findings to the Justice Department, which has opened an inquiry into the Deaver case.
In addition to the questions involving acid rain lobbying, Dingell said, his subcommittee is looking into Deaver's representation of other foreign governments, including South Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Clients Defended
In his statement, Deaver strongly defended his consulting firm's lobbying for foreign clients. He said that they were all "strong allies of the United States" and that his lobbying efforts helped to improve diplomatic relations.
"To the extent that friendly foreign governments are able to work smoothly and effectively in Washington, relations between the two nations can only be improved," he said.
Deaver said that he has "faithfully adhered" to the Foreign Agents Registration Act and that many other lobbyists, including former members of Congress, represent foreign clients.
"Despite numerous amendments to that act since it was first enacted nearly 60 years ago," he said, "Congress never has even suggested the impropriety of . . . what these critics now assert."
Dingell challenged Deaver's attack on his critics, noting that a number of prominent Republicans--including former White House Budget Director David A. Stockman--had leveled charges. "If the charges are in any way mean-spirited or politically motivated, they are motivated on both sides of the aisle," Dingell said.