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D.C.'s Blue-Chip Barristers

The Superlawyers by Joseph C Goulden Weybright and Talley 408pp $8.95

By David J. Scheffer

WITHIN THE NEXT TWO months President Nixon is likely to accept a sizeable portion of the resignations he has recently requested from approximately 2000 Federal bureaucrats. His admitted purpose is to streamline Washington's bureaucracy, shifting its power centers into more productive positions closer to his will. Come February, decision making in Washington probably will be found in offices closely tied with the White House Staff or located within the Old Executive Office Building itself.

Yet one nucleus of policy-making, and thus power, will exhibit neglible movement. For it already resides quite securely not in the White House or the Defense Department but in plush D.C. law offices overlooking 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Within these offices there exists a special brand of lawyers who practice a little-known but powerfully used manipulative art, one that twists much of the Federal establishment into a privately controlled institution.

Joseph C. Goulden's The Superlawyers--The Small and Powerful World of the Great Washington Law Firms, exposes the influential policy-making Washington lawyers who work outside of the public view to manipulate the Washington bureaucracy in favor of their clients, a large portion of which are corporations. Their ranks include Clark Clifford, perhaps the wealthiest and most sought after Washington Lawyer, and another blue-chip barrister. Abe Fortas, whose connections with Lyndon Johnson reaped substantial rewards for several corporate clients.

THE SUPERLAWYERS law firms include President Nixon's former employer. Mudge, Rose, Guthrie and Alexander. Golden's history of Mudge Rose throws light on recent developments between four players in the Superlawyers' world Nixon, Mudge Rose, Pepsico, Inc., and the FTC. After his 1962 defeat in California, Nixon joined Mudge Rose and represented Pepsico on the East Coast and internationally. Goulden discloses that at that time Pepsico offered Nixon a substantial annual retainer (thought to be close to $120,000 a year) to soften up foreign leaders who often make it tough on multinational corporations. When Nixon moved to the White House, Mudge Rose followed close behind, expanding its Washington operation.

Within the past week, Donald M. Kendall, chairman of Pepsico and this year's Industry division head of the Committee to re-elect the President, announced that an agreement to place Pepsi-Cola on the Soviet market had been concluded with the Ministry of Trade. Nixon's years with Mudge Rose may throw light on the recent agreement.

Before the announcement, the Federal Trade Commission had been considering bringing Pepsico to trial over possible anti-trust violations in the corporation's acquisition of Rheingold Corporation.

Nixon's connections may explain why, simultaneously with Kendall's announcement, the FTC made known an agreement with Pepsico under which the corporation agreed not to move to assume or exercise actual control of Rheingold before December 4. The possibility that Mudge Rose heavily influenced the FTC on Pepsico's behalf is probable, considering the firm's past relationship with the corporation.

How do Washington's top law firms obtain such power and influence? Most develop a small class of Superlawyers, mostly Ivy educated, whose professions range between tax legislation, regulatory standards, international treaties, and Ford Motor Corporation litigations. They become, Goulden writes, "the interface that holds together the economic partnership of business and government."

For Superlawyers are more than legal representatives Government is an existential fact which they manipulate to the benefit of their corporate clients. Government subsidies legalized price fixing, and deterrents to competition are their clients' rewards while the lawyers themselves collect from $35 to $250 per hour. They avoid publicity seeking, bullying Federal agents, or taking undue advantage of Congressional and Executive connections. They have their own methods, the "graceful technique is to smother, to overwhelm, and always with good natured tolerance of the bureaucrats."

THE SUPERLAWYERS wisdom is employed to utilize, not destroy, the Federal bureaucracy. In the process, they become foot soldiers for the Corporate State. And the game they play meets little opposition. The cigarette controversy typifies the Superlawyers' ability to juggle the controls of governmental regulation. In early 1964, when the Public Health Service issued its famed report on the causal connection between smoking and bad health, the FTC proposed rules requiring that tobacco companies warnings both on cigarette packages and in advertising. Under the direction of Abe Fortas, who represented Phillip Morris, Washington Lawyers for the big tobacco companies formed a solid coalition to help the tobacco lobby. Fortas's strategy for the Superlawyers was threefold: 1) Get the issue away from the FTC and into Congress, where the industry has more influence. 2) Placate the public with a "self-regulation code." 3) Accept a weak-worded health warning on packages. In return for this "concession," refuse to give up advertising, especially on TV.

True to form, the Fortas Brigade succeeded In Goulden's words, the "lawyers helped write testimony, and they marched through the hearings and they stayed close around executive sessions to make sure dissidents didn't tamper with the script." Conclusion: the Superlawyers shaped the cigarette law and extracted every once of benefit from it.

Though the focus of his book is on Washington's Kingpin private lawyers. Goulden does not ignore the rising number of Washington Lawyers dedicated to the public interest. According to his interviews, most Superlawyers despise these unorthodox crusaders. For the new breed of consumer oriented lawyers thrives on exposing the secret deals Superlawyers earn thousands on. Ralph Nader and his confederates show little respect for those Washington Lawyers who bargain their way into positions of power and reap huge financial windfalls for their corporate clients. The new lawyers ask: what is the lawyer's responsibility to society, as opposed to his responsibility to an individual client? Should cases which involve major public-policy issues be resolved in full view of the public or in seclusion behind the doors of Covington and Burling?

Goulden concludes that the lawyer's highest responsibility lies with society, not with the corporations. He warns the Superlawyers that their secretive world no longer remains secure. They must begin answering to the public for the policies which originate from their offices. Seeing himself as a crusader in exposing the Superlawyers. Goulden views the traditional Washington Lawyer running scared: "...he is feeling the same sting of 'responsibility' as are corporate executives; he is learning to live with the awareness that his self-prescribed privacy no longer insulates him from the rest of the world."

Though Goulden's work occasionally stumbles on lengthy case studies, it uncovers a world not many outside of Washington know or care about. No one can really know the power structure in Washington until they know the sphere of influence Goulden unearths in superlawyers.

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