Lobbying firm hires golfing partner of Clinton Global USA linked to Japanese firms

January 28, 1993|By Journal of Commerce

Paul Berry, a Little Rock, Ark., banker and frequent golfing partner of President Clinton, has signed a deal with a Washington lobbying firm that is known primarily for its client base of major Japanese business interests.

Although Mr. Berry has never lived in Washington nor held a professional position there and appears to have scant experience at the federal level, he will receive about $100,000 a year from the lobbying firm, Global USA Inc., according to sources who were in the capital last week for the inauguration of the new president.

Mr. Berry is keeping his position as vice president of public affairs at Union National Bank, making his association with Global, in effect, a part-time job. As his first duties for the firm, Mr. Berry met with some Global clients while he was in Washington for the inauguration.

Mr. Berry will not lobby for foreign businesses, both he and Global executives said this week. They said that he is a longtime friend of a Global executive and that the timing of his hiring and his friendship with the president are coincidental. Global would not comment on Mr. Berry's salary.

Mr. Berry provides Global, a small firm of nine professional lobbyists, its second inside track to the new administration. Michael Brown, the son of Commerce Secretary Ronald H. Brown, joined the firm last year.

Mr. Berry insisted that he will represent only U.S. businesses, but they account for only 25 percent of Global's business. Its major clients include All Nippon Airways, Hitachi Ltd. and Japan's Federation of Construction Contractors. The firm also represents South Korea's Hyundai conglomerate.

Mr. Berry described himself as a friend of Mr. Clinton's and said they have often played golf together. He denied that this was a consideration in his hiring by Global.

During inauguration week, Mr. Berry was brought in to meet Global's U.S. and foreign clients, even though he won't represent any foreign companies, according to George Kopp, Global's general counsel.

When discussing his plans to improve ethics in the federal government, Mr. Clinton has focused on how damaging even the perception of influence-peddling can be to public faith in government.

Government ethics advocate Charles Lewis this week said Mr. Berry's new job shows how difficult it is to stop influence-peddling.

"It's like trying to dam up a creek with chicken wire. In Washington, the perception of power is what counts," said Mr. Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity. "Lobbyists get clients because of their perceived access to power."

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