Tom Davis and the Washington Post
The Washington Post today ran a puzzlingÂ article about Tom Davis that leads on the front page and covers approximately two entire back pages with, well, I’m not really sure what.Â I suppose if you spread ink thin enough, it can go a long way, but I kept trying to find the core of the story and concluded that there was very little there there.
The article (“Wife, Friend Tie Congressman to Consulting Firm”) relates that Congressman Davis has a close and long-standing relationship with Donald Upson, an executive with ICG Government.Â ICG provides consulting services to goverment contractors.Â Beyond the personal relationship between Davis and Upson, a relationship that pre-dates Davis’s Congressional service, ICG also employs Jeannemarie Devolites, the Congressman’s wife.
The article’s thrust is that ICG uses the Upson/Davis relationship to assist its clients when they encounter problems with the federal government procurement system.Â Jeannemarie, according to the Post, Â makes a high 5-figure salary for approximately half-time workÂ on behalf of ICG.
What is glaringly absent from the Post article is even an allegation, let alone a provable fact, that either Mr. or Mrs. Davis have in any way acted unethically or improperly.Â The anecdotes related are fairly commonplace examples of Members trying to be alert to constituent needs.Â To the extent the article implies that something is amiss (and that implicationÂ permeates the article) it never puts its journalisticÂ finger on precisely what the problem is.Â Â
Maybe I’ve become jaded from too much time in Northern Virginia, but I kept looking, with no success,Â for where the story was going.Â If the story is that Davis is an influential Congressman who has friends of long-standing who have access to him on issues involving government contracts (Davis is Chairman of the House Government Reform Committee), Â I’m left yawning.Â There is no allegation that Davis has ever used his office to do harm to the public interest on behalf of others.Â The story recites that Mrs. Davis does not lobby Mr. Davis on matters that are related to her employment at ICG. Unless the Post plants a 24/7 monitor on the couple, I guess we can never know for sure, but there is no recitation of any instance that casts doubt on the Davises’ claim that they keep their business and personal dealings separate.
Over the years, I’ve known a lot of Members of Congress and their wives and I know a lot of people who know a lot of MCs and their wives.Â In my work, I and everyone else in similar circumstances have sometimes relied on these personal relationships to gain informationÂ or access on issues that affect clients.Â At the end of the day, the best I get from this is access. I still have to make a cogent argument that what is concerning me or my clientsÂ should concern the Member of Congress in his or her official capacity.Â Nothing in the article even hints that Tom Davis has ever put his name to something that he does not believe or that would not be within his normal scope of official interest.Â
The congressional spouse issue is one that has come upÂ fairly frequently.Â It probably is the case that these people sometimes get hiredÂ and paid because of whom theyÂ married. But putting a halt to thatÂ would require a lot of intrusive policing and subjective standards about when particular employment is related to a Member of Congress’s position as opposed to the capabilities and merits of the spouse.
AÂ point that the Post fails to pursue,Â having apparently exhausted themselves with a lot ofÂ breathless prose aboutÂ very little of substance, is employment relationships of members of theÂ General Assembly (Jeannemarie Devolites Davis is, of course, a Virginia State Senator).Â I would love to see the Post or the RTD do a thorough survey of what our part-time legislators do for what they get paid and by whom.Â Â There may be a story there.Â Â Â
PS:Â The Post acknowledges that the House Ethics Committee has cleared the Devolites/ICG relationship as long asÂ no personal benefit is received for official acts.