Roberts: Lawyer, Judge, Nominee … and Ex-Lobbyist

Posted July 20, 2005 at 6:44pm

Add “lobbyist” to the long list of jobs held by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

For a brief period in 2001, the D.C. Circuit Court Judge — then a lawyer with the white-shoe Washington law firm Hogan and Hartson — registered to lobby on behalf of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, according to filings with the Senate Office of Public Records.

While the exact nature of the work is unclear, filings show that Roberts was lobbying the Office of Management and Budget on the impact of Food and Drug Administration rules on the labeling and marketing of cosmetic and over-the-counter products.

Roberts, by then an expert Supreme Court litigator, was apparently making a First Amendment argument on behalf of greater flexibility in marketing cosmetic products, filings show.

The work came at a time with the cosmetics industry was pushing the FDA to loosen labeling requirements on a host of products, including sunscreen, soap and over-the-counter drugs.

A spokeswoman for the CTFA declined to comment specifically on the firm’s work for the association.

“CTFA has been represented by Hogan and Hartson for a number of years,” Irene Malbin said. “While he was a partner there, John Roberts did participate in that representation, along with other lawyers at Hogan and Hartson. It’s a matter of our policy we don’t discuss the specifics of these kinds of issues.”

Calls to Hogan and Hartson were not returned.

The CTFA was one of many corporate clients Roberts represented in his 10 years at the firm, before being confirmed in 2003 to serve on the D.C. Circuit. But except for CTFA, they all had Roberts doing legal work, not lobbying. Roberts’ clients included Toyota, Chrysler, the National Mining Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Registering to lobby is not unheard of for a corporate litigator, but it’s considered somewhat unusual for a member of the elite pool of lawyers considered contenders for a seat on the Supreme Court.

“It’s unusual for a litigator to be involved in a lobbying effort, but there could be a myriad of good explanations for doing so,” said Kenneth Gross, a lobbying and law expert at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher and Flom.

Lawyers only need to register as lobbyists once that work exceeds 20 percent of the total effort for a client. Gross said that threshold is high enough that it rarely describes lobbying work done by lawyers, “but many people register below that in an abundance of caution.”

At the time Roberts was lobbying the OMB, it was headed by Mitch Daniels, a fellow Indiana native.

While Roberts has been a longtime presence in the Washington legal community — and a member in good standing of the Republican National Lawyers Association — he has not been a major donor, like some of his peers.

Since the 1994 campaign cycle, Roberts has given a little more than $11,000 in donations to federal candidates and political action committees, according to a search of donations on PoliticalMoneyLine.

The only sitting Member of Congress who has received donations from Roberts is Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), who received a $500 check from Roberts in his 2000 campaign for re-election.

Roberts did give a donation to his biggest patron of all, President Bush, whose 2000 White House bid took in $1,000 from the new nominee. (Roberts advised the president’s brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, during the 2000 presidential recount.)

Though born in Buffalo, N.Y., Roberts also grew up in Indiana, which helps explain the Lugar donation and the $1,000 he gave to Peter Rusthoven, a long-shot Hoosier who lost the GOP primary in 1998 for a race which Sen. Evan Bayh (D) eventually won in a landslide.

Roberts also gave $1,235 to the successful 1998 Senate campaign of Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.).

Other than that, his donations were strictly to the political action committee of his law firm, Hogan and Hartson.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.