Bush Aide Accused of Lobbying for UIGEA

10 November 2008

According to a letter obtained by IGamingNews, United States Representative Steve Cohen is asking whether a top presidential adviser appointed this year, who lobbied against Internet gambling before his appointment, was involved in pushing to finalize the proposed UIGEA regulations on behalf of a former lobbying client.

Mr. Cohen is soliciting Fred F. Fielding, the chief White House lawyer, to investigate William B. Wichterman's level of involvement with the UIGEA during Mr. Wichterman's time as President George W. Bush's special assistant and deputy director of public liason.

Mr. Wichterman, who was appointed by Mr. Bush in April, was as recently as March employed by Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C., where he lobbied on behalf of the National Football League -- one of Internet gambling's most vociferous opponents across the last decade and, by extension, a proponent of the UIGEA.

According to Friday's letter, Mr. Cohen, Democrat of Tennessee, has accused Mr. Wichterman of being "a source of considerable political pressure to speed this regulation through to finalization," which, for Mr. Wichterman, would pose a conflict of interest with his White House duties.

Currently, the proposed regulations for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act are before the Office of Management and Budget, having been submitted on Oct. 21 by the Treasury Department.

According to the Federal Register -- the government's official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, notices and executive orders -- the Treasury and Federal Reserve Board have yet to sign off on the UIGEA regulations.

Mr. Cohen has asked Mr. Fielding whether Mr. Wichterman disclosed to Mr. Fielding's office his conflict of interest on issues regarding the UIGEA -- if so, Mr. Cohen asked further whether Mr. Wichterman was allowed to work on these issues anyway.

Moreover, Mr. Cohen has asked Mr. Fielding to provide a record of correspondence between Mr. Wichterman's office and the Treasury, the Fed and the budget office.

Mr. Wictherman is a veteran on The Hill, having served as a policy adviser to former Senate Majority Leader William H. Frist, one of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act's chief architects. Mr. Wichterman left that post in September 2005 for Covington & Burling.

Click here to view a copy of Mr. Cohen's letter to Mr. Fielding.

Chris Krafcik is the editor of IGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Mo.