Deaver faces conflict-of interest hearings in House

Now it is Michael Deaver's turn. After weeks of publicity about his lobbying activities, the former White House deputy chief of staff is due to testify today before a House subcommittee probing possible violations of federal conflict-of-interest laws. Mr. Deaver continues to affirm that he never used his close ties with President Reagan to help business clients.

The scheduled closed hearing in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations takes place against this backdrop of developments:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is conducting an inquiry into Deaver's activities as the Justice Department weighs whether to appoint an independent counsel.

The General Accounting Office (GAO), after a five-month study, this week told Congress that Deaver may have violated conflict-of-interest laws in his lobbying on behalf of Canada on the acid-rain issue. It has referred its report to the Justice Department.

The White House has confirmed that Deaver has returned his White House pass and no longer receives a copy of the President's daily schedule.

As further details come to light about the activities of the lobbying firm of Michael K. Deaver & Associates, there is talk of tightening ethics laws governing the activities of federal employees after they leave office. The law bars a former public official from lobbying his former agency for one year and from lobbying on issues he worked on for two years.

At the moment the spotlight is on Deaver. But members of Congress are concerned about an escalating pattern of influence hawking by former federal officials. Besides Deaver, about a dozen other former Reagan White House officials have left government and gone into lucrative consulting and public relations firms.

Throughout the Deaver case, President Reagan has remained politically untouched. Although his administration has been beset by ethical problems and even criminal convictions, the public clearly does not associate him with any wrongdoing or appearance of wrongdoing by his aides.

Among the issues to be taken up by the House subcommittee is Deaver's work for Canada. A GAO official told Congress that Deaver may have violated the ethics law by participating in at least 15 discussions with US and Canadian officials on acid rain while at the White House and later lobbying for the Canadian government on the acid-rain issue.

The GAO also raised a question about Deaver's participation in a meeting last fall with Drew Lewis, the US special envoy on acid rain. The GAO concluded that Mr. Lewis should have been considered a White House official. The meeting took place five months after Deaver left office.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Deaver called the GAO report ``a mouse.'' He denied that the acid-rain issue had come up in at least 15 discussions. He said he had participated in five meetings but not ``personally and substantially'' on a ``particular matter involving specific parties,'' which the law prohibits.

Other issues are also expected to be addressed in the congressional hearing. The subcommittee has been looking into a meeting Deaver had earlier this year with Budget Director James C. Miller III on the subject of the B-1 bomber. The plane is manufactured by Rockwell International Corporation, a client of Deaver.

Also under scrutiny is Deaver's contacts with the Treasury Department on behalf of a South Korean steel company.

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