Feder says he is eager to explore the way Korge does business at the county. “There are a large number of deals I want to take depositions on,” he says. “I want to depose the company officials involved, and in some cases the subcontractors, particularly those at the airport, to attempt to trace the flow of money to Mr. Korge, his law firm, and to other entities. We are concerned that there may have been activities that Mr. Korge participated in that may not have been appropriate and would potentially impact the reputation of anyone who was affiliated with Mr. Korge.”
Asked to elaborate on what he means by activities “that may not have been appropriate,” Feder would only say, “If Mr. Korge has involved himself and the law firm in government lobbying without proper disclosure, that would be a breach of the law. If he obtained money from contracts in an improper way.” Feder adds that he has no evidence of wrongdoing by Korge, only “good-faith suspicions that are a serious concern.”
A lawsuit against über-lobbyist Chris Korge could prove both embarrassing and costly
Another potential area of exposure for Korge is his fundraising activity on behalf of the Democratic Party. In recent years he has emerged as one of the biggest fundraisers in the nation for the Democrats and is a vice chairman for finance for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Earlier this month he hosted a fundraiser for First Lady Hillary Clinton, and he has had the president to his house for private receptions on at least two occasions in the past year. He also has been a major fundraiser for Vice President Al Gore's campaign.
(Tew says Feder is trying to schedule Korge's deposition for the day after the presidential election. “It's just a cheap, second-grade trick to try and annoy us,” Tew grumbles. “They know that the day after the election Chris is either going to be celebrating or commiserating in Tennessee with Al Gore.”)
Powell's lawsuit contends some of the money that should have rightly gone to him was instead used to support Korge's political activities. Feder says Korge allocated a portion of the office for DNC officials to use on a regular basis. “The DNC was allowed to use office space, telephones, postage, and supplies of the law firm that were not an insignificant amount of money,” Feder alleges. “We're not talking about a few stamps here; we're talking about a lot of money, in excess of $10,000.”
According to Federal Election Commission (FEC) rules, if a person provides anything of value -- including office space, telephones, supplies -- to a campaign, it must be reported. Failure to do so could lead to a civil fine.
There is no record of Korge reporting to the FEC so-called in-kind contributions on behalf of the Democrats. Tew calls the issue of possible FEC violations “total bullshit -- it's only an attempt to embarrass Chris,” he says. (DNC officials declined to comment.)
Feder claims the firm's records show that Korge was trying to hide the DNC's long-distance phone bills by attributing them to Powell. He also says he recently learned that Korge was quietly trying to have the DNC reimburse him for the expenses, the theory being that reimbursement would indicate they were not contributions. Says Feder: “That indicates to me someone who is trying to cover his tracks after getting his hand caught in the cookie jar.”
Mixed metaphors aside, this lawsuit has the potential to become extremely messy, with all sorts of seemingly unrelated and potentially embarrassing issues being unearthed.