"Despite Denials, New Emails Suggest US Chamber Was Aware Of Private Security Firms’ Espionage Work"
On Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — the big business lobby representing Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, AIG, and other major corporations — released its second denial in the ongoing ChamberLeaks controversy. In it, they claimed that HBGary’s proposal “was never discussed with anyone at the Chamber” and that “the Chamber was not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.” However, at least six separate leaked HBGary emails suggest that, contrary to their denials, the Chamber was repeatedly made aware of the activities of HBGary and two other private security firms.
As ThinkProgress laid out last week, the lobbying law firm Hunton & Williams (H&W) served as the go-between for the Chamber and three private security firms — HBGary, Palantir, and Berico Technologies — who were collectively known as “Team Themis.” Emails indicate that three top lawyers at Hunton & Williams — John Woods, Bob Quackenboss, and Richard Wyatt — met on multiple occasions with the Chamber in order to brief them on Team Themis’s proposals.
First, emails clearly indicate that the “client” whom Team Themis was assisting was indeed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:
– December 13: Pat Ryan of Berico Technologies emailed John Woods that the team was excited “to provide the client with a powerful, innovative solution” and were “still working through the details of our Phase I research/analysis support for the Chamber.”
– January 9: Pat Ryan emailed his Team Themis colleagues that he had received a message from H&W lawyer Bob Quackenboss’s secretary “requesting a conference call on Mon at 10am to discuss the way ahead for the Chamber effort.”
Despite the Chamber’s insistence that they were “not aware” of HBGary’s proposals, a November 16 email between Aaron Barr of HBGary and Berico Technologies indicated that members of Team Themis had been communicating about contracts with Hunton & Williams:
Other emails records indicate that H&W told Team Themis it was in constant contact with the Chamber about the project:
– November 16: In a Team Themis internal memo, Eli Bingham of Palantir informed the group that H&W would soon “write and return a contract.” A week later, on November 23, a meeting was scheduled where Richard Wyatt, one of H&W’s top laywers, would be “presenting to the client.” Bingham pushed to “have a team representative there, or a demo video.”
– November 23: H&W lawyer John Woods wrote to Sam Kremin of Berico Technologies to explain that fellow H&W laywer Bob Quackenboss was the point man between H&W and the Chamber. “Bob is our key client contact operationally,” Woods wrote, “and he will be called upon to explain to a different group what you all will actually be doing.”
– November 29: After Aaron Barr wrote the email detailing Team Themis’s plan to create a “false document” and “fake insider personnas (sic)” intended to trick the Chamber’s political opponents, Sam Kremin approved and said he would forward the plans to Bob Quackenboss in order to brief the Chamber. “When I give these to Bob,” Kremin wrote, “I will emphasize that these are just examples to give him an idea of what he is pitching to the Chamber.”
– December 1: Matthew Steckman of Palantir updated Team Themis on a meeting he had just concluded with H&W. Discussing the proposed $2 million project fee, Steckman noted that H&W lawyer Richard Wyatt was “looking to push that number to the Chamber.” In the meantime, non-disclosure agreements were being drawn up for the team. H&W was enthusiastic because they saw the “potential for huge gains in this market especially since ‘the results of the election made some people angry.’” Steckman wrote that following Phase I of the project, H&W was “looking forward to briefing the results to the Chamber to get them to pony up the cash for Phase II.” That meeting had been set to take place today, February 14. It’s unclear whether it will still happen.
– February 3: Pat Ryan of Berico Technologies wrote Team Themis that they should meet with H&W lawyer Bob Quackenboss in the next few days to “select focused topic(s) for the demo to the Chamber” that had been scheduled to occur today. Ryan noted that Quackenboss told him that a separate demo had “sold the Chamber in the first place.”
While many questions remain in the unfolding ChamberLeaks controversy, what’s clear is that this multitude of emails clearly contradicts the Chamber’s claim that they were “not aware of these proposals until HBGary’s e-mails leaked.” Rather, H&W’s lawyers appear to have consistently kept the Chamber informed on Team Themis’s progress.