Preston Gates & Ellis
|Limited Liability Partnership|
|Defunct||2007 (merged into K&L Gates)|
Preston Gates & Ellis, LLP, also known as Preston Gates, was a law firm with offices in the United States, China and Taiwan. Its main office was in the IDX Tower in Seattle, Washington. In 2007 the firm ceased to exist, merging with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham to form K&L Gates.
In 1883, Harold Preston, born 1858 in Illinois, the son of Brig. Gen. Simon Manly Preston, arrived in Seattle and established his own law practice. Together with O.B. Thorgrimson, an attorney originally from Chicago, Preston expanded the practice throughout the early 1900s. In 1949 Jim Ellis joined the firm, and was integral in involving the firm in public service projects for the city of Seattle, and opened the firm's Washington, DC office in 1973. Ellis eventually became a name partner in the firm, which was known in the 1980s as Preston Thorgrimson Ellis & Holman.
In 1924, Roger Shidler and George Harroun established another law firm based in Washington State. William H. Gates, Sr. joined the firm in 1964, and as principal counsel expanded the firm's clients to include high technology, manufacturing, distribution, service and other businesses. By 1990, the firm was known as Shidler McBroom Gates and Lucas.
The firm's Washington, DC office is known as Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP. When it was opened in 1973, partners included Emanuel Rouvelas, former counsel to the Senate Commerce Committee, and former Congressman Lloyd Meeds (D-WA). Among its major clients is Microsoft, which paid PGE over $1,380,000 for lobbying various federal government institutions. During that time the chairman of the firm was William Neukom, who was employed by Microsoft as head of its legal department.
Abramoff lobbying scandal
From 1994 to 2001, the firm employed Jack Abramoff, a Republican lobbyist later convicted for illegal corruption activities. Abramoff was hired by partner Emanuel Rouvelas following the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994: According to the Seattle Times, although the firm's representatives were half Democratic and half Republican, they "didn't have a conservative, Christian Coalition Republican with strong ties to the new Republican leadership," so Abramoff was hired.
Preston Gates reimbursed Abramoff for trips he funded to Saipan; the firm was later reimbursed by Marianas officials. When Abramoff left Preston Gates for Greenberg Traurig in 2001, he took with him a team of lobbyists that formed the core of "Team Abramoff". He also took with him trade secrets the firm had developed for influence peddling such as those developed through Slate an online political magazine established by Microsoft that was later sold to the Washington Post, the news source Abramoff credits in Vanity Fair with initially discrediting him in the eyes of his clients, possibly in retaliation for Team Abramoff. Preston Gates and K&L Gates continue to scapegoat Abramoff for practices that under the leadership of Bill Neukom, continue even today. Those practices involve lobbying to put the firm in the best possible perception. In July 2006 the 15 year editor of the Seattle Weekly "bowed out" likely owing to these efforts. The Seattle Weekly was the most vocal of the papers in regard to the connection between Abramoff and the Gates Family. The paper disclosed that Abramoff was responsible for bringing Ralph Reed on as a subcontractor in 1999 and working with Grover Norquist, two figures now prominent in what has become LobbyGate.
In January 2006, CNMI Governor Benigno Fitial demanded that Preston Gates & Ellis and Greenberg Traurig return much of the money originally paid for lobbying services, claiming that "the positive benefits of those services have been undone by the wide scandal brought on by the criminal charges against Abramoff."
- Jones, Ashby (December 15, 2006). "Introducing . . . K&L Gates!". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 26, 2010.
- "William H. Gates Sr., Co-Chair". Retrieved November 26, 2010.
- A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of The City of Seattle and County of King, Washington (New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903), pages 118-120.
- Preston|Gates|Ellis LLP:Firm Profile::Our History, Accessed on February 12, 2006.
- Nelson, Robert T. "Democratic Firm Learns to Do Business With New Congress". The Seattle Times, January 27, 1995.
- The Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/25/AR2006062500185.html. Missing or empty
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- Genna, Chris (June 25, 2006). "Preston Gates has grown in both Washingtons". Puget Sound Business Journal.
- Richman, Dan (July 5, 2006). "Seattle Weekly editor bows out after 15 years". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
- Ravelo, John (January 31, 2006). "'Return Abramoff money'". Saipan Tribune. Retrieved February 22, 2012.