The Perils Of Quoting Fraternal Order Of Police's Jim Pasco On Conflicts Of Interest

USAT logoUSA Today quoted Fraternal Order of Police executive director Jim Pasco criticizing the nation's largest association of police chiefs for accepting a donation from Taser International's foundation after the group issued guidelines on the appropriate use of stun guns. In choosing Pasco to comment on the association's ethics, the paper ignored Pasco's own lengthy list of conflicts of interest and ethically dubious actions. 

Pasco is often quoted in media accounts noting his group's opposition to the Tiahrt amendment, which prevents investigators from revealing federal firearms tracing information linking guns seized in crimes to the dealers that sell them. Those accounts rarely point out that FOP received $100,000 from a gun industry lobbying group that supports the statute. Big city mayors and gun violence prevention groups have called for the amendment's repeal, saying it ties the hands of law enforcement by making it harder to pursue criminals who buy and sell illegal guns and shields retailers from lawsuits.

According to the USA Today report, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Foundation (IACP) “which has advised thousands of its members on the appropriate use of stun guns, accepted a $300,000 donation from the foundation associated with Taser International, the biggest supplier of stun guns to law enforcement.” The paper reports that in 2007, IACP published guidelines for "selecting, acquiring and using'' stun guns, and cited their increasing use in a report earlier this year.

USA Today reported that “law enforcement and criminal justice analysts said the donation raises questions about the IACP's ability to engage in future reviews involving the technology and whether the contribution represented a de-facto endorsement,” and then quoted Pasco:

“When you accept that kind of donation, you create an impression that you view the product favorably,'' said Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation's largest police union. ”There is an appearance issue here.''

In quoting Pasco, USA Today ignored his own history. Pasco was the subject of a December 2010 Washington Post profile which called the Fraternal Order of Police executive director and lobbyist “a product of the capital's revolving-door culture” with an “unusual” role as a lobbyist representing beer, cigarette, and entertainment companies that “raises questions about possible conflicts of interest,” according to tax law specialists.

According to the Post's reporting, under Pasco's leadership FOP has accepted donations from the gun industry lobby after taking positions favorable to that group, and the organization's positions have repeatedly aligned with the priorities of lobbying clients of Pasco and his wife.

Washington Post pointed to several specific instances of apparent conflict:

  • In 2007, FOP “became pivotal to the debate” when it opposed the repeal of the Tiahrt amendment. The group backed other gun industry priorities in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, FOP's charity received $100,000 from the gun lobby group National Shooting Sports Foundation.
  • In 1998, FOP opposed a bill giving the Food and Drug Administration the ability to regulate tobacco and raise the federal cigarette tax. In addition to leading FOP, Pasco at the time was a lobbyist for Philip Morris, which has paid his firm $600,000.
  • In 2005, while Pasco was receiving $200,000 from Sony to lobby on “Internet theft of intellectual property,” FOP joined a legal brief backing the music industry in an intellectual-property case against a music-sharing website.
  • In both 2008 and 2009, Pasco's wife was a registered lobbyist for Motorola and AT&T, which stood to benefit from a proposal to allot freed-up air waves for public safety. In fall 2009, both IACP and FOP issued statements of support for the proposal. In 2010, neither company hired Pasco's wife's firm. On February 19 of that year, FOP “stunned the law enforcement community” when it reversed its position.