Law Firms

E-Mails Suggest Law Firm Considered ‘Dirty-Tricks’ Plan to Discredit Chamber Critics

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The Hunton & Williams law and lobbying firm considered proposals from three data security contractors to undermine opponents of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, according to e-mail released by hackers angered by the CEO of one of the security firms.

The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post have stories on the e-mails, first revealed last week by the liberal blog ThinkProgress. According to the Post, the e-mails reveal plans for a “dirty-tricks-style campaign” against Chamber critics. The security firms, which called themselves “Team Themis,” hoped to win a $2 million Chamber contract with their proposals.

A Hunton & Williams spokesperson declined to comment when contacted by the Washington Post and the ABA Journal. According to ThinkProgress, the law firm earned $1.1 million from the Chamber in 2009.

The Chamber said in a statement that it never requested such a plan, nor was it discussed with anyone at the Chamber. However, some of the e-mails apparently refer to contacts made with Chamber personnel, according to the stories. One e-mail refers to a demonstration session that “sold the Chamber” and another discusses briefing the Chamber on results that could get the organization to “pony up the cash for Phase II,” according to the Washington Post.

The e-mails show that Hunton & Williams first began discussing the proposals with Team Themis last fall. One proposal e-mailed to two Hunton & Williams lawyers suggests giving anti-Chamber groups a false document that could later be exposed as a fake. The proposals also suggest launching cyber-attacks.

Hackers obtained the e-mails after breaking into the computers of one of the security firms, HBGary Federal. The hackers were angered after HBGary Federal’s chief executive said he had identified leaders of the hackers’ group and he would sell the information to Bank of America, thought to be a target of WikiLeaks. GBGary Federal declined to comment to the Post, while the other two security firms released statements distancing themselves from the project.

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