It's hard to know. Richard White hasn't returned my call or email seeking comment. And when I called Mr. Whitner's office Friday and introduced myself, he brusquely said, "I'm in a meeting" and hung up before I could respond.
White was getting paid by Whitner to lobby. But for who? Since White only listed Whitner as his client on lobbying disclosure forms, it's impossible to know exactly what White was doing for his money. For a period of time (2000-2001), both Whitner and White were registered as lobbyists - and Whitner's client list provides some indication of who White might have been working for. But for the past four years, there's no way to know who White's true clients were.
According to Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, Richard White's arrangement with Whitner could raise questions. "If [White] knew that the money was coming from a particular client and simply being passed through to him, then he has the responsibility to list the actual client."
An examination of Richard Whitner's clients provides a strong clue to who those clients were. In 2000, the first year that Richard White registered as a lobbyist for Whitner, Whitner was lobbying for a small group of top-flight defense companies - Lockheed Martin, Litton Industries, and Condor Systems. According to Whitner's disclosure forms, he was lobbying both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for "Department of Defense Programs." Whitner was paid $240,000 total for this work. Whitner, in turn, paid Richard White $20,000.
In 2001, Whitner had another roster of impressive defense contracting clients - Condor, Lockheed, as well as Northrop Grumman and Matra Systems - for which he was paid a total of $200,000. Whitner paid White $40,000 that year.
Whitner did not register as a lobbyist in 2002 or any of the following years, yet Richard White has continued to work for him, for around $40,000 per year. According to White's lobbying disclosure forms, the lobbying has been on "defense spending items," though there's no record of who those clients were. From 2000 to 2005, Whitner paid White $205,000 for his services -- most of that ($145,000) for work for an unknown group of clients.
So what else do we know about Richard Whitner? And what has White been doing for him from the comfort of his own home?
A description of Whitner's company on its website seems to have been fashioned to provide as little information as possible. And here's what else I've been able to find out about the man: 1) back in 1988, he was part owner of a company called Blue Sky Productions, Inc., which made news because of its $13 million deal to import 200,000 M1 rifles from South Korea, 2) A recent SEC filing shows that he's consulted for and invested in KFX, a company that converts coal to a cleaner burning substitute, and 3) he has a strong southern accent (an observation I was able to make during our brief conversation).
But I'd like to know a lot more.