House Dems urge Boehner to provide information on DOMA lawyer contract

May 18, 2011

House Democrats are pushing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) for information regarding the contract between House Republicans and the lawyer hired to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.

Reps. Robert Brady (D-Pa.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas) sent a letter to Boehner Wednesday requesting that all members of the Committee on House Administration be able to review the contract with Paul Clement, the Bancroft PLLC lawyer representing Congress in the matter.

Earlier this month, House Republicans agreed to a new deal with Clement that would pay him $500,000 to defend DOMA, which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.

Law firm King & Spalding had initially agreed to represent House Republicans, but later withdrew from the case. Clement subsequently resigned from the firm and agreed to join Bancroft PLLC so he could follow through and defend the law.

According to the letter, Brady, Lofgren and Gonzalez have yet to receive any reply from Boehner’s office regarding earlier requests for the contract.

“During a hearing of the Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee last week, we learned that this contract may violate the fundamental principle of the Anti-Deficiency Act by improperly committing taxpayer funds without appropriate authorization,” the letter stated. 

“We were also disturbed to learn that the House General Counsel’s office did not seek guidance from the Committee on Ethics regarding the 25 percent discount on non-attorney time provided by the contract, which still provides for more than $500 an hour in attorneys fees to be paid by taxpayers,” the letter continued.

As such, the House Democrats have requested that Boehner instruct the General Counsel to furnish the committee “a list of the hourly rate paid each employee of the Bancroft firm working on the litigation and an explanation on how the blended rate was calculated.”

According to the letter, Brady, Lofgren and Gonzalez also question why neither the Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration nor the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group were advised of the legal firm selection or provided the opportunity to review the contract.

The House Democrats join Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in requesting Boehner’s urgent response. In April, Pelosi sent letters to the Speaker regarding issues of transparency, cost and ethical considerations in the earlier contract with King & Spalding.

“The American people deserve a fuller explanation about the circumstances surrounding the decision to spend $500,000, and most likely much more, of their tax dollars to defend this indefensible statute,” the letter concluded.


By Debbie Siegelbaum - 05/18/11 06:33 PM ET