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Posted at 05:55 PM ET, 04/20/2011

Pelosi questions Boehner on DOMA lawyer in second letter


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was in her home state on Wednesday, attending President Obama’s Facebook town hall. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was traveling in Afghanistan.

But the two have become pen pals this week, sending a flurry of letters back and forth regarding the House’s intervention in the legal battle over the Defense of Marriage Act.

House Republicans want to defend the law, following the Justice Department’s decision to no longer oppose challenges to it. The 1996 law defines marriage as between a man and a woman and denies marriage-based federal benefits to same-sex married couples. Justice lawyers say it’s unconstitutional.

The latest installment in the correspondence came Wednesday, when Pelosi sent a second letter to Boehner this week posing a series of questions regarding the House’s hiring of former Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement as outside counsel in the DOMA legal fight.

Pelosi wrote to Boehner that since Democrats were not provided with information on the contract with Clement before its signing late last week, several questions remained unanswered.

The questions range from issues of transparency (was there a call for bids?) and cost (how was Clement’s $520-an-hour rate negotiated?) to ethics (what restrictions will be placed on the lobbying practice of Clement’s firm?).

The letter was a response to Boehner’s letter on Monday stating that funds should be redirected from the Department of Justice to the House in order to pay for the legal defense of DOMA. That letter itself was a response to a letter from Pelosi to Boehner last month expressing concern over the cost of the legal battle.

The full text of Pelosi’s latest letter is below.

April 20, 2011

The Honorable John A. Boehner

Speaker of the House

H-232, The Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

The release of the contract between the House of Representatives and the law firm of King and Spalding concerning litigation on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) raises many questions. While the Democratic Members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) opposed the decision of the Republican Members to authorize involvement in the DOMA lawsuits, that opposition in no way diminished the need for normal oversight of the terms of any contract signed by the Republican Leadership obligating the House of Representatives to pay half a million dollars of taxpayer money for private attorneys. Yet the Democratic representatives on the BLAG, and the Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration, were provided with no information about the contract prior to or, at the time of, its being signed on April 14th. Since Democratic members were excluded from all negotiations, I would appreciate your providing the following information concerning the contract’s transparency, cost, the discount and the restrictions placed upon King and Spalding’s vast lobbying practice:

TRANSPARENCY

Did the BLAG or any House entity issue a call for bids, or was the selection of King and Spalding made as a sole source contract? Who specifically made the decision to hire this firm, and what criteria were used? Why was the Democratic membership of the Committee on House Administration not informed of the ongoing negotiations with King and Spalding and provided an opportunity to participate in order to assure a transparent process to prevent taxpayer dollars from being wasted?

COST

How was the $520 dollar an hour “blended rate” for attorneys negotiated, and how was the $500,000 fee established? Was there a determination that $500,000 would be sufficient to pay for the complete legal representation in the 12 pending cases, and if so, who made that determination and how? Is $520 an hour the regular rate normally charged by King and Spalding attorneys? What are the specific hourly rates that will be charged by each of the King and Spalding attorneys listed in section 5 of the contract? Is it anticipated that King and Spalding will represent the House in all 12 pending DOMA cases from the trial stage through any and all appeals?

DISCOUNT AND ETHICS

The contract states that other fees may be assessed at 75% of the firm’s regular charges. What “other fees” are contemplated, and how was the 75% rate established? Is it the standard practice of King and Spalding to give a 25% discount for non-attorney time to all government agencies or does the discount only pertain to the House Republican leadership? Did the Ethics Committee review the proposed contract discount to ascertain whether it complied with all House ethics rules governing the provision of gratuities to the House by a commercial entity? If so, please provide the written opinion of the Ethics Committee.

LOBBYING

Please provide a copy of all written restrictions imposed on King and Spalding’s extensive lobbying practice to ensure that no conflicts of interest arise on behalf of its extensive list of corporate clients while that firm is employed by the House.

Thank you for your timely response to this letter and my letter of April 18th.

best regards,

NANCY PELOSI

Democratic Leader

By  |  05:55 PM ET, 04/20/2011

 
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