The records of some of Virginia's top GOP politicians, including the party's gubernatorial candidate, are being subpoenaed by a liability-insurance company that is embroiled in a lawsuit with the state Republican Party.
The legal action draws attention to a case that many Republicans had tried to put behind them. In December, the Republicans settled a lawsuit brought by state Democrats seeking damages over the party members' repeated eavesdropping during Democratic conference calls in 2002.
The Republican Party now is suing its insurance company, Union Insurance Co. of Nebraska, for declining to cover the $750,000 settlement the Republicans paid to Democrats. In response, the company sent subpoenas to gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore; the campaign committees of U.S. Sens. George Allen and John W. Warner; several of Virginia's congressional representatives, including Frank R. Wolf; and to House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (Stafford), according to an attorney for the insurer.
The subpoenas include demands for copies of e-mails and other correspondence between the politicians and the Republican Party of Virginia regarding contributions the politicians made to the party at the time it agreed to settle with Democrats.
An attorney for Union Insurance contends that the contributions were payments to help the party pay for the lawsuit and said that the company hopes to prove that, as a result of those payments, the GOP did not suffer monetary damages.
"We're trying to find out what we can about who actually paid what and why," said Christopher C. Spencer, the attorney for Union Insurance. "When you file a lawsuit, you prompt people to start asking questions. The Republican Party is suing us and saying that they lost money because of our coverage decision. The information we have is that they haven't lost a dime."
The party filed the lawsuit against Union Insurance on July 18 seeking $950,000, which includes $200,000 in attorneys' fees and other expenses. Bryan Meals, an attorney for the state party, said that the subpoenas were standard fare and that party members would comply.
"We don't have anything to hide at all," he said. "Everything the party did in resolving the case -- in defending the case up until this day -- is subject to public scrutiny. We're going to comply with all the rules."
The case began with two incidents in which the state Republican Party's executive director eavesdropped on conference calls among Democrats in March 2002 as they planned strategy during a redistricting battle. Staffers for Kilgore, who was state attorney general, reported the eavesdropping after they became aware of it.
The executive director and the party chairman pleaded guilty in 2003 to various charges.
Democrats said Kilgore did not respond fast enough and have tried to discover whether anyone in his office had knowledge of the eavesdropping earlier than they had acknowledged. Kilgore said that he knew nothing of the eavesdropping and that his staffers acted properly.
Several observers of Virginia politics said that the association of Kilgore's name with a dark time in the party's recent history is not an image he wants to project during the gubernatorial race.
"The Kilgore campaign cannot be very happy about this, even though, from a strictly legalistic point, they have nothing to worry about," said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of political science at George Mason University.
A spokesman for Kilgore said the candidate had not received the subpoena as of Thursday.
"We don't see how this has any impact on the campaign," said Tim Murtaugh, Kilgore's press secretary. "Jerry did the right thing. This is between the state party and its insurance company."
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 8 in federal court in Richmond.