Politics McDermott Gets a Bill for $900K
posted by May 22 at 8:48 AMon
Politico is reporting that Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott, who recently saw a federal appeals court rule against him in his long-running legal battle with Republican Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, has been presented with a request for $880,000 in legal fees from Boehner’s lawyers. (This on top of the $60,000 in damages Boehner has already been awarded.)
It’s not certain that McDermott will have to pay Boehner’s legal fees, or the damages. He could still appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the big bill from Boehner’s legal team points at a dynamic that I wrote about in May of last year, when I did a feature on McDermott and his legal troubles:
For Boehner, another motive for the lawsuit may be purely financial. It’s not that he really needs the $60,000 in damages he could be awarded from McDermott; according to public records, Boehner took in nearly $1 million in campaign contributions in the last two years and has a war chest of nearly $400,000. But the case does help Boehner shake cash out of his conservative constituents in Ohio, many of whom respond well to appeals vilifying a Seattle liberal who “doesn’t know right from wrong,” as a 1998 Boehner fundraising letter put it. And that cash can then be used to fight Boehner’s legal battle or help his political friends. (This same 1998 fundraising letter, like many of Boehner’s political materials, prominently instructs readers to “say Bay-ner.” Apparently, the congressman doesn’t want to be known as Bo-ner.)
But perhaps the biggest incentive is that if the lawsuit didn’t exist, McDermott, whose seat is so safe he needs to spend very little cash to defend it, would be out raising money for other [Democrats]… He might also be donating money directly to them from his campaign fund…
“This is a strategy of the Republicans to keep me from spending on other people,” McDermott tells me. “There’s no question it does that.”
Boehner’s legal fees, which McDermott will have to pay if he loses, are estimated in court filings at over $600,000. I ask McDermott whether he has the money to cover Boehner’s legal fees plus his own, and he shakes his head no…
Luckily for Boehner, the laws involved in this case say that Boehner doesn’t have to pay McDermott’s fees if he loses—meaning Boehner is the victor no matter which way the case goes. Win or lose, his lawsuit will have successfully sidelined McDermott.
UPDATE: In response to the above, McDermott’s spokesman, Mike DeCesare, just sent me this statement:
The most recent decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia seriously undermines the First Amendment protections guaranteed by the Constitution, and we continue to review the significant constitutional issues involved. The letter sent by Rep. Boehner’s attorney was unexpected, unsolicited and premature. This is a very important case, with significant constitutional issues involved, and for the attorney to the plaintiff to act otherwise is impertinent and unwarranted. We are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court and there are over two months remaining before a decision is required.