Monday, October 10, 2005

Dredging Up the Past, Part 1
Harriet the Judge

Media Matters brings to light SCOTUS nominee Harriet Miers' role in the Texas Lottery Commission, which interestingly enough brings in a bit of TANG (that would be the Texas Air National Guard... and you might be able see where I'm leading this...):

An October 7 New York Times article explored in detail Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's tenure as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission but failed to make a key connection between her dual roles with the lottery commission and with the re-election campaign of then-Gov. George W. Bush. While Miers was chairwoman of the commission, the former executive director filed suit, claiming that he was fired to ensure that allegations were not made public that then-Gov. Bush had gained acceptance into the Texas Air National Guard in 1968 as a result of political favors. At roughly the same time -- and also during her tenure as chairwoman -- Miers was paid by Bush's re-election campaign to investigate Bush's Guard record in order to deflect allegations that Bush received preferential treatment.

Allegations about political favors playing a role in Bush's National Guard career first arose in the midst of a lawsuit filed by Lawrence Littwin, the former executive director of the lottery commission who was both hired and fired during Miers's tenure. Littwin had reportedly been investigating what he considered improper political contributions made by Gtech, a company which had a contract to run the Texas lottery. In his lawsuit, Littwin claimed that Gtech pressured the commission to fire him by threatening to reveal that the company had paid lobbyist Ben Barnes $23 million to keep Barnes from publicly claiming that he pulled strings in order to get Bush into the Guard.

In her capacity at the commission, Miers was directly involved with Littwin's dismissal in October 1997. Littwin's lawsuit claimed that after he began looking into financial ties between the company and Texas lawmakers, Gtech pushed Miers to fire him [Houston Chronicle, January 6, 2001]. After a federal judge in Texas ruled that Miers did not have to testify in Littwin's lawsuit to provide an explanation for why Littwin was fired, Gtech settled Littwin's lawsuit for $300,000.

Subsequently -- and while still serving on the commission -- Miers was paid $19,000 by Bush's re-election campaign to investigate his National Guard record in order to "identify potential vulnerabilities early on and deflect any charges that Bush got favorable treatment," according to a July 17, 2000, Newsweek article. Newsweek reported that Barnes's allegations were a key part of Miers's investigation. That would mean that the Miers investigation -- and therefore Bush himself -- potentially benefited from Miers's knowledge of and involvement in the lottery commission.

Whew! That's complex. The MM item also includes a piece of a July 2000 Newsweek article that explores this issue as well.


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