May 18, 2011 Issues: DOMA, Administration

Washington, DC (May 18, 2011): Democratic Members of the Committee on House Administration continued to demand information about the House Republican’s contract to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  The contract, granted to the Bancroft firm, was issued to support the firm’s engagement as outside Counsel to defend the Defense of Marriage Act after the King & Spalding firm withdrew from the contract on April 25th.  In a statement issued at the time, King & Spalding’s chairman, Robert Hays, indicated that “In reviewing this assignment further, I determined that the process used for vetting this engagement was inadequate.” 

Today, Ranking Member Robert A. Brady and Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Charles A. Gonzalez (D-TX) forwarded a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking that relevant details related to the Bancroft contract be released.

“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% 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 failure to consult the Committee on Ethics raises questions about how the blended rate was developed. We request you 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.”

This most recent letter is another in a series of unanswered correspondence to Speaker Boehner.  Previous letters from the Democratic Committee Members, as well as Democratic Leader Pelosi, have raised questions about the funding source for the $500,000 contract, as well as possible departures from standard House procurement guidelines and a failure to seek guidance from the Ethics Committee on questionable provisions of the contract.

“…we, as the Democratic Members of the Committee on House Administration, nor the Democratic Members of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, were advised of the selection of the Bancroft firm or provided the opportunity to review the contract, particularly in light of the controversy surrounding the earlier contract with King & Spalding,” the letter continued.

“We join Leader Pelosi in requesting that you respond to our prior correspondence without further delay. 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.”

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