Cronyism and Capitulation: The Scoop on Harriet Miers

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you thought that Harriet Miers, George W. Bush's new Supreme Court
pick has no paper trail. You were wrong. One of Miers only qualifications
for the high court – as she hasn't an ounce of judicial experience
– is that she was the head of Locke, Liddell & Sapp; a sleazy
corporate law firm based in Dallas, Texas.

to the InterNet Bankruptcy Library (IBL), Locke Liddell & Sapp
paid $22 million in a suit alleging it aided a client in defrauding
investors. The Dallas-based firm agreed in April of 2000 to settle
a suit stemming from its representation of Russell Erxleben, a former
University of Texas football star whose foreign currency trading
company, Austin Forex International, was a pyramid get-rich Ponzi

later pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and securities-fraud
charges. “It’s a very simple legal proposition: a lawyer can’t help
people steal money,” George, of George & Donaldson told reporters
at the time. George's firm had represented investors who lost close
to $34 million in Erxleben’s company.

this was going on while Harriet Miers was co-managing partner of
the law firm. Miers denied that settling the suit indicated that
they her firm was somehow complicit in Erxleben's criminal activities.
"Obviously, we evaluated that this was the right time to settle
and to resolve this matter and that it was in the best interest
of the firm to do so,” Miers said.

Miers scandal-laden past goes deeper than her ties to corporate
crooks in Texas. According to Newsweek, she's also played
a role in maintaining Bush's National Guard credibility. As Michael
Isikoff wrote in July of 2000:

Bushies’ concern began while he was running for a second term as
governor. A hard-nosed Dallas lawyer named Harriet Miers was retained
to investigate the issue; state records show Miers was paid $19,000
by the Bush gubernatorial campaign. She and other aides quickly
identified a problem – rumors that Bush had help from his father
in getting into the National Guard back in 1968. Ben Barnes, a prominent
Texas Democrat and a former speaker of the House in the state legislature,
told friends he used his influence to get George W a guard slot
after receiving a request from Houston oilman Sid Adger. Barnes
said Adger told him he was calling on behalf of the elder George
Bush, then a Texas congressman. Both Bushes deny seeking any help
from Barnes or Adger, who has since passed away. Concerned that
Barnes might go public with his allegations, the Bush campaign sent
Don Evans, a friend of W’s, to hear Barnes’s story. Barnes acknowledged
that he hadn’t actually spoken directly to Bush Sr. and had no documents
to back up his story. As the Bush campaign saw it, that [sic] let
both Bushes off the hook. And the National Guard question seemed
under control."

gets better, if not dirtier. At roughly the same time Miers was
helping Bush dodge National Guard questions; Bush had named her
chair of the Texas Lottery Commission, which had been scandal-plagued
for years. The chief issue before Miers and the commission was whether
to retain lottery operator Gtech, which had been implicated in a
huge Texas bribery scandal.

to the Philadelphia Daily News, Gtech’s main lobbyist in
Texas in the mid-1990s was none other than Benjamin Barnes, who
just happened to have the low-down on how Bush got into the National
Guard to avoid going over to Vietnam.

fired Barnes, in 1997. A short time after Barnes was fired, Gtech
had its lottery contract renewed even though two companies had bid-lower
than Gtech had.

Texas lottery director Lawrence Littwin filed suit, as he thought
the whole charade smelled of scandal. Littwin’s lawyers suggested
in court filings that Gtech was allowed to keep the lottery contract,
which Littwin wanted to open up to competitive bidding, in return
for Benjamin Barnes’s silence about Bush’s entry into the National

and his lawyers denounced Littwin's “favor-repaid” theory in court
pleadings as “preposterous … fantastic [and] fanciful.” According
to the Philadelphia Daily News, Littwin was "fired after ordering
a review of the campaign finance reports of various Texas politicians
for any links to Gtech or other lottery contractors. But Littwin
wasn’t hired, or fired, until months after Barnes had severed his
relationship with Gtech."

later settled with Gtech for a hefty $300,000.

here we have Republicans more upset about Bush's Supreme Court choice
than Democrats. Well, they have a reason to be skeptical, if not
upset. As William Kristol recently noted that Bush's pick "will
unavoidably be judged as reflecting a combination of cronyism and
capitulation on the part of the president.”

once the old windbag may be right.

5, 2005

Frank [send him mail]
is the author of Left
Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush
, just published
by Common Courage Press. To learn more visit

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