Heitkamp/McConnell Scandal Cited During Senate Floor Debate
Update: The Senate has voted to invoke cloture on McConnell, all but assuring he’ll be confirmed. Senator Hoeven voted no on the cloture. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the amount of money McConnell poured into his state party’s coffers over the years, Senator Conrad voted yes. Here’s the roll call.
A vote on nomination of activist lawyer Jack McConnell, who has been nominated by President Obama to serve on the federal bench, is imminent. I’m told a vote is expected some time after noon today eastern time.
McConnell, of course, is the trial lawyer I wrote about yesterday who gave tens of thousands of dollars worth of political contributions to former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp’s campaign for governor after Heitkamp hired him to do tens of millions of dollars worth of work on behalf of North Dakota in the tobacco lawsuits.
Yesterday, this alleged pay-for-play was, along with other such dealings, brought up by Senator John Cornyn during floor debate about McConnell’s nomination. From the transcript (full document embedded below):
The actions of Mr. McConnell and his partners, by funneling tens of thousands of dollars into campaign accounts of State officials who hired them, raise concerns about pay-to-play dealings. In the State of Washington, for example, Mr. McConnell and members of hissmall South Carolina-based law firm contributed $23,200 to the reelection of the attorney general in the State of Washington. By the way, that was the very same lawyer who hired them on a contingency basis to represent the State.
In North Dakota, Mr. McConnell and his wife contributed $30,000 to thegubernatorial campaign of the attorneygeneral who appointed him as special assistant attorney general, for purposes of representing that State in tobaccolitigation. Mr. McConnell and his law firm contributed an additional $73,000 to that same attorney general’s State political party during the campaign cycle, making them the No. 4 campaign contributor to that organization.
There is nothing wrong with people contributing money to political candidates or parties or causes they believe in. But it is another matter when these contributions are made in connection with no-bid contracts or apparent political favors. It is no small matter that Mr. McConnell has a lucrative, on going financial arrangement asa product of his previous work as a trial lawyer. In fact, he will receive $2.5 to $3.1 million a year through 2024 as part of his payout for his work in the tobacco litigation I mentioned a moment ago–$2.5 to $3.1 million a year through 2024. For anyone who would praise Mr. McConnell for giving up a successful legal career in order to serve as a Federal judge, remember he would be reaping hugewindfalls at the expense of taxpayers long into his tenure as a Federal judge.
As I’ve cautioned before, these quid pro quo dealings are notoriously hard to prove. One cannot say definitively that the only reason McConnell poured over $100,000 on Heitkamp and the North Dakota Democrat party is because then-Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp hired him to do legal work for the state.
But it strains credulity to believe that McConnell, being from the east coast, would care enough about North Dakota politics to spend $100,000 in one election cycle if he weren’t also making millions of dealings with Heitkamp here.
This deal stinks, and even though it’s just coming to light now more than a decade after it happened, you have to wonder if it doesn’t put a nail in the coffin for any further political aspirations Heidi Heitkamp may have had.