Last week, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt announced she was creating a legal trust fund… to pay for her libel suit against former ‘08 Independent opponent David Krikorian (who ran, but lost, in the Democratic primary this year.)
Schmidt announced the trust fund after questions were being raised about who was paying her lawyers, who actually are from a Turkish special interest group… which is rather unusual in that it’s Schmidt’s unusually high level of Turkish fundraising and opposition to recognizing the Armenian genocide (not exactly a barn burner of an issue back home in the Second District, and yet, Schmidt finds herself belonging to the Turkish Caucus despite her own lack of Turkish decent or a notable population in her district of Turkish-Americans) that is the center of all the legal disputes.
A month ago, Schmidt’s lawyers attempted to attack my post ridiculing their puffed up libel case here @ Plunderbund. Bruce Fein, one of Schmidt’s lawyers, is a resident scholar with the Turkish Coalition of America. David Saltzman, Schmidt’s other lawyer, just also happens to be legal counsel for the Turkish Coalition of America.
They’ve represented Jean Schmidt during the entire duration of their “successful” Ohio Election Commission (after dismissing a number of their own charges, they won a favorable decision on only half of the remaining allegations.) And yet, Jean Schmidt’s campaign finance reports show no expenditure to Saltzman or Fein or to the Turkish Coalition of America, nor does any such in-kind contribution appear.
Furthermore, Congresswoman Schmidt did not report the provision of legal services as a gift by Misters Fine & Saltzman, either.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Jean Schmidt’s Congressional spokeman stated:
“Schmidt’s attorneys already have put in about 200 hours of work on the suit, Pfaff said.”
As an attorney, that’s pretty remarkable amount of billing for a litigation case that her attorneys have done nothing more than file a rather simple complaint, issue a press release, and write a joint comment on Plunderbund.
I’ve never approached 200 hours in just drafting and filing a complaint, and I don’t know of any lawyer who have either. Complicated cases where I need to do quite a bit of document review, client interviews, and pre-filing investigation could take me a week, at most.
The only way I figure they’re at 200 hours is if Schmidt is “back-dooring” all the legal services provided in the Ohio Elections Commission complaint into her private civil complaint. However, this, too, just makes the formation of a legal trust fund all the more appear to be a post-hoc action after realizing the major ethical error Schmidt made.
Okay, let’s presume for a moment that Congresswoman Jean Schmidt’s plan all along was to eventually form a legal trust fund to reimburse these attorneys for the 200 hours they spent representing her pro bono. That means there’s no unreported gift, right?
Wrong. I would argue that the post-hoc “extension of credit”, which I’m going to imagine has never been documented because there was never an intention by Schmidt or her campaign to pay for these legal services, also has not been accruing any interest at fair market rates.
I’d argue even the extension of legal services on credit pending a future creation of a legal trust fund that may raise enough money to compensate her attorneys is also a gift that requires disclosure under the House’s ethics rules which require the disclosure of any loans, and its terms, that Congresspersons take out.
Apparently, CREW and Mr. Krikorian agree because they’ve written the House Ethics Committee and asked them to investigation Schmidt’s legal representation as a potential violation of House Ethics rules involving gifts. You can read Krikorian’s ethics complaint here at his old campaign website. It includes the 50-pages of the civil libel suit Schmidt has filed against Krikorian as well as some relevant portions of depositions from the Ohio Elections Commission hearings.
Remember why Chris Dodd isn’t running for re-election (although the Senate Ethics Committee found Dodd committed no wrongdoing, they informally reprimanded him and the allegations caused lasting political damage to Dodd’s re-election chances)? Congressman Greg Meeks ran into the same problem. In ‘06, Congressman Gary Miller ran into the same problem.
Let’s also not forget that former Governor Bob Taft attempt to “amend” already filed gift disclosure reports which had erroneously failed to disclosed golf outings paid for by Tom Noe or his associations. Taft’s attempt to put the toothpaste back in the ethical tube directly led to his misdemeanor conviction.
Schmidt’s attempt to quickly form a legal trust fund after accepted some 200 billable hours of legal work that neither she, nor her campaign committee, paid for, or reported as in-kind contributions or gifts would seem to be no different.
Schmidt has no problem largely self-funding her congressional campaigns when she needs to. So, the real question is why is not willing to pay for her own lawyers for her own private lawsuit?
I think the only explanation is that Congresswoman Jean Schmidt has agreed to allow herself to be used as a proxy for the Turkish lobbying community to wage its war against the Armenian lobbying community… so long as it doesn’t cost her anything.
If that’s not the case, Jean Schmidt’s curious choice of legal counsel, coupled with her odd decision to form a legal trust fund to prosecute a civil litigation which will, let’s face, be predominately funded by Turkish PACs and Turkish-Americans who have the highest interest in her legal case, sure gives a that strong impression.