FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Thanks A Lot, Mr. Meese

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

No one has ever accused them of being quick learners but when it comes to reaching into the taxpayers’ pockets you’d have thought they’d have tumbled to it more quickly than they did. I refer to Alberto Gonzales ’s legal fees. Thanks to the administration of Ronald Reagan, a precedent had already been set for determining who got to pay the legal fees of attorneys general believed to be of questionable character. In the case of Edwin Meese, the fees were incurred before he became attorney general and were incurred to prove he was not a crook and, therefore, qualified to be attorney general. The undertaking was not frivolous.

Following Mr. Reagan’s election, Mr. Meese helped Mr. Reagan select people to serve in the administration. When Mr. Meese had to sell his house in California in order to move to Washington he was not a wealthy man. Thomas Barrack loaned a purchaser of Mr. Meese’s house $70,000 so he could buy the house. The buyer gave the $70,000 to Mr. Meese as a down payment. Thereafter, Mr. Barrack received a job as deputy under secretary of the Interior Department. Thereafter, Mr. Barrack forgave the $70,000 loan.

A California bank did not begin foreclosure proceedings on Mr. Meese’s house even though Mr. Meese missed 15 consecutive payments of the mortgage. Instead, it loaned him $20,000 so he could bring his payments current. The president of the forgiving bank became an alternate delegate to the United Nations. Another officer at the bank was made Chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. These were just a few of the people who did Ed Meese favors who ended up with positions in the Reagan administration.

Some senators believed that the fact that friends who did Mr. Meese financial favors and ended up with presidential appointments suggested impropriety on Mr. Meese’s part. Such suspicions were absurd. It should have been obvious, for example, that the reason for placing the bank officer in charge of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board was so he could implement a policy whereby savings and loan institutions that were regulated by the board would be as liberal with other homeowners as his bank had been with Mr. Meese. Nonetheless, Congress insisted that Mr. Meese prove he was an honorable man. To that end Mr. Meese hired lawyers who proved his point. They charged $720,924 for their services and the taxpayers footed that bill.

There were those who thought it inappropriate to pay that kind of money to prove that a candidate for a high position in an administration was not a crook since there are plenty of people whose lives would speak for themselves and not require lawyers to speak for them. That, of course, overlooks the fact that if you are going to have people of the quality of Ed Meese in an administration, you are going to have to be willing to pay to prove they are men of integrity. And that brings us to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Mr. Gonzales follows in the footsteps of Ed Meese with one small difference. Although he engaged in improper conduct as White House counsel before being nominated as attorney general that conduct was not why he needed legal counsel. His troubles began after he left the post. It was then that an investigation was begun to determine whether Mr. Gonzales committed perjury when testifying before Congress or tampered with a Congressional witness. Unaware that he could permit the taxpayer to pay his legal fees in defending himself against these charges, his friends set up the Alberto R. Gonzales Legal Expense Trust to pay for his legal expenses and, to date, the taxpayer’s funds have not been implicated. In a more recent encounter with the need for legal representation, however, Mr. Gonzales has wised up.

A suit has been filed by eight law students alleging that he encouraged his subordinates to consider partisan politics when making hiring and firing decisions. If that occurred, it would be a violation of federal law. Instead of using justice department lawyers to defend himself Mr. Gonzales has retained private counsel to represent him. His counsel is, however, being paid by the federal government. Being more prudent than it was in Mr. Reagan’s day, the government did not write him or them a blank check. Mr. Gonzales’s lawyers can charge no more than $200 an hour and their monthly bills cannot exceed $24,000. Given these tight restraints on how much can be spent, the taxpayer can rest easy. It would take almost 3 years for Mr. Gonzales’s legal fees to be as great as those that were paid for Mr. Meese’s proceedings. And whenever we are tempted to feel bad about spending that much to prove a former attorney general is not a crook when all the facts would suggest otherwise, we can take solace in the fact that no matter how the suit comes out, he is no longer the attorney general and soon the man who appointed him will no longer be president. That alone is worth twice $720,924.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
Russell Mokhiber
Sanders Single Payer and Death by Democrat
Roger Harris
The Triumph of Trump and the Specter of Fascism
Steve Horn
Donald Trump’s Swamp: Meet Ten Potential Energy and Climate Cabinet Picks and the Pickers
Louis Proyect
Deepening Contradictions: Identity Politics and Steelworkers
Ralph Nader
Trump and His Betraying Makeover
Stephen Kimber
The Media’s Abysmal Coverage of Castro’s Death
Dan Bacher
WSPA: The West’s Most Powerful Corporate Lobbying Group
Nile Bowie
Will Trump backpedal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership?
Ron Ridenour
Fidel’s Death Brings Forth Great and Sad Memories
Missy Comley Beattie
By Invitation Only
Fred Gardner
Sword of Damocles: Pot Partisans Fear Trump’s DOJ
Renee Parsons
Obama and Propornot
Dean Baker
Cash and Carrier: Trump and Pence Put on a Show
Jack Rasmus
Taming Trump: From Faux Left to Faux Right Populism
Ron Jacobs
Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail