Miranda: Democrats Blocked Job Offer
The former GOP staffer at the center of the investigation into improperly accessed memos has accused top Democratic staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee of pressuring a downtown law firm not to hire him this winter.
Manuel Miranda, former counsel to Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and his lawyer sent a complaint Monday to the federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia alleging that staffers for Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) quashed a chance to take a lobbying job with McDermott, Will and Emery after he had received a verbal commitment from the firm.
While Miranda’s publicly released complaint redacted the names of the staffers allegedly involved, he issued a four-page affidavit of events that included his recollection of specific conversations he had with the firm’s top officers in its Washington office. At one point he said Stan Anderson, McDermott’s top lobbyist, informed him of the effort to blacklist him and that the aides threatened legislation that Anderson was working on.
“Democrat staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee had launched a campaign against me and had called several of his partners to demand that I not be hired. Mr. Anderson said that this had put a wrench in things,” Miranda wrote in his complaint.
“They resorted to using their offices to ruin my client and limit his livelihood,” Miranda’s lawyer, Adam Carter, wrote in his letter to John Roth, head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Fraud and Corruption in the District.
Some offices denied the accusations outright Monday. “There is absolutely nobody in the Durbin organization who had anything to do with talking to any firm, any organization, about anything to do with Manny Miranda,” said Joe Shoemaker, Durbin’s spokesman.
Leahy’s office poked fun at the complaint, referencing the GOP’s now 10-year-old effort to win more lobbying jobs for Republicans.
“He may have us confused with the Republicans’ K Street Project and the way it operates. Mr. Miranda’s latest filing is in keeping with how he operated in the Senate and with his earlier court filings, and his record speaks for itself,” a Leahy aide said.
Tim Waters, the managing partner of the law firm’s Washington, D.C., office, cited company policy in not speaking about Miranda or any other potential employee. But Waters stressed that he has never received any calls from Democratic staffers pressuring him regarding Miranda or other potential employees.
“I did not get a call from anybody on the Hill,” he said in a brief interview.
Anderson, who is also the point person for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s lobbying on legal issues, did not reply to an e-mailed request for comment.
Miranda, who on Monday began a job as a legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, was one of two key figures in the probe into the Judiciary Committee’s memos and files, at least 4,670 of which were improperly accessed by a junior GOP committee staffer working with Miranda.
An internal investigation was handled by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle and a team of Secret Service agents detailed to his office for the case, which was completed a year ago this week and referred to the Justice Department. As reported Monday by Roll Call, the agency still considers the case to be open and active under the direction of U.S. Attorney David Kelley of the Southern District of New York.
After interviewing at least 20 current and former GOP and Democratic staffers, as well as Pickle and the Secret Service detailees, Kelley’s probe has slowed greatly with no signs of activity since the start of the new year, according to many people involved in the case.
Miranda himself said he has never been contacted by Kelley or any of the investigators working for him, several of whom are Secret Service agents. Pickle and the Secret Service agents who conducted the Senate investigation are witnesses in this case and not helping with the Justice Department investigation.
It’s unclear if Kelley ever impaneled a grand jury, because witnesses appear to have been interviewed voluntarily, mostly in Washington.
Legal experts in Washington said that, if proved to be true, the actions against Miranda by Democratic staffers could be problematic, although more so in a civil case against them for interfering in Miranda’s and Anderson’s livelihood. “If he can substantiate any of this, I think it’s a veiled threat or not-so-veiled threat,” said Stan Brand, a Democratic lawyer and former counsel to the House ethics committee.
One GOP lawyer called it a potential case of “tortuous interference in a business relationship.”
Miranda believes the investigation has concluded and, with his one-year prohibition on lobbying Senate leadership set to expire last month, he began looking for lobbying work late last fall and into the early winter. According to his affidavit, Miranda first sat down with Anderson to talk about a job with McDermott at the Hay Adams Hotel just before Thanksgiving. After staying in contact with Anderson, he met with Waters just before Christmas.
The firm was well aware of the Judiciary Committee investigation and the Kelley probe, which had been widely covered by the media. On Jan. 4, according to Miranda, he and Anderson agreed that he would come aboard as counsel, and would focus on lobbying on legal issues such as class-action reform, according to the affidavit. “He made me an oral offer and I accepted. He said that a writing to memorialize the offer would be a formality we could do later.”
On Jan. 18, Miranda showed up for what he thought was his first day of work, but was never allowed into an office; instead he was told that since no written agreement yet existed, he should go home and wait for Anderson to call.
In the subsequent conversations he had with Anderson, Miranda said the lobbyist informed him that aides to the Senators whose files were accessed were the ones making the calls urging the firm not to hire him. Miranda said those aides had to be top counsels for Leahy, Kennedy and Durbin.
Kennedy’s office declined to comment on the issue.
In addition to allegedly calling Anderson and trying to set up a meeting with him — which was eventually cancelled — staffers also spoke with the firm’s chairman in Boston and, according to the affidavit, “called him to demand that I not be hired.”
Miranda had several more conversations with Anderson about the matter, culminating in a talk in late February in which Miranda told the lobbyist he was going to pursue the criminal complaint.
“Mr. Anderson tried to urge me to let it go and reiterated several times that the stated reason for his firm not hiring me would be to point at the Department of Justice investigation,” Miranda wrote.