Clarkson ups ante on ''Alaska discount' lawyers getting $600 an hour

When Attorney General Kevin Clarkson went the no-bid route and hired one of President Trump’s lawyers in August, the state said the total cost would be $50,000 to carry out Clarkson’s anti-union crusade.

Clarkson never gave Alaskans a good reason why he needs $600-an-hour help from a right-wing law firm Outside to try to make it harder for an Alaska union to collect dues.

And no one has explained why Alaska deserves a generous discount from the posted rate of $950 an hour by Trump’s lawyer, William Consovoy. It’s a bargain worthy of Saul Goodman.

It turns out that the crusade is going to cost much more—no one is saying how much—and the state is going to have to seek competitive proposals to push this through the state and federal court systems. The origins and the handling of this no-bid contract deserve an independent review.

As to the results of the competition process, it’s hard to imagine that Clarkson will change discount lawyers in the middle of the stream on a case that had already morphed into a $100,000 no-bid contract as of Oct. 24.

“Clarkson's is not an Alaska-inspired lawsuit. Like Donna Arduin, it's from Outside, driven by national, far-right, Koch-funded think tanks,” Anchorage Rep. Andy Josephson wrote last month. Josephson is right.

Most or all of the original $50,000 has been consumed. By late September, Consovoy’s law firm had already billed the state for 59.5 hours of discounted work, which cost nearly $35,000. The case is in its early stages and Clarkson is on the losing side so far.

The Anchorage judge who temporarily stopped Clarkson’s plan to make it harder for unions to collect dues said the behavior by the state seems directly at odds with state law and a union contract the state signed. He also said that Clarkson and attorneys under him did not make a good case as to why the existing annual opt-out available to employees is not sufficient.

The state can issue a no-bid contract for up to $50,000 for legal services and increase it to $100,000 without competitive bids, the Anchorage Daily News reported Oct. 11. As of that date, the attorney general’s office was saying it had planned to write a justification on why the $100,000 limit should be exceeded by $25,000.

But there is no justification coming, however, and there will be a request for proposals instead, a department spokeswoman said.

The contract is with Consovoy McCarthy, a five-year-old firm of eight lawyers hired by President Trump, the brilliant legal minds now claiming that the president is above the law.

As president, Trump could murder people and skate, according to Consovoy, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a man with strong connections in right-wing legal circles.

The original Alaska discount no-bid contract, signed Aug. 2,. was for “legal services regarding possible constitutional issues concerning dues and agency fees in a bargaining unit agreement.” With the Alaska discount, the state is paying the Outside lawyers about $200 to $300 more per hour than many experienced legal professionals in Alaska.

In the press release announcing his lawsuit against the union, Clarkson did not mention that he had hired the law firm for $50,000 or why one of the attorneys who works under him was not assigned to the task. He hasn’t said why Consovoy was chosen.

The current rule in the union contract with the Alaska State Employees Association allows employees to withdraw from paying union dues if they give notice between 10 and 20 days of the end of the year. Clarkson claims that is not good enough and it should be much easier to withdraw.

Clarkson wants to get this case into federal court as soon as possible, but that’s not going to happen fast enough to stay within the limits of his no-bid deal with Trump’s lawyer, even with a big discount.

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