State hires Outside attorneys for $600 an hour to sue Alaska union workers
Attorney General Kevin Clarkson has rewarded a small, conservative Washington, D.C. law firm with a $50,000 contract that pays two attorneys $600 an hour to handle an anti-union case in Alaska.
The contract is with Consovoy McCarthy, a five-year-old firm of eight lawyers that has been hired by President Trump to keep his finances hidden from the public.
William Consovoy, a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is to get $600 an hour, and so is Michael Connolly. Both are partners in the law firm. The claim in the contract is that their standard hourly rate is $950 an hour.
The “Alaska discounted rate” is $600 an hour. In addition, the state will pay associated Steven Begakis $450 an hour, an “Alaska discount” from his normal rate of $600 an hour.
“Our model gives us the flexibility to tailor our fees, including the use of alternative fee arrangements, to meet our clients’ goals,” the company says on its website.
The contract also allows for up to $300 a night for a hotel, coach class air fare and $60 a day for meals and incidentals.
The contract, signed Aug. 2,. is 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.
With this contract Clarkson is sending a message to conservative lawyers Outside that he is willing to use state resources to give them extra business, even though it features the “Alaska discount” that deprives them of an extra $350 an hour.
Consovoy McCarthy has worked on Alaska issues before, most notably the Sturgeon case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court overturned lower court rulings limiting access on some navigable rivers.
The company says of itself, “It is a team-oriented boutique law firm that promises to deliver legal advocacy of the highest quality while offering its clients the maximum return on their investment in legal services.”
A report in Reuters about the company’s work for Trump, said the firm "is known for arguing against affirmative action policies that benefit racial minority groups that have faced discrimination and for battling women's healthcare and abortion provider Planned Parenthood," Reuters said.
Last spring, Consovoy McCarthy became Trump’s personal lawyers in an emoluments suit in federal court in Maryland.
Consovoy told a federal judge in May that Congress couldn’t have the details of Trump’s finances because it was seeking the information for law enforcement, not for creating legislation. The judge in the case sounded “incredulous” regarding Consovoy’s claims, USA Today reported.
Consovoy claims Congress has no power or right to look into Trump’s records.
The Washington Post reported Aug. 21 that “two of Trump's critics have called Consovoy's views "spectacularly anti-constitutional." Federal judges in Washington and New York have rejected his argument that the president's financial records for his businesses are off-limits to Congress.
“But Consovoy, whose small firm in Arlington, Va., is appealing the rulings this summer, is looking to the next round with an eye on a Supreme Court win,” the Post said.
“Consovoy, 44, is well-positioned to take up thorny issues for the president from the Arlington firm he started five years ago with Thomas R. McCarthy, his classmate from George Mason's law school and partner on annual trips to the Super Bowl. Working from his own operation affords a latitude to pursue highly charged cases and to avoid conflicts that might arise at a firm with many clients,” the Post said.
The 19-page complaint filed in the Alaska case says that “many state employees contacted the state to ask it to stop deducting money from their paychecks” after Clarkson had proclaimed that he wanted to make it easier for state workers to opt out of the practice.
The state press release, however, only says that “several” employees contacted the state. The court document included quotes from three anonymous employees. Three is on the low side of “several,” but it is not “many.”
The current rule in the union contract approved by both sides 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 easier to withdraw.