Archive for Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Statehouse Live: Democrats criticize hiring private firm to defend state in lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood

July 13, 2011, 2:13 p.m. Updated July 13, 2011, 5:11 p.m.

Advertisement

— At a time when the state is cutting costs by shutting down welfare offices, including the one in Lawrence, it is spending big bucks on private attorneys in an abortion-related lawsuit.

“If I lived in Lawrence, I’d be really angry,” Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said Wednesday.

Gov. Sam Brownback and his Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. have announced the closure of nine SRS offices, including the one in Lawrence, which is the biggest one by far.

Brownback and Siedlecki have cited the state’s budget problems as the reason for the shutdowns.

But in another area, the state has hired private attorneys to defend itself in a federal lawsuit challenging a state provision, signed into law by Brownback, that has denied Planned Parenthood federal family planning funds.

The firm of Foulston Siefkin LLP has been retained in the case. According to the Kansas attorney general's office, the state's cost for this representation ranges from $115 per hour for para-legal work up to $300 per hour for litigation partners. No bill has been submitted yet in the recent legal challenge.

“As SRS offices are being closed and vital services that people depend on are being decimated in the name of fiscal responsibility, it is appalling to me that Gov. Brownback hires a lucrative law firm to defend his extreme social agenda,” Hensley said.

Brownback’s spokeswoman Sherienne Jones-Sontag said the decision to hire Foulston Siefkin was Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s who is also a Republican.

“It is within the discretion of the attorney general to staff the obligations of that office in the manner judged to be in the best interests of Kansas.

“Gov. Brownback respects the constitutional distinctions between his office and the office of the attorney general and accepts the staffing decisions of the attorney general in this matter,” she said.

The attorney general’s office is responsible for defending state laws, but does hire outside help occasionally, usually for special expertise, as is the case with water litigation, or if there is a conflict of interest. Schmidt’s office did not return a phone call and email asking why the office hired an outside firm in the Planned Parenthood case.

Hensley also noted that the Foulston law firm represents the billionaire Koch brothers, who are the owners of Wichita-based Koch Industries, involved in numerous right-wing causes and are one of Brownback's largest campaign contributors.

The state also faces another federal lawsuit in which abortion clinics have challenged new regulations. The attorney general's office says it expects to hire an outside firm in that case, too.

Brownback supported and signed into law both the new regulations on abortion clinics and diverting $334,000 in federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood. Even though the family planning funds cannot be used for abortions, abortion opponents say those funds subsidize abortions. Planned Parenthood has denied that allegation.

Comments

Evan Ridenour 3 years, 10 months ago

It is all about having priorities. In this case, fighting the questionable legality of your abortion laws is apparently more important then using state funds to provide for the health, safety and education of the states population.

Who voted for this guy again?

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 10 months ago

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

Brownback represents robber barons and is a moral busybody.

Frightwig 3 years, 10 months ago

The trannies have nothing to do with this. But knowing Brownback, he'll probably be squashing their rights pretty soon as well.

mloburgio 3 years, 10 months ago

Unintended Pregnancies Cost Taxpayers $11 Billion A Year

A new study by the Guttmacher Institute, a leading reproductive health research and advocacy group, estimates that unintended pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $11.1 billion dollars a year. Nearly two-thirds of unintended pregnancies -- roughly a million births -- are publicly funded by Medicaid and other government programs, the report shows.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/24/unintended-pregnancies-cost-taxpayers_n_866386.html

The day abortion becomes an unquestionable right, is the day men become pregnant.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

I'd like to know how much money this will cost the state.

For those who think saving money and cutting spending is important, you'd think this would be a bad idea.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

We already have a state lawyer. He's called the Attorney General. Who does Brownback represent? Not the people of Kansas.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

Apparently Brownback doesn't have confidence in the AG.

thebigspoon 3 years, 10 months ago

Apparrently the Koch brothers do not have confidence in anybody.

lunacydetector 3 years, 10 months ago

so p.p. hires a law firm that represented george tiller in wichita, well versed in abortion cases because p.p. lost our tax dollars to fund their abortion clinics. they sue. state of kansas hires outside law firm to defend the state. i'm sure the hiring of this outside law firm pales in comparison to the taxpayers' money p.p. lost.

Lindsey Buscher 3 years, 10 months ago

"so p.p. hires a law firm that represented george tiller in wichita, well versed in abortion cases because p.p. lost funding for their women's and family healthcare clinics. they sue. state of kansas hires outside law firm to defend the state. i'm sure there is a point somewhere in my post but i am not used to critical thinking."

There, FYP.

Joseph Jarvis 3 years, 10 months ago

Does anyone know if Kansas has an equivalent law to the federal Anti-Deficiency Act?

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

$300/hour.

There is no excuse. You have to be a real sheep to defend the AG and the Gov on this one.

Liberty275 3 years, 10 months ago

Kansas voted for brownback. You may not have wanted him, but some people didn't want the library.

Enjoy.

TheStonesSuck 3 years, 10 months ago

hahahahahahaha. Keep towing that company line, "but some people didn't want the library."

Enjoy.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Actually, he's right.

In our system, the minority doesn't get represented in the outcome of elections, or votes like the one on the library expansion.

I voted against the expansion, for a variety of reasons, but still have to pay the extra property tax for it, because my position was the minority position of those who chose to vote.

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

However, it was still a single vote on a single issue. The people who voted for or against Brownback were not told that he'd hire a private law firm at taxpayer expense to defend foolish legislation.

The two are not equivalent issues.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

They're a little bit different, but essentially the same.

There was enough information about Brownback available that people should have known what he'd do, in broad terms.

I knew he'd cut education and social service funding, and bring his religious agenda to the position.

And that he didn't seem particularly intelligent.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

And Liberty's point is correct.

The minority is stuck with the decisions of the majority.

Those who don't like Brownback and didn't vote for him have to live with that, just as those who didn't vote for the library expansion have to live with it.

It's a problematic feature of our system, especially if/when large minorities are present.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

Towing as in towing a trailer or a boat? Does it take specialized equipment to tow a company line?

lunacydetector 3 years, 10 months ago

and not one single p.p. in kansas does sonograms....show me the p.p. audit that allocates all of the taxpayers' money....i'm sorry, that's a privacy issue to request such info.

Brock Masters 3 years, 10 months ago

Not true, there are exceptions that allow federal dollars to be used for abortions.

jafs 3 years, 10 months ago

Thanks.

So, in short, in cases of rape/incest/danger to the woman's health, federal dollars can be spent on abortion.

Kirk Larson 3 years, 10 months ago

Apparently doing a favor for the Koch brothers' lawyer toadies while getting some hired guns to defend blatant theocratic interference in reproductive health services for lots of Kansas citizens. At least he's multi-tasking.

jayhawxrok 3 years, 10 months ago

He is the worst gov we've had in a long, long while. He's a zealot with a religious agenda he has no problem shoving on the people of this state. He is a disgrace.

oldvet 3 years, 10 months ago

She was the worst gov we had in a long, long while. She's a zealot with a radical left-wing agenda she had no problem shoving on the people of this state and now on the entire US. She was and continues to be a disgrace.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

Any of you defenders want to pay the AG $300/hour?

Because that would be over $600,000 a year.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

Yes, all people who voted for Brownback need to pay a special tax to pay these lawyers.

verity 3 years, 10 months ago

http://www.nationalpartnership.org/si...

"Kansas has spent more than $500,000 in legal fees and other expenses to defend former state Attorney General Phill Kline (R) and two of his aides against alleged violations of the state's attorney ethics code, the AP/Wichita Eagle reports (AP/Wichita Eagle, 4/17)."

So far.

monkeyhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

Isn't that about the same price tag that poor little ole' Lawrence, (i.e., taxpayers) had to shell out for the losing fight against WalMart?

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 10 months ago

Hmmm. The money they say they are going to save by closing Lawrence's SRS is apparently already earmarked. Although I think they're going to have to come up with another 100K or two. Didn't I hear recently that there will be more lawsuits come out of this legislative session than what Kansas has had in decades?

lunacydetector 3 years, 10 months ago

s.r.s. wants a free building for their lawrence office...it is plain and simple. they were spending over $300 K in rent per year.

brownback is doing a fine job running this state like a business man. p.p. is driving this lawsuit. the state wants to insure victory so p.p. doesn't get the peoples hard earned money since p.p doesn't have to have any accountability in spending our money.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 10 months ago

Once more, point that detector at yourself, Lunacy. They do indeed have to account for how that money is spent., at least to the extent of proving they are in compliance with Hyde. Now please, put down the crack pipe and back away slowly.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 10 months ago

So, now we have a new position dedicated to discovering fraud among SRS cases and private attorneys to defend the state on an abortion issue. How much are we spending for this?

oldvet 3 years, 10 months ago

It may not exclude you from being sworn in but it could exclude you from answering any questions asked of you, based on attorney/client privilege.

Ralph Reed 3 years, 10 months ago

Went to the AG's website and clicked on the contact us link. Took me straight to a Medicaid and Medicare fraud reporting site. No email link for the AG. Coward.

4accountability 3 years, 10 months ago

Phone calls will get their attention better. They have daily meetings with the AG and his Deputy's. A busy reception desk will get their attention. They have limited staff to answer the phone...if they have to pull in other people to help it will be make the meeting news. AG Office Number 785 296 2215 Tell Schmidt what you think of his cowardly decision.

BigDog 3 years, 10 months ago

Coward? hmmmmm ..... I went to the Attorney General's website and clicked on the contact us.... then clicked on the Attorney General's name and it gave me an email address. And they also have phones there Ralph Reed if you really want to talk with someone .... or you can just hide behind a keyboard.

http://www.ksag.org/page/contact-us

kansasredlegs 3 years, 10 months ago

Can we look in our own backyard and pick up our own dog excrement before we start throwing stones in our new Glass Library? Every time the City of Lawrence gets sued and /or it's an "important" issue to someone on the Commission (Wal-mart zoning & Boog's permeable asphalt comes to mind), the City always hires for big bucks Gerald Cooley and Sons or that even bigger firm out of Missouri to represent it when it has its own attorneys working in Kastle on the Kaw.

Before breaking down our glass walls and smelling all that excrement, shouldn't we at least be consistent with our anger and outrage? But, then again this is Lawrence.

4accountability 3 years, 10 months ago

The current Attorney General is trying to stay "clean" as his only concern is what will serve his next political step best. He cares zero about Kansans. Poor choice we made electing the guy. The Governor does not have the authority to tell him how to run his legal cases. No doubt Schmidt let some of the best staff in that office go when he arrived and probably then promoted a smaller budget knowing he would really spend more contracting cases out. Now...that kind of dancing around with our dollars should be something the legislature and the Governor can do something about.

notanota 3 years, 10 months ago

Too bad there's not a non-partisan organization that advocates for openness in government, transparency, and fiscal responsibility...

Frightwig 3 years, 10 months ago

So what's the solution? Should Planned Parenthood drop the lawsuit or should the state forgo legal representation? What a mess. How much longer until Brownback is out of office?

madameX 3 years, 10 months ago

The soution is to have to attorney general handle the case, since that's, you know, part of the reason we have an AG in the first place.

Frightwig 3 years, 10 months ago

That's an unrealistic expectation. Brownie obviously figures it's best to seek representation with a firm that has more experience in this particular area than the AG. I'm not saying I agree with his decision. In fact, I think it's a waste of tax dollars. But if he believes that a private firm will help the state win the lawsuit then one can see why this action makes sense to him.

madameX 3 years, 10 months ago

Oh, I can see that line of reasoning, but it presumes that this firm does, in fact, have more experience with this particular area and would, in fact, help the state win this lawsuit. And the article doesn't really address, that it just says that the AG thought it was appropriate (and that must be an update, because last time I looked it just said that there was no statement from the AG's office)

Also (and I think we're more or less in agreement on this part, but I'll say it anyway), if the AG doesn't feel competent to represent the state on this matter, the fact that they chose to hire an outside firm to represent the state when we really really can't afford it rather than just say "Too bad, our stupid abortion law will be struck down" says a lot about what is a priority and what isn't.

Resident10 3 years, 10 months ago

Yea...the AG must not think much of his staff.

grammaddy 3 years, 10 months ago

Does it concern ANYONE that our Governor is sooo connected to the Koch brothers? Scares the hell outta me.

kernal 3 years, 10 months ago

Of course it does! He bows and scrapes before their checkbook.

kernal 3 years, 10 months ago

grammaddy, it doesn't scare the hell out of me, but it certainly concerns many of us.

I'm not only concerned but also somewhat fascinated with Brownback's decisions. He claims to be making his decisions to reduce our debt, yet some of his decisions will cost us more money due to looming law suits. If he keeps this up, he can kiss his future political career good-bye.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 10 months ago

With the likes of Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann and Mitt Romney running for the nomination? Frighteningly, I would say Brownback actually has a chance.

deskboy04 3 years, 10 months ago

This makes me miss the Joan Finney years.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

He blames the closing of the SRS office on the legislature, and the hiring of Kock lawyers on the AG's office. Has he just been too busy packing for his "begging to be VP candidate" Texas trip. Oh, I mean prayer meeting. Amen. Do us a favor, Texas, keep him. He's more your style anyway.

irvan moore 3 years, 10 months ago

so the ag said he is not qualified to do his job??

Jimo 3 years, 10 months ago

Outrageous.

A. Taxpayers paid for this legal defense once already - by providing a budget to the AG's office.

B. Then taxpayers pay again.

C. Taxpayers get poor advice for their money, as competent lawyers would be advising Brownback that he's in the wrong and needs an about-face to avoid losing in court.

D. The taxpayers money is funneled to an associated political supporter as a payoff for past (and likely ongoing) bribes to vary GOP figures.

E. Middle class and poor citizens must go without core governmental services to pay for the redirecting of their own tax dollars toward an attack on their own liberties.

madameX 3 years, 10 months ago

So you're cool with shelling out extra money that the state doesn't have for somthing that we already fund the attorney general's office to do?

I'm serious, and I think you know me to be a fairly reasonable person. I'm not going to pretend that I have even one iota of support for any of the recent abortion laws, but even if I did I would consider hiring an outside firm to represent the state to defend them when the AG's office could probably do it just as effecively to be wasteful. Especially since this administration is supposed to be all about cutting spending.

Resident10 3 years, 10 months ago

I am an attorney and pretty conservative. But this is over the line. What statement is being made about the AG's office? How can this be anything other than political payback? I was kind of agnostic to Brownback until now. I see this as dangerous.

verity 3 years, 10 months ago

I just glanced over the comments, so these may already have been posted, but here are email addresses for Brownback and Schmidt. I did get a canned reply from the governor's office, so that one is good. Nothing from Schmidt. I didn't try calling as I can't afford to pay while waiting on hold.

Gov. Brownback - (785) 296-3232 or governor@ks.gov AG Schmidt - (785) 296-2215 or derek.schmidt@ksag.org

Please let them know how you feel. Keep the pressure on.

olddognewtrix 3 years, 10 months ago

There is something seriously wrong with this story. twenty years ago Foulston and siefkin represented the Kochs, until Koch the elder died leaving his share of the industry to several of his sons. then when he died Mrs. Koch fearing that the very aggressive brothers would sue her estate for leaving her shares equally to the kids. So, she had Bob Howard the Sr. member of the firm draw a will for her that had an interrorum clause, that disinherited any child who sued her estate. When she died two of the more greedy brothers sued the Foulston and Siefkin firm for "undue influence" in writing her will seeking to thow out the whole will. The Kansas court system had no problem upholding the will, but the two controlling brothers fired Fulston and Siefkin, and hired one of its firm members to form their own legal department.

It is true that some of the younger members of the firm are on close terms with Brownbacks lawyers. But the firm is very competent and ethical. It hires only Order of the Coif and law review editors . The Univ of ks selected the firm to investigate its ticket scandel.

I have no sympathy for Brownbacks position fighting Planned Parenthood, but cleiming the law firm is Koch dominated is false.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

Good old family values in that Koch family. Makes my dysfunctional family look like Beaver and Wally's family.

Regardless. This money should not be spent. If the AG can't fight the law suit, maybe it shouldn't be fought. Money is needed elsewhere.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

This is not something exceptional. Hiring the best legal representation for the defense of the law is something the Attorney General has done in the past and on a fairly regular basis! Most of those writing opposition letters do not support the newly enacted law anyway.

tomatogrower 3 years, 10 months ago

I thought we had a budget crisis in Kansas. Lots of money for expensive lawyers, but no money for children. Force those babies to be born, but screw them after. That's Brownback's motto.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

Not in the defense of something basic like one line in the budget bill.

This isn't complex litigation.

kansanjayhawk 3 years, 10 months ago

The fact is that the AG needs to do a good job of defending the law because PP will do everything possible to stay on the State's dole...they want to have our tax dollars...they don't deserve them at all.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.