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Power Line Gets Scalped: Did Indian Tribe Money Influence Akin Gump Decision?

Posted on | January 31, 2011 | 23 Comments

William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has the story of how, when Paul Mirengoff criticized the Yaqui Indian prayer offered at the Tucson memorial, his remarks were denounced as “insensitive and wholly inappropriate” by a partner at Mirengoff’s K Street law firm, Akin Gump.

So now Mirengoff’s offensive post has been taken down by Power Line and Mirengoff has stopped blogging there. But there’s a lot more to this story than political correctness run amok.

The lawyer who denounced Mirengoff, James Meggesto, is a member of the Onondago Nation of New York who was hired by Akin Gump in February 2007 – i.e., right after Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats took over Congress. Megesto was one of three lawyers, including Vanessa Ray-Hodge and Madeline Soboleff Levy, hired by the firm at that time as part of an expansion of Akin Gump’s “American Indian law and policy practice” according to a Feb. 23, 2007, press release. Akin Gump’s total haul from lobbying in 2007 was $32 million – an increase of 25% over the previous year.

You may recall that Pelosi and Democrats were elected in 2006 on a promise to clean up the “culture of corruption” in Washington. Exhibit A in the Democrats’ case against the GOP that year? Yeah: “Casino Jack” Abramoff’s shady dealings with Indian tribes.

So in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn’t just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump’s lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.

This near-”Dooce” experience calls into question whether a lawyer at a big K Street firm could ever function as an independent conservative voice in the blogosphere. You may recall that Mirengoff was criticized for pushing a bogus Alaska Senate poll which showed Joe Miller in third place in late October. But you may not know that a tribal non-profit, the Alaska Federation of Natives, was the single biggest contributor to a PAC that “reported raising $1.7 million over 38 days in its independent effort to re-elect Sen. Lisa Murkowski.”

While I was unable to Google up any connection between Akin Gump and the Alaska Federation of Natives, I did find a connection between Akin Gump and Lisa Murkowski. (The United Arab Emirates? Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with that . . .) I’ve met Paul Mirengoff and like Paul Mirengoff, and can’t imagine him doing a pay-for-play operation, but you see how being a political blogger could lead to potential conflicts of interest with working for a  K Street law firm that does more than $30 million a year in lobbying business.

The Appearance of Impropriety, so to speak.

UPDATE: Linked by Dan Riehl — thanks! — now a Mememorandum thread and meanwhile, Jeff Goldstein disusses the intentionality angle of Mirengoff’s remarks.

UPDATE II: Linked by Charlie Martin at PJ Tatler. Thanks!

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