It’s March and we’re still talking about the 2020 election. Not about the fallout from it, mind you, but who actually got elected.
We’re not talking about you-know-who or anyone particularly powerful. In fact, GOP Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, while more powerful than I’ll ever be, will still most likely be remembered as the answer to a trivia question.
Miller-Meeks won her seat in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District by just six votes in one of the closest — and most viciously contested — House elections in a year that had its share of them. Her victory was certified by the state of Iowa and she’s been seated in the 117th Congress.
Now, her opponent, Democrat Rita Hart, wants House Democrats to overturn the election results and expel Miller-Meeks from office — something I was informed quite recently, with all the brouhaha about you-know-who, was a Very Bad Thing. Her case hinges on 22 ballots that were uncounted for a variety of reasons, according to the Iowa City Press Citizen, including signatures in the wrong place, opened seals and machines that wouldn’t accept them. If those ballots are counted, Hart says, she’d win.
She’s taking her case to the House Administration Committee with high-powered Washington attorney Marc Elias representing her. He’s with Perkins Coie, a law firm closely connected to Democrats and Democrat causes. (So much so, in fact, that Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee paid Fusion GPS for the infamous Trump dossier through Perkins Coie.)
In fact, it’s so closely connected to the Democrats that it represents half of the Democrats on the House Administration Committee, according to Fox News — a huge conflict of interest, Republicans on the committee say.
In a Friday letter to House Administration Committee chair Zoe Lofgren (represented by Perkins Coie, natch), committee GOPers said “[i]n the election contests currently before us, Mr. Elias simultaneously represents Members of the Committee, the triers of fact and law, and parties to these contests, an arrangement clearly prohibited by attorney ethics rules and obligations.”
Elias and Perkins Coie also represent Pete Aguilar of California and Mary Gay Scanlon of Pennsylvania, the letter noted.
And this won’t be the only case before the committee where Elias will be representing a client. Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood is also fighting off an election challenge from Jim Oberweis in Illinois’ 14th Congressional District, according to WMAQ-TV — and she’ll be represented by Elias, too.
Underwood’s case is basically a pro forma matter, however; Oberweis is alleging election fraud but, with Underwood having a 5,300-vote margin, best of luck with that.
The Miller-Meeks/Hart case has a much greater chance of actually reaching the full House for a vote, which is why this is problematic — particularly since the GOP committee members allege the arrangement breaches American Bar Association ethics rules.
“Rule 1.7 of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct clearly prohibit an attorney from engaging in representation that involves ‘a concurrent conflict of interest,’” the letter read.
“Such a conflict exists here: You, Mr. Aguilar, and Ms. Scanlon serve as triers of fact and law on the tribunal charged with deciding election contests, and Mr. Elias represents you; Ms. Hart and Ms. Underwood are parties to election contests before the Committee, and Mr. Elias represents them.”
“We are gravely concerned that these serious conflicts of interest and ethical lapses on the part of counsel compromise the work of this Committee, and, more specifically, demonstrate further that the Democratic Members of this Committee operate not in search of the truth but solely in search of partisan, political gain,” the letter continued.
The House is ultimately the final judge of any of its elections, although overturning a state-certified result is rare.
According to CNN, between 1933 and 2009, 107 contested cases came before the House of Representatives, but only three were overturned; a vacancy was declared in another.
Miller-Meeks’ legal team is also taking issue with the fact Hart decided to go to the Democrat-controlled House instead of take the case to court.
“Our focus is on the fact that we have a certificate of election, and that there was a process that Hart could have chosen that was based on law, administered by judges, that she bypassed in favor of one administered by her own political party,” said Alan Ostergren, Miller-Meeks’ attorney, according to CNN.
“The argument on their 22 ballots is almost exclusively that state law should not matter,” he said. “That’s a pretty troubling argument to make.”
Again, what’s interesting is that a party that was fully behind states counting their ballots by their own rules (and promiscuously changing those rules, sometimes illegally) during the 2020 election is suddenly determined to decide what ballots Iowa can count in this race. Even more interesting is the fact that the same party brayed like mortally wounded donkeys about anyone who tried to “overturn” the 2020 election.
“They were complaining because Republicans wouldn’t tell people that Biden won the election on November 4, the day after the election, and now they’re playing this game? It just doesn’t add up,” said Republican Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley.
It does when you consider the Democrats have a 219-211 majority in the House, unfortunately. And if you think this will be about evidence, just consider the conflict of interest Marc Elias poses that the Democrats have, thus far, been willing to put up with.
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