Hey, I Thought Ashcroft Was in Favor of Tort Reform


Turns out it’s not just the trial lawyers who profit wildly from corporate misconduct:

When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million.

That contract, which Justice Department officials in Washington learned about only several weeks ago, has prompted an internal inquiry into the department’s procedures for selecting outside monitors to police settlements with large companies.

The contract between Mr. Ashcroft’s consulting firm, the Ashcroft Group, and Zimmer Holdings, a medical supply company in Indiana, has also drawn the attention of Congressional investigators.

The New Jersey prosecutor, United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie, directed similar monitoring contracts last year to two other former Justice Department colleagues from the Bush administration, as well as to a former Republican state attorney general in New Jersey.

Officials said that while there had been no accusations of wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Christie or Mr. Ashcroft, aides to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey were concerned about the appearance of favoritism.

Mr. Mukasey, a former federal judge who was sworn in as attorney general in November, has vowed to remove political considerations from decision-making at the department in the wake of a series of scandals under his predecessor, Alberto R. Gonzales.

Mr. Ashcroft was awarded the contract last fall at the direction of Mr. Christie as part of his office’s settlement of criminal accusations against Zimmer Holdings and four smaller firms accused of paying kickbacks to doctors.

A spokesman for Mr. Ashcroft said that the Ashcroft Group had not lobbied for the contract but was pleased by the referral.

“Pleased by the referral”? You don’t say!A bullcrap sweetheart monitoring deal worth $52 million, and Ashcroft is merely “pleased”?

How much money do you need to funnel to the guy before he’s more than mildly amused?