Washington Wrap is a weekly look at the biggest legal industry news and Big Law moves shaping the legal business in Washington, D.C. Send tips and lateral moves to Ryan Lovelace at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Blasey Ford’s accusation of decades-old sexual harassment by Judge Brett Kavanaugh has ignited anguish all around. But as with any crisis, others see opportunity.
Some are literally gambling money on Kavanaugh’s fate. The volume of online bets on the outcome of Kavanaugh’s nomination has spiked since the revelation of Ford’s identity as Kavanaugh’s accuser. PredictIt, an online marketplace that allows people to trade money on predictions, recorded nearly 28,000 trades in the first half of September on the question of whether the Supreme Court vacancy would be filled by the end of the month.
In the five days since Ford’s identity became public, PredictIt recorded more than 123,000 trades on the question. As of Friday morning, just after 11 a.m., the “yes” price was 23 cents per trade. Before Ford’s identity was public the “yes” prediction hovered around 80 cents per trade.
Then there are the influencers. The Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), a right-leaning group supporting Kavanaugh, spent $4.3 million on ads boosting Kavanaugh between his July nomination and Aug. 1, focusing nearly half of that spending on Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota and Alabama. Those four states feature Democratic senators with constituencies that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, making opposition to Trump’s nominee potentially more perilous.
The day after Ford publicly revealed herself, the JCN announced a $1.5 million national cable and digital ad campaign featuring a friend of Kavanaugh defending the judge’s integrity. Carrie Severino, JCN chief counsel and policy director, said her group remains focused on the same vulnerable Democratic senators but the new ad buy was targeted at a different audience as part of JCN’s attempt to help answer “national-sized charges.”
Before Ford stepped forward, Kavanaugh’s opponents largely sought to affect public perception through earned media. Protesters arrested during his hearing sought attention through a “social justice media strategy firm,” and left-leaning group Demand Justice ran radio ads aimed at persuading undecided Republican senators in Maine and Alaska to oppose Kavanaugh.
Demand Justice unveiled a $700,000 television and digital ad buy in the D.C. market this week, after Ford’s claims emerged, linking the controversy to sexual abuse allegations against Trump and Roy Moore, the former GOP Senate candidate in Alabama.
On Thursday Demand Justice took aim at Colorado and Nevada—in addition to Maine and Alaska—with a new television ad aimed at Republican senators running for re-election in November. Demand Justice’s ad details Ford’s allegations, including that her mouth was covered by her attacker so no one would hear her scream, before asking whether the Republican senators were willing to listen to her now.
O’Melveny & Myers’ A.B. Culvahouse, former White House counsel under President Ronald Reagan, said in an interview before the harassment scandal erupted that he thought the “infrastructure on the left and the right that make a lot of money and have a lot of staff pursuing the business of supporting or opposing Supreme Court and other judicial nominees” was “harming the institution.”
Culvahouse called failing to confirm Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court his “great regret,” but added that the nation was “lucky” to have that seat filled by Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose spot Kavanaugh was selected to take.
“I said oh we need to do—I remember during Bork—the president needs to make a national speech, we need to do ads, we need to do polls, we need to do all these sorts of things,” Culvahouse said in a July interview. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to get 51 votes.”
Law firm moves, news and notes:
Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, based in Buffalo, New York, is moving into the D.C. market with the addition of a pair of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld attorneys focused on Indian Law and environmental matters.
Connie Bertram left Proskauer Rose, the firm she sued for gender discrimination, and joined Polsinelli as a shareholder in Washington, D.C., this week.
Last month Bertram resolved her $50 million suit against Proskauer, where she was head of the firm’s labor and employment practice. At Polsinelli, she will handle complex internal investigations, government contracting compliance, trade secret and False Claims Act litigation, and whistleblower claims.
Brian Frey rejoined Alston & Bird as a partner in Washington, D.C., this week. Frey spent about eight years at the firm before leaving in 2015 for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.
Before returning to Alston & Bird, he worked for three years in the Bank Integrity Unit of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. His addition will bolster Alston & Bird’s white-collar and internal investigations offerings.
Dechert added Harry Pangas as a partner in the firm’s corporate and permanent capital practices in Washington, D.C.
Pangas joined Dechert after nearly 17 years at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, and its post-merger successor Eversheds Sutherland.
Russ Ryan returned to King & Spalding as a partner after three years in senior positions at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
He spent 11 years at King & Spalding before heading to FINRA, where he served most recently as senior vice president and deputy chief of enforcement. His work at King & Spalding will involve Foreign Corrupt Practices Act compliance, corporate internal investigations, and enforcement matters brought by FINRA or the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Patrick Quigley moved to Bradley Arant Boult Cummings after more than eight years at Arent Fox. Quigley will work in Bradley Arant’s Government Contracts Practice Group from Washington, D.C.
His work involves litigating bid protests, contract claims, and internal and governmental investigations, among other things.