McDermott Must Pay $1 Million in Legal Fees

March 2, 2008

A federal judge has ordered Representative Jim McDermott to pay the House minority leader, John A. Boehner of Ohio, more than $1 million in legal fees in a dispute over a telephone call that was illegally taped in 1996.

Chief Judge Thomas Hogan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ordered Mr. McDermott to pay Mr. Boehner $1.05 million in lawyers’ fees and costs, plus about $40,000 in interest. Mr. McDermott, Democrat of Washington, also had to pay more than $60,000 in fines and damages, and about $600,000 in fees to his own lawyers.

Mr. McDermott said Tuesday he would not appeal the ruling.

In a statement, Mr. Boehner said, “Congressman McDermott broke the law, and as a result, he shattered the bonds of trust between our institution and the men and women we represent in the halls of Congress.”

In December, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling that Mr. McDermott acted improperly in giving reporters access to an audio tape given to him by a Florida couple who recorded a telephone call involving Newt Gingrich, who was the House speaker, and other Republican leaders, including Mr. Boehner, about ethics accusations against Mr. Gingrich.

A senior member of the House Ethics Committee at the time, Mr. McDermott leaked the tape to The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which published articles on the case in January 1997.

Mr. McDermott has created a fund to cover expenses related to the lawsuit. He said the fund now held about $400,000.

Read more: (“Lawmaker Must Pay $1 Million in Legal Fees,” Associated Press, 4/02/08)