Dems seek investigation of AG McCollum health care lawsuitby Dara Kam | March 25th, 2010
House and Senate Democratic leaders want the state auditor general to investigate Attorney General Bill McCollum after he filed a lawsuit challenging the federal health care reforms approved by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.
Democrats accuse McCollum, a Republican who is running for governor, of using his office as the state’s chief legal eagle to promote his candidacy for governor.
“When a state official can deploy not only the vast resources of his office, but hire outside counsel at taxpayer expense to try and block millions of Floridians from finally getting access to health care, it’s time to stop and demand some accountability,” Senate Democratic Leader Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, said at a press conference this afternoon. “When the same state official, who happens to be a Republican, leads the charge on a national Republican mission to use health care reform as a rally cry in the upcoming elections, it’s time this legislature stops and asks how much in taxpayer money is being diverted from critical issues to advance a political agenda.”
The Dems complained that McCollum should be protecting consumers by going after pill mills and mortgage foreclosures and instead is using state funds to appeal to conservative Republican voters with the lawsuit.
“This is…for the rank political ambitions of the candidate,” Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, said. Gelber is running for attorney general in a Democratic primary against Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres.
McCollum also drew flak for hiring his former business partner David Rivkin and Lee Casey with Baker and Hostetler to handle the lawsuit.
That contract is capped at $50,000 and Rivkin and Casey are charging the state $250 an hour, according to the contract with McCollum. Their normal hourly fees are $950, according to McCollum’s staff. And their fees will be shared with some of the 12 other states that have joined the lawsuit, bringing Florida’s portion to about $30 an hour, McCollum spokeswoman Ryan Wiggins said in an e-mail.
“As Attorney McCollum has said, this lawsuit is simply about the law and the Attorney General’s oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the people of Florida,” Wiggins wrote.
House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands rejected McCollum’s assertion that the lawsuit is not political.
“If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to talk to you about,” Sands, D-Weston, said.
The Dems sent a letter to House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater asking them to request the audit. But under state law, the auditor general could initiate the investigation on his own.