Professor Warren's Mystery Contract

Massachusetts Democratic Senate Candidate Warren Received No-Bid Contract from Clinton DOJ

Elizabeth Warren / AP
October 24, 2012

Massachusetts Democratic senate candidate Elizabeth Warren garnered a lucrative no-bid contract with the Clinton administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) one year after advising then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

The Department paid Warren, a Harvard professor, $90,000 for serving as an expert witness over a five month period in 1999 and 2000, documents show.

That is an "oddly" large sum given the short time frame and the hourly pay rate DOJ pays witnesses, according to University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter.

"That’s a whale of a contract," said Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for the White House under the Bush administration. "Assuming she’s charging $500 an hour, which is a ton at that point in time, she’d have to work 180 hours on this one case to get up to $90,000."

The lucrative contract came after Warren published a groundbreaking study into the impact of bankruptcy on women. She served through 1998 as an adviser on bankruptcy issues to then First Lady Hillary Clinton.

The contract was issued through the Department’s Civil Division in October 1999 and paid out in March of 2000.

Civil Division spokesman Charles Miller could not comment on Warren’s specific case, but said it is common for the Department to seek experts to testify on the government’s behalf in trial.

"We hire experts all the time, just as state governments and private practices seek out expert testimony," Miller said. "Depending on what the case is, we choose somebody with expertise that is line with what the case that the government is presenting."

Warren did not respond to requests for comment.

It is unclear what duties Warren performed for the DOJ, nor is it known what case she was working on.

The Department spent five months attempting to track down Warren’s records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. It came up empty.

"The payment records only go back a few years, apparently because there’s so many payments they can’t keep all of them more than a few years," said Civil Division FOIA attorney James Kovakas. "The focal point for the Civil Division’s record keeping is maintained in case files. Without a specific case, I couldn’t find the file."

The payment records indicate that the DOJ did not seek competing bids for Warren’s contract. Such no-bid contracts are common when hiring expert witnesses, according to Painter, "because it’d look odd to a jury that your expert had to bid to testify."

Warren’s legal consulting and lucrative expert witness contracts have become an issue in the Massachusetts campaign. Bloomberg reported in 2010 that a group of trial lawyers pursuing a class action lawsuit against banks paid Warren $90,000 to serve as an "expert witness" while she was monitoring the $700 billion bank bailout for the Congressional Oversight Panel.

Warren is running dead even with Republican Sen. Scott Brown in the Nov. 6 election.

The Brown campaign declined comment.