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by Vault Law Editors | November 10, 2008

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While a select few in BigLaw are hoping that their clout, qualifications and campaign contributions land them a spot in the Obama administration, others have turned their attention to the Senate and the states. The plight of Alaska senator Ted Stevens is by now old news—though Mr. Series of Tubes, clearly a man who plays by his own rules, maintained after his felony corruption conviction last month that he had “not been convicted yet.” Stevens’ lawyer, Williams & Connolly partner Brendan Sullivan, took home AmLaw “Litigator of the Week” recognition after the verdict, which may not have prevented Stevens from winning an eighth term (they’re still counting in the Far North).

Meanwhile, McDermott, Will & Emery white collar defense chief Abbe Lowell—of Gary Condit and Jack Abramoff fame—helped Nevada governor Jim Gibbons avoid a similar trial last week when the Department of Justice cleared Gibbons of corruption accusations. The government had been investigating allegations of quid pro quo between Gibbons and a contractor friend said to have received Gibbons-steered earmarks in exchange for unreported gifts (sound familiar?). Perhaps helping the government close the case was the fact that the whistleblower, one of the contractor’s former employees, agreed to a legal settlement with his one-time employer in September.

As is par for the post-Election Day course, we’re also looking at a growing pile of political defamation lawsuits, as The National Law Journal detailed today. The most relevant among them comes from Minnesota, where Al Franken is trying to help the state catch California on the most-celebrities-turned-politicians leader board. The erstwhile Stuart Smalley is taking on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, with the incumbent hanging on to a shriveling lead over the comedian and author (as of this morning, Franken had closed the gap to just 221 votes—out of nearly 3 million cast).

The defamation suit stems from Franken television and radio ads that called Coleman “the fourth most corrupt senator in Washington,” accusing him of living in a D.C. apartment “almost rent-free.” (Coleman’s campaign says that the senator pays $600 a month to rent a room and bath in a house owned by a political telemarketer pal.) In a separate case filed less than a week before Election Day, the former CEO of a Houston engineering firm is accusing Minnesota businessman and Coleman booster Nasser Kazeminy of pressuring him to funnel money to the senator’s wife. The plaintiff names his former employer and several board members and shareholders—including Kazeminy—in the complaint, which Coleman called “sleazy politics” despite the plaintiff’s assertion that he “wouldn’t know (the candidates) if they walked through my front door.” A trio of notables have been called in: Haynes & Boone represents the former plaintiff, while the company and its board have tapped Susman Godfrey and Greenberg Traurig, respectively.

The cases, however, have zero effect on the election outcome at this point. The tally’s headed for an automatic recount after the initial poll results are certified on November 18th, and experts are predicting that as many as 6,000 new ballots could turn up on the second go-round. Those reportedly would come largely from recent immigrants, who may have arrived from non-democratic nations where ballots don’t exist, and old folks, who apparently have trouble filling in ovals.

- posted by ben fuchs

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