WASHINGTON – The nomination of Harriet Miers as associate Supreme Court justice may have an unintended consequence for President Bush – renewing questions about the long-forgotten issue of his National Guard service and charges of influence peddling by the man who raised those allegations in a CBS News interview in 2004.
In 1995, the year George W. Bush won the governorship of Texas, Ben Barnes, the former lieutenant governor, who later claimed in a “60 Minutes” interview with CBS’ Dan Rather that George H.W. Bush approached him to secure a National Guard appointment for his son, secured a contract for a company called GTECH to run the Texas Lottery, reports WND columnist Jerome Corsi.
Barnes was granted a contract worth about 4 percent of the revenue generated by GTECH – some $3 million a year. But, by 1997, with the company embroiled in controversy over allegations of political kickbacks, payoffs and overcharges, his contract was bought out by the company for $23 million.
Two years later, a former executive director of the Texas Lottery, Lawrence Littwin, filed a lawsuit alleging he lost his job as a result of political influence wielded by GTECH. He alleged in his lawsuit that much of GTECH’s clout was the result of the work of Barnes, who affirmed under oath he had helped get the governor into the National Guard and out of military service in Vietnam.
The Littwin lawsuit was settled out of court with a $300,000 payoff – and an unusual agreement that he would destroy all documents produced by the litigation, including any copies of the Barnes deposition.
GTECH moved to settle with Littwin only after its ability to defend itself was damaged when a federal judge ruled that Texas Lottery Commission Chairwoman Harriet Miers did not have to give a deposition in the case, Corsi reports.
While Miers has been credited with cleaning up the scandal in the Texas Lottery, Corsi, the co-author of “Unfit for Command,” a book credited with helping re-elect George W. Bush in 2004, characterizes her role in the scandal as “questionable.”
Littwin served for only six months as executive director of the Texas Lottery before being fired by the commission headed by Miers. Littwin was hired in 1997 to replace Nora Linares, who was fired amid allegations of questionable business practices, including a charge that GTECH hired her boyfriend, whom she later married, and because she had not objected to GTECH hiring “former state officials as lobbyists with excessive control,” people like Ben Barnes.
When Littwin took over, he received a state auditor report highly critical of the Texas Lottery Commission, GTECH and the relationship between the two. Littwin found that the commission, headed by Miers, had not conducted audits of GTECH, as required by Texas state law. He launched an investigation of GTECH, including allegations of unlawful campaign contributions. He ordered that the GTECH contract be out to competitive bid.
Littwin was first ordered by the commission to stop his investigation. Later he was fired. In addition, the commission, headed by Miers, renewed its contract with GTECH, a Rhode Island company, despite receiving lower bids from other companies. The audit of the company was also halted, Corsi found.
Ben Barnes was not heard from again until 2004 when he explained his role in making sure George W. Bush got into the National Guard and avoided Vietnam service. The impact of the CBS story was minimized because of seemingly bogus documents used by Rather to buttress Barnes’ story, and the revelation that Barnes served as a major John Kerry fundraiser.
But Corsi, who also played a pivotal role in the 2004 campaign with his book, “Unfit for Command,” wonders out loud whether Barnes may have been telling the truth about his involvement in securing Bush a spot in the National Guard.
“The Barnes melodrama got drowned out by the forged document saga, but to this day, nobody has disproved Barnes played the role he said he did,” writes Corsi.
He adds: “CBS missed the boat. Dan Rather should never have forged documents. Instead, ’60 Minutes’ should have focused on GTECH, Ben Barnes and Harriet Miers.”
It was Bush who appointed Miers to head the Texas Lottery Commission in 1995. And it was Bush who brought her to Washington to serve as White House counsel. Again, it was Bush who made her his surprise choice for a Supreme Court appointment, despite the fact that she had never served as a judge.
“President Bush says he nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court in large part because she is a close and trusted associate,” writes Corsi. “The question is how close and how trusted?”
Corsi cites GTECH’s 1997 10-K report, a full-disclosure document public companies are required to file by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“What GTECH revealed in its 1997 10-K was that the company was under investigation in Texas because of allegations against one its paid consultants, one Ben Barnes, who previously had been lieutenant governor,” writes Corsi. “The 1997 GTECH 10-K noted that the company was under investigation in Texas and its contract had been open to competitive bid. GTECH disclosed that the Texas Lottery contract was then the company’s largest, accounting for 16 percent of the company’s total revenue in fiscal 1997. Losing this contract would materially hurt GTECH’s operating income and depress its stock price as a consequence. GTECH ran for cover by terminating Ben Barnes’ contract and paying him $23 million to stay quiet.”
Barnes had been hired first by GTECH because of his relationship with former Gov. Ann Richards. When Richards was replaced by George W. Bush in 1995, he boasted to the company that he knew the Bush family well. He explained that Bush family friend Sidney Adger approached him in 1968 to ask Barnes to use his influence to make sure George W. Bush was admitted to the Texas Air National Guard.
Linares, the former executive director of the Texas Lottery, was paid $435,000 by GTECH to drop her lawsuit. Her attorneys were paid a reported $290,000, according to Corsi.
“GTECH further dodged a bullet when the Texas Lottery Commission, including Harriet Miers, decided to end the competitive bidding and re-award the contract to GTECH, deciding not to pursue the lower-price competitive bids that were on the table,” Corsi reports. “In the period of 1995-1997, the George Bush controversy over the National Guard had not yet surfaced to be vetted. Was there a cover-up going on? That’s a reasonable question given what we’ve uncovered so far.”
He adds: “Who was at the center of what may be a massive cover-up? Attorney Harriet Miers – President Bush’s new, surprise Supreme Court nominee – that’s who.”