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Democrats Beware! Bush's lawyer comes to the aid of the Missouri Senate

April 23, 2001
By: Maggie Rotermund
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Democrats beware! One of the main GOP players in the Florida recount is coming to Missouri to help with Congressional redistricting.

Michael Carvin, a member of George W. Bush's legal team, is now the legal adviser for the Senate Committee on Redistricting. Carvin gave oral arguments for Bush and is also a former lawyer for the Department of Justice.

In an executive session of the committee held Monday, the members voted 3-2 along straight party-lines to hire Carvin.

"I think that he is a lawyer of very high stature--he knows the law and he is up to date," said Committee Chairman David Klindt, R-Bethany. "He is there to answer specific questions."

But Carvin's political background was an issue for the Democrats on the committee.

"He is very partisan when Sen. Wiggins (Sen. Harry Wiggins, D-Kansas City and a member of the committee) and I talk with him, I'm not sure that I can be confident with his answers," said Sen. Steve Stoll, D-Festus.

Stoll said he feared that statements he made to Carvin might come out later, either in court or to other Republicans.

Sen. Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, disputed that complaint. "The committee as a whole is his client. Confidentiality applies to all the committee members."

The Republicans on the committee argued that Carvin's politics would not effect his position.

"Anyone we hire is going to have a partisan bias. Whomever we select will have picked up their experience at the hands of one party or the other," Gibbons said.

Carvin is not expected to come to Missouri any time soon, possibly not at all, but that doesn't mean that he won't collect Missouri dollars.

Carvin will make between $360 and $375 per hour, with a $30,000 cap set by the committee. He will handle legal questions from the members on an individual basis over the phone.

"He won't have any involvement as far as the maps are concerned. That is our job. He is someone who has been through the process and the litigation," said Gibbons.

The Democrats plan to look elsewhere for their legal advice -- specifically, the Attorney General, Jay Nixon, also a Democrat.

"As a senator and as a lawyer, I look to the attorney general. I have confidence in him and I call him often," Wiggins said.

The committee already faces its first legal challenge in a lawsuit that was filed Thursday by a Springfield woman. In it, Barbara C. Lurie claims that "population shifts during the last decade have now diluted plaintiff's voting strength and rendered Missouri's congressional districting plan unconstitutional under the rule of one person, one vote."

Lurie is suing Gov. Bob Holden, Secretary of State Matt Blunt, Speaker of the House Jim Kreider and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, for a denial of equal protection of the law as guaranteed by the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

She is asking the courts to assume jurisdiction over the matter. According to Gibbons, the suit cites 1982 redistricting problems and districts that no longer exist.

"This lawsuit defies explanation--the court can't make the map," said Gibbons. "There is no controversy, nothing for the court to confer on."

The real controversy the committee faces is the redrawing of lines in St. Louis City where two Democratic congressmen -- Dick Gephardt and Lacy Clay -- are fighting over adding Democratic voters to their districts which have lost population.

Clay has proposed a plan that would add population from his district by taking some heavy-Democratic of Gephardt's district in St. Louis City. That shift potentially could push Gephardt's district into more conservative and Republican areas.

Sen. Bill Foster, R-Poplar Bluff, says that having someone of a different party might prove to be less contentious when the committee draws the lines in St. Louis.

"Our responsibility is to create a map and get it passed," said Klindt. "This map has to stand up to the law that we have."