Virginia taxpayers may be on the hook for as much as $309,000 in legal fees racked up by Republican lawmakers in lawsuits over the makeup of the state’s congressional and House of Delegates districts. Two lawsuits funded by a national Democratic group argue that the maps must be redrawn because they illegally concentrate African American voters into some districts to reduce their influence elsewhere. One lawsuit could go to trial this summer; the other is awaiting court action. House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) hired E. Mark Braden, a former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee who is now with the firm BakerHostetler, to represent the House of Delegates in both cases.
So far, the firm has billed the House $84,000 in the state case and $225,000 in the congressional case. Howell blames Democrats for the fact that taxpayers might pick up the tab, saying they orchestrated the challenges to gain control of the redistricting process. But Howell has political motivation of his own: His supermajority helped craft and ultimately approved the maps. He also petitioned to be part of the case to defend them.
“It’s interesting that after just having had this huge battle over ethics, we have elected officials using taxpayer dollars to protect these hyper-partisan, gerrymandered lines to preserve their power,” said state Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax). “It’s crystal clear Republicans broke the law when they drew these lines.”