She led the charge against ACORN and blasted the NRA for backing a Democratic campaign finance bill. She’s helped presidential contenders and entrenched Republicans in Washington. Now GOP super-lawyer Cleta Mitchell is repping the two of the tea party’s biggest rising stars — Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell.
It might surprise tea partiers to know their favorite candidates have retained the same power-broker lawyer who did work for the same establishment National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee that opposed their candidacies in the primary.
Mitchell told TPM in an interview this morning how she got hooked up with Angle and O’Donnell. She’s friends with Angle’s campaign manager, Terry Campbell, since they served together in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. Mitchell was a member from 1976 through 1984. She’s now a partner at Foley and Lardner in Washington.
After she won the primary and came to Washington for a visit, Angle was told “you really need a campaign lawyer,” Mitchell said.
“These candidates didn’t have all of the infrastructure that a campaign normally has because they are outsider candidates, and they need all the things they should have had but couldn’t afford,” Mitchell said.
As for O’Donnell, who she’s representing on campaign finance issues, Mitchell actually turned the Delaware candidate down in 2008.
“I concluded that she couldn’t afford to hire me,” Mitchell said. This year, “when they got to the point that she needed a lawyer they called me.”
O’Donnell has kept Mitchell busy with campaign finance questions and new revelations that her “Saviors Alliance” group failed to properly file its non-profit paperwork. Mitchell has, in turn, accused the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington of just being a George Soros-funded group with a liberal agenda.
As TPM reported earlier, Mitchell advised Angle not to meet with Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian. But the campaign ignored her advice and held the meeting — which Ashjian secretly recorded and leaked to the press — so and now Mitchell’s telling them to drop the issue and move on. (She also left messages along the same lines — on the wrong voicemail.)
Mitchell’s bio reads like a return to the Republican good ‘ol days. She’s the co-chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and has worked for Tom Delay, the Bush-Cheney ‘04 campaign, the NRSC and the NRCC.
She also represents Pennsylvania Senate nominee Pat Toomey and Sen. Jim DeMint of the Senate Conservatives Fund. 2012 presidential hopeful Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) has brought her on as an adviser.
That was Mitchell complaining about the ominous-sounding “deem and pass” procedural tactic during the health care debate.
Erick Erickson (the same conservative blogger who said O’Donnell was toast in Delaware) called her “a conservative trench fighter who has helped more than a few conservatives out, including me.”
She authored The Lobbying Compliance Handbook. And though she openly criticized the Citizens United-NRA kerfuffle this summer, Mitchell sits on the NRA board of directors.
Asked by TPM, Mitchell declined to disclose her retainer fee.
Angle and O’Donnell aren’t the only Republicans sharing legal representation this cycle.
Tea party favorite Joe Miller, the Republican nominee in Alaska, has retained the same lawyer who Sarah Palin keeps on the payroll. Palin keeps the family lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, with a $10,000 monthly legal retainer. He was Palin’s personal lawyer while she was governor, defending her against ethics complaints. He also represented Palin’s daughter, Bristol Palin, when she tried to get child support from Levi Johnston earlier this year.
Van Flein helped Miller complain about the NRSC to Alaska elections officials when they were still counting primary votes.