Former Majority Leader Dick Armey has resigned from DLA Piper, saying a firestorm over his ties to a conservative nonprofit opposed to health care reform has hurt the firm.
In an interview, John Merrigan, a DLA Piper partner who chairs the federal affairs practice, said Armey, who had been a senior policy adviser, made the decision to leave. The nonprofit group, FreedomWorks, has been associated with disruptive protests at town hall meetings on health care reform.
Armey's association with FreedomWorks, and his ties to DLA Piper, have been repeatedly raised on liberal blogs and by left-leaning commentators. For instance, ThinkProgress, a blog run by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, reported that "Armey’s FreedomWorks is actively organizing against health care reform. Indeed, Armey’s lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies, such as Bristol-Myers Squibb,
that oppose comparative effectiveness research in the health reform
plan because such a program may cut into revenue for branded drugs."
Merrigan said Armey has never lobbied on health care reform for the firm, and "our firm represents clients in support of health care reform."
The issue has been building all week. On Wednesday, the firm sent out an internal e-mail about the controversy to all U.S. lawyers and staff. The e-mail said:
"Recently several media commentators have suggested that DLA Piper may be opposing health care reform. Some of the reports have gone so far as to suggest that the firm itself, or on behalf of its clients, may be supporting activities to disrupt the national debate on health care reform. All of these suggestions are entirely false. The firm has not, on its own behalf, or on the behalf of any client, directly or indirectly opposed any of the pending health care reform bills; and the firm strongly opposed any activities designed to disrupt the national debate about health care reform or any other public policy issues. On the contrary, DLA Piper represents clients who support enactment of effective health care reform this year and encourages responsible national debate. We have contacted news outlets to set the record straight and urge correction of the inaccurate reports."
Merrigan confirmed that he is the person who spoke with
Armey about the situation, and Armey offered his resignation on Thursday. The
decision wasn’t finalized until Friday.
Merrigan wouldn't discuss other details of the firm's discussions with Armey regarding his resignation, saying only that the firm had "offered Dick Armey the option to stay in the firm if he
concluded that was the correct option. He concluded it wasn’t."
Merrigan wouldn't comment on whether Armey was told he would have to leave FreedomWorks, or whether there were any conditions attached to his remaining at the firm.
"Leader Armey recognized that these allegations weren't going to desist, and so he made the election that he'd rather go fight the fight with FreedomWorks and not subject the firm and the clients to inaccurate statements," Merrigan said, though he wouldn't specify which statements he was referring to as inaccurate.
Armey could not immediately be reached for comment via FreedomWorks. In a statement to Politico, which first reported on his resignation, he called leaving the firm "a sacrifice I must make in light of the important work I am committed to at FreedomWorks." and said it was painful to see the firm under attack because of its association with him.
Merrigan said Armey departed the firm today, and has no continuing financial arrangement with DLA Piper.