Dickstein Shapiro was the unexpected target of ire today by Republican and Democrat members of the House Committee on Government Reform, who assailed the firm for conduct that "crosses the line."
Dickstein represents Jonathan Silver, one of the witnesses who appeared before the panel this morning in a contentious hearing over alleged failures to retain federal email records. Silver is a former Department of Energy official who oversaw the loan program that funded now-bankrupt solar power company Solyndra.
Before beginning to question the five witnesses, committee chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) paused to criticize a Dickstein employee’s activities prior to the hearing. The employee—who was not identified, except as a female member of the firm’s lobbying group—“made multiple contacts to committee members and specifically asked them not to ask you questions,” Issa said.
Issa produced a copy of what he termed “a disturbing” email, with the sender’s name blacked out. It read: “If possible, please do not direct questions to Jonathan Silver…He’s a client of my firm. :)”
Issa said, “From the committee’s standpoint, the question is whether to refer this to the bar association, whether it’s an interference with Congress, which I find it to be.”
“I’m not at all familiar with that,” Silver said, then conferred with a silver-haired woman sitting behind him. “I’m told that we’ll look into it.”
“Well, I want more than look into it. I want an explanation from your counsel on why we shouldn’t refer this to the American Bar Association,” Issa said.
He continued, “We have had a long history. Dickstein Shapiro Morin has represented a lot of individuals here. This one crosses the line… When represented by counsel, we expect [counsel] to know more than the witness and keep the witness out of this embarrassing situation.”
Dickstein communications director Michelle Rodgers in a written statement said that "We are looking into the circumstances surrounding the email, but we can confirm that Mr. Silver had no knowledge of the communication."
The committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings (D – Md.), expressed concern as well.
“As a lawyer and an officer of the court, this concerns me greatly,” Cummings said. “Having represented lawyers in Maryland in disciplinary matters, you’re absolutely right to be questioning this … You’re absolutely right it would be clearly out of bounds. I hope it’s not what it appears to be….and I will join you in your efforts to look into it. “