Alaska Superior Court judge Frank Pfiffner soundly rejected the Legislative Council's court challenge to Gov. Bill Walker's expansion of Medicaid in Alaska. The expansion will proceed next Tuesday, Sept. 1. Some 40,000 Alaskans will gain access to affordable medical care. The state will get an influx of over a billion dollars.
But it appears the Republicans want to appeal. The ADN online post of Aug. 29 ADN reports
"By the end of the day, the Alaska Supreme Court had already received the Legislature’s request for emergency review and ordered Walker’s attorneys to respond by Monday at noon."[UPDATE Tuesday Sept 1, 2015: The ADN reports the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the Governor's attorneys to let Medicaid expansion begin today, Sept 1. They did not rule on other parts of the suit.]
In either case, the $400K has been appropriated to the DC law firm Bancroft PLLC. I posted a bit about them two weeks ago. The Nerve reported in Jan 2013 that Bancroft PLLC had charged South Carolina over $3 million to defend their voter id law.
"Bancroft PLLC, located in Washington, D.C., billed a total of 6,290 hours from September 2011 through last September at hourly rates of $520 for attorneys, $200 for research associates and $180 for paralegals. With other litigation costs thrown in, the firm's total invoice came to $3,419,439. . .
Federal online court records show that eight Bancroft attorneys represented the state in the voter ID case, which, based on a total cost of $3,419,438.28, works out to an average cost of $427,429.78 per lawyer."If you read that quickly, you might not have realized that 6,290 hours equals 157 forty-hour work weeks, just about three years of work in about 13 months. Divide that by eight (for eight attorneys) and that's over 19 weeks per attorney - almost five months full time each. OK, I realize attorneys bill more than 40 hours per week and that there were paralegals and others. But also note it was a Bancroft attorney who lost a case over billing when he charged for his commuting time.
One wonders how the Alaska legislature will monitor the bills from Bancroft. Basically we're paying them for research work they will use to fight Obamacare in other states. Again, I realize that's how things work, but I don't think most Alaskans want to be making this sort of subsidy to this sort of firm. It's especially galling since a) it's likely to lose and b) for most Alaskans, based on their views on Medicaid expansion, it would be worse if they won.
Do our state Republican legislators even care? I don't think so. This is a way for the firm to get its new friends in the Alaska legislature to move money from Alaska's treasury to theirs. Nothing Chenault and gang say to defend their actions makes sense on the face of it. Herz quotes House Speaker Chenault as saying,
“We are by no means looking for a way to stop Medicaid expansion; we are trying to do it the right way so that we have a reliable, sustainable system.”Yeah, sure. This appears to really be part of a national ideological fight against Obamacare. Every state that signs up for Obamacare is a loss for these anti-Obamacare forces. I'm sure they've come to the legislative leaders and convinced them (using logic? promises of future support?) to fight this Medicaid expansion at all costs. That's why they hired Bancroft, the key law firm that specializes in anti-Obamacare lawsuits. Who were the brokers who connected Chenault and his merry gang with Bancroft? The same folks who pushed them to fight the expansion in the first place? Even though a strong majority of Alaskans favor Medicaid expansion? I'm sure Koch funded groups like Americans for Prosperity who opened an Alaskan office this year played a role. Sourcewatch writes:
According to the Center for Public Integrity, Americans for Prosperity "spent a staggering $122 million (in 2012) as it unsuccessfully attempted to defeat President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats," including $83 million on "communications, ads, and media."Note: Bancroft was the anti-Obama care law firm in both those suits - NFIB v Sibelius and Scott v. US DHSS.
to the US Supreme Court. They lost the critical one NFIB v Sibelius that would have shut down the Affordable Care Act and won the second Scott v. US DHSS.
[Addition 7pm - I forgot to mention that the Governor got an Anchorage law firm to work with the AG's office to represent his (our) side for free. People of Kenai, really, are you going to reelect Chenault?]
Note 2: The South Carolin Voter ID law mentioned above: A Washington Post article reports that while the Department of Justice rejected the law in Dec. 2011, a unanimous three judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for DC approved it October 2012, but delayed implementation.]
I'd also like to salute Nat Herz who did a great job of sending out tweets from the judge's reading of the decision on Friday. He also tried to live feed it, but I wasn't around for it live, so I'm not sure how that went.
|Screenshot of Nat Herz tweeting from the courtroom Firday|