Ashcroft Defends Contract for His Firm

By | March 12, 2008

ph2008031103309.jpg Former attorney general John D. Ashcroft defended a government-sanctioned contract yesterday that could earn his consulting firm more than $50 million, saying that nothing is improper about the selection made by one of his former U.S. attorneys.

Ashcroft has come under scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers since he accepted a no-bid contract to oversee the operations of a medical equipment company that is accused of giving kickbacks to doctors. He was chosen for the job by U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie of New Jersey, a Republican who once worked for him.

“There is not a conflict,” Ashcroft said. “There is not an appearance of conflict.”

His testimony to the House Judiciary subcommittee on commercial and administrative law marked his first appearance before Congress since he left his post as head of the Justice Department in early 2005.

Ashcroft, who sparred regularly with lawmakers during his four years as attorney general, joined fellow Republicans on the panel yesterday in lashing out at Democrats for questioning the propriety of the contract.

He also used the occasion to herald some of his accomplishments as attorney general, including a decline in crime rates and the creation of aggressive anti-terrorism programs.

Ashcroft is now a lobbyist who runs his own Washington consulting firm, the Ashcroft Group LLC, which was awarded a contract last fall to oversee the operations of Zimmer Holdings of Warsaw, Ind. The company, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of knee and hip implants, avoided prosecution for allegedly paying doctors to use its products, according to the settlement.

The deal is expected to earn Ashcroft’s firm $28 million to $52 million over 18 months, according to financial filings. –washpost

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