Oct 5, 2005, 11:57 am
A former Texas lottery official, who claimed that then-Gov. George W. Bush's desire to cover up his National Guard record helped steer decisions about a key lottery contract, said he wants to talk to senators about Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers' possible role in that effort.
"If I were to be subpoenaed to come to the thing, I would come," said Lawrence Littwin, who filed a lawsuit after he was fired as the lottery's executive director in 1997. "I would say the committee, I think, would be interested."
Littwin claimed in a federal lawsuit that lottery operator GTECH held sway over the Texas Lottery Commission because former GTECH lobbyist Ben Barnes was involved in helping get Bush into the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.
GTECH, which settled the suit in 1999 and paid Littwin $300,000 without admitting wrongdoing, said in court filings that Littwin's Guard-related claims were "preposterous."
A Bush appointee, Miers served as chairwoman of the Texas Lottery Commission when it was mired in controversy. President Bush cited that record Monday in announcing his nomination of his longtime friend and adviser to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Littwin was hired in 1997 to replace Nora Linares, who had been fired after it was revealed that her boyfriend was working as a consultant for GTECH, the Rhode Island-based firm that has run the Texas Lottery since it began in 1992.
Littwin was fired after five months on the job. He said he was let go because of the aggressive approach that he advocated in scrutinizing GTECH's performance, including investigating whether the company made illegal contributions to public officials.
Littwin sued the company, seeking $2.6 million and claiming that it had arranged his firing. The lawsuit cited GTECH lobbyist Ben Barnes' claims that as Texas House speaker he had helped get Bush into the Guard. Littwin's suit said GTECH had been given preferential treatment by the commission, which controlled the contract.
Under pressure from the lottery commission, GTECH had severed ties with Barnes before Littwin was hired as executive director. GTECH paid Barnes and partner Ricky Knox $23 million to end their consulting contract.
Barnes, who for years had remained silent about his role in getting Bush into the Guard, was forced to discuss it during a September 1999 deposition in the Littwin lawsuit. Barnes' lawyers issued a statement saying that when he was House speaker, Barnes called the head of the Texas Air National Guard to put in a good word for Bush at the request of Bush family friends.
In the statement, Barnes' lawyer said no one from the Bush family had contacted him about the Guard slot.
Littwin, citing confidentiality provisions in the settlement with GTECH, has declined to discuss Miers' role. A federal judge, ruling against GTECH, said Miers did not have to give a deposition in the case.
Before the settlement, Littwin had questioned Miers' performance at the commission, charging that she ignored state law requiring annual audits of GTECH.
Under terms of the settlement, Littwin would have to forfeit $50,000 if he violates the confidentiality agreement. He said Monday that his lawyer told him he could testify if subpoenaed by the Senate.
In the agreement, Littwin said that he had "no personal knowledge of any of the criminal activity alleged in support of his claims against GTECH."
When the case was settled, GTECH said a "business decision" caused it to opt for the settlement instead of taking the case to trial.