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Steele Considers Suit

A lawyer for Michael S. Steele said today that the lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate candidate may file a civil lawsuit as a means to learn more about an episode in which a Democratic researcher in Washington improperly accessed in his credit report.

Lauren B. Weiner, a former staff member at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, has been charged by federal prosecutors for accessing Steele's report without authorization and is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

During a conference call with reporters, E. Mark Braden, a lawyer for Steele, said the lieutenant governor might sue Weiner and the DSCC if several questions about the episode are not answered during Friday's proceedings, in which Weiner is expected to accept a plea arrangement that could result in charges being dropped in a year.

The episode took place last July as both parties were starting to dig into the backgrounds of candidates in Maryland's marquee races this year. DSCC officials have said Steele's credit report was immediately destroyed after Weiner obtained it and was not disseminated. Weiner and the DSCC's director of research resigned.

In a letter to prosecutors released yesterday, Braden, a former counsel to the Republican National Committee, said several questions remained unanswered, including whether the DSCC is still in possession of any of the information in the report.

"Lt. Gov. Steele and his family are entitled to a full and complete factual explanation of the circumstances surrounding this criminal activity at the DSCC and the role of more senior individuals at the DSCC," the letter says.

If that explanation is not obtained, "a civil proceeding might be approrpriate," Braden told reporters, adding that the discovery process would help answer lingering questions.

Phil Singer, a spokesman for the DSCC, said he considers the matter closed.

"As has been said repeatedly, the DSCC has never been implicated in any wrongdoing in this incident," Singer said.

John Wagner

By Phyllis Jordan  |  March 22, 2006; 4:53 PM ET
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Now I'm confused. I thought Republicans didn't like lawyers and lawsuits. What happened to tort reform?? I suppose that kind of legal reform is only for the poor and disadvantaged people who don't have other resources or power to avenge their rights. I get it. We have to leave the Courts for Lt. Governors to waste their time and the courts time to get publicity for their failing political race. It's just how the Republican tax reform and safety net reform worked too - more benefits for the rich, limits on benefits to the poor.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 23, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

The U.S. Attorney's office conducted its investigation, which I'm sure was quite thorough and reached an agreement for sentencing. But that’s not good enough for Michael Steele. He wants blood.

The 26 year old girl who illegally accessed Steele’s credit report for research purposes (Steele has been plagued with questions about his finances since 2002.) should be punished. But Steele wants to take it a step further and ruin the young women’s life because she made a stupid mistake. He wants her to be convicted of a felony, so it will be tough for her to ever find a job again, so she won’t ever again have the right to vote.

Steele is good at playing the victim and has shown repeatedly that he is incapable of rising above gutter politics. But now its time to move on, Mike Steele. Tell us why we should vote for you, not why we should feel sorry for you.

Posted by: Move on Mr. Steele | March 23, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'm no fan of Steele. I think he's a classic republican hack that will do and say anything to get into the good graces of his party. But, dirty tricks, by any party, should be delt with swiftly and harshly. Our democracy should be protected from those who would break the law to influence an election. And the DSCC should be very upset at one of their own handing Steele a political point and causing this embarassment. They need to control their people better.

Posted by: Sully | March 24, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I guess the first two posters here think that only Democrats deserve to have their privacy protected.

Posted by: MK | March 24, 2006 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Not at all MK. We all deserve to have our privacy protected. That's why I oppose Bush's domestic spying program and why he should respect and obtain warrants from the FISA court. Re: Mr. Steele - the prosecutors are handling this matter as they should. It appears to be a wrongful act punishable by criminal statute. I object to him engaging in an unnecesary civil suit just for political purposes but its his right. I hope all Americans retain the right to sue and that Republican efforts at tort "reform" to protect the wealthy fail.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 24, 2006 5:02 PM | Report abuse

I care not who you are, you deserve privacy and not having some unfortunate sole smear your confidential information. If Mr. Steele feels he needs to steam forward with a civil suit, that's he's right. It's a real shame someone put him in a position to make such a decision. Whatever happened to the Golden Rule; or have we forgotten that, too, in this wonderful day and age? I continue to support Mr. Steele.

Posted by: Anne | March 28, 2006 5:29 PM | Report abuse

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