The epic tale of the D.C. lottery contract just got a little weirder: the District government has subpoenaed former President Bill Clinton and ABC newsman George Stephanopoulos as part of a civil case brought by a former city employee who says he was unjustly fired for protesting the lotto deal.
That employee, Eric Payne, just won no small victory a few days ago when a federal judge ruled that Mayor Vince Gray and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham will have to testify about what role, if any, they played in Payne’s dismissal from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. (Both Gray and Graham have said they played no role.) Payne says his complaints about political interference in the contract led to his firing. He also says the District is going out of its way to make life hard for him and his future career prospects.
Those future job prospects are what dragged the 42nd president of the United States into the case. Payne says he’s known Clinton for 24 years and worked for him in the White House. A couple of articles from the archives verify that story: A 1993 clip from The New York Times describes Payne as a “21-year-old member of the White House communications staff” who does “research and fact-checking for the president as a member of the team headed” by Stephanopoulos. Nexis even indicates that the paper took a picture of Payne for the article.
So now the District wants to know how Payne’s old bosses are helping him find a new job.
“It’s overreaching, it’s overbroad,” Payne’s attorney, Brian K. McDaniel, says of the subpoenas. He adds that the District is trying to use the subpoenas to “chill relationships” with former and potential future employers. “They just want to embarrass Mr. Payne,” he says.
But the District says it’s just doing its job. In court records, the District says Payne brought Clinton into this whole mess by saying at a February deposition that he spoke to the former president for 20 minutes about helping him find a job, and Clinton “might be a witness called at trial.” As for Stephanopoulos, the District says in court records that it must “insist” that it be provided with copies of all the emails Payne said during a deposition he’s been exchanging with Stephanopoulos as part of his job hunt.
Office of Attorney General spokesman Ted Gest says the subpoenas sent to Clinton and Stephanopoulos are “entirely routine” and the pair are being treated the way any of Payne’s potential employers would be treated. The subpoenas request documents, not actual testimony.
Clinton and Stephanopoulos were not immediately available for comment.
Illustration by Brooke Hatfield/Photo by Flickr user wetwebwork/Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)