John Ashcroft angrily denied congressional Democrats' allegations today that a lucrative no-bid contract the Justice Department awarded him represents a conflict of interest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Democrats characterized the contract as a “backroom sweetheart deal” because Ashcroft's ex-subordinates selected his firm to monitor a medical supply company under investigation for providing kickbacks. The deal could be worth up to $52 million.
“Mr. Ashcroft was selected with no public notice and no bidding,” Rep. Linda Sanchez said at a Judiciary Committee hearing, questioning the circumstances of a “former employee hiring the former boss for a very lucrative contract.” Ashcroft remained adamant. “There is not a conflict, there is not an appearance of a conflict,” he said, noting that his fees were paid by the company, not by taxpayers.