Foreclosure-Probe Chief Asked Bank Lawyers for Money

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Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

Iowa attorney general Tom Miller.

A few weeks ago, the National Institute for Money in State Politics published a report showing a marked spike last fall in campaign contributions to Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller by lawyers and law firms that represent big banks after Miller announced he was opening an investigation into the nationwide mishandling of foreclosures by Bank of America, Chase and others.

On April 20, TIME reported that a lawyer and a consultant for Bank of America, which is in direct negotiations with Miller over its handling of foreclosures, gave a total of $15,000 to Miller’s campaign.

Now, in response to queries from TIME, Miller says he initiated fundraising calls to several national firms that represent big banks after he had announced his intention to investigate the foreclosure mess. “In September and October, I tried to reach out to people that I’d worked with and I thought had respect for me and potential support for me and tried to raise money from them,” Miller says. “And a number of them were from national firms.”

Miller declined to say how many lawyers he contacted who regularly represent big banks and said he “didn’t know until after the election which firms were representing the banks in the foreclosure” case.

A source on the bank side of the case described one such fundraising call with Miller: “He told me that there was a great deal of money coming into the state to defeat him and he was fairly disconsolate. I volunteered to make a contribution.” The source said he had not previously given to Miller but that he had known and worked with him for several years, and that his contribution was based on his “long-standing friendship” with him. The source then spoke again with Miller after the election to congratulate him on his victory.

Miller says he does not believe his fundraising efforts among lawyers representing potential targets of his investigations give the impression of impropriety. Nor does he believe that negotiating with the lawyer who gave him $5,000, Meyer Koplow of New York’s Wachtell Lipton, now representing Bank of America, presents a conflict of interest. “All of this is just so much of a stretch,” Miller says.

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