Biden's DOJ moves to drop $3.3 billion lawsuit against Dish Network after founder makes major donation to Biden campaign

The company was also granted $50 million shortly afterwards by the Biden administration.  


President Joe Biden's Department of Justice (DOJ) moved to dismiss a $3.3 billion fraud lawsuit against Dish Network after founder Charlie Ergen and his wife donated a little more than $113,000 to the Biden-Harris reelection campaign. The company was also granted $50 million shortly afterward by the Biden administration.  

According to a report from the New York Post, the DOJ took the step just a few months after the founder donated the sum to the Biden campaign. Ergen, who is formerly a professional poker player, helped to start the company in 1980 and has fought against the federal fraud claim for years.  

Shortly after the campaign donation in December, Dish was also able to obtain a $50 million grant to expand its 5G coverage nationwide. It was called the "largest award" of its kind, according to the company, and was made available through the CHIPS and Science Act.  

Two days after the $50 million sum was awarded to Dish, attorneys from the DOJ intervened to stop the $3.3 billion lawsuit against Dish, according to the lead attorney in the fraud case, Bennett Ross.

Ross represents Vermont Telephone, the company that brought the $3.3 billion fraud case against Dish, owned by EchoStar. The DOJ lawyers “tried to bully” Vermont Telephone “into an unethical settlement" seeking to have the case dismissed, according to the lawyer.  

“[I]t appears that the effect — if not the purpose — of the DOJ’s rush to seek dismissal of this case is to protect Mr. Ergen from being questioned under oath,” Ross stated in a Feb. 8 letter to the DOJ. “We do not believe it is a coincidence that Mr. Ergen, his wife (who also is scheduled to be deposed next week), and DISH’s Political Action Committee collectively contributed in excess of $5 million to Democratic candidates and causes between 2008 and 2022." 

“With the upcoming election, this case looks like just the latest example of the DOJ’s two-tiered justice system under which the well-heeled, politically connected are treated one way, while everyone else is treated differently," Ross added in the letter.  

The move to officially dismiss the case was filed on March 8 by senior DC US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and is still pending.  

According to the Post's review of court filings, the DOJ's Civil Division was opposed to the case being dismissed during 2022 and 2023.  

“As far as we are aware, relators have filed approximately 4,000 [similar] actions under the False Claims Act since 2018, and the DOJ moved for dismissal in approximately 65 of those cases, which is less than two percent,” Ross told The Post. “And in those cases where the DOJ has sought dismissal, it generally was because the case suffered from a fatal defect, which is not the case with Vermont Telephone’s claims against DISH.” 

The dispute between the two companies began in 2015 when Dish bought up $13.3 billion in wireless license bids. These bids were part of a Federal Communications Commission auction and were set to help "very small businesses." Dish bought up 702 of 1,600 of the wireless licenses with the help of the asset management behemoth, BlackRock.  

This allowed Dish to put bids on $3.3 billion of the licenses – also referred to as spectrum - in the Boston, New York, and Chicago areas prior to the company even offering cell phone service.  

“The Defendants short-changed the government $3.3 billion, an amount that remains unpaid to this day,” Ross said. “They also corrupted a program designed to benefit real small businesses, distorted the FCC auction process, and thwarted the deployment of wireless spectrum for the benefit of the public. The Defendants should be held accountable.” 

Other sources familiar with the founder's relationship with the Biden administration told the Post that Ergen is “very close to the White House” and will oftentimes tout his connection there.  

Jeff Blum, EchoStar (the company that owns Dish) executive vice president of external and government affairs responded to the report, telling the outlet that the “fraud claim has always been frivolous, and the DOJ was absolutely justified in moving to dismiss it.” 

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