Secret donors funded Feingold questions to judicial nominee; Washington Post involved.
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Let’s start at the beginning.
The Dirksen Senate Office Building. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the nomination of Bush Third Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Judge D. Brooks Smith, the Reagan-appointed Chief Judge of the Western District of Pennsylvania..
The nomination, considered routine and well-received across the board by the legal community of Western Pennsylvania, where Smith has served with distinction for fourteen uncontroversial years, has run head-long into the politics of Senate Judicial confirmations. What the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would eventually refer to as a “lynch mob.” Judge Charles Pickering’s nomination to the Fifth Circuit, has just gone up in flames, the target of these same left-wing special interest groups. With a scalp in hand and Democrats running the Senate, the groups have set their sights on Smith.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should say that I was a friend of the nominee, and because I had some experience in the arcane world of judicial nominations — and was now embarked on a writing career — I had some idea what to look for and took notes. Enough to get a small book together in 2005 recounting the episode. (The book, The Borking Rebellion, had long since been out of print until Amazon brought it back as a Kindle Book. The future of books? We’ll see.)
Here’s what was uncovered in the Smith nomination fight — all thoroughly documented — which unexpectedly now bears on the issue of, as the New York Times has phrased it, “secret donors” influencing the political process.
1. Chairing the hearing? Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin. Sitting in for Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Feingold grilled the nominee. He questioned Smith using questions supplied from a secret strategy memo put together by lobbyists for three left-wing special interest groups all receiving funds from the George Soros-run Open Society Institute. The OSI, in turn is a 501(c)(3) — which means it both takes money from outside donors and does not reveal who those donors are. The Soros-funded groups who researched and wrote the secret memo on Smith were: The Alliance for Justice, the Community Rights Counsel, and the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. A copy of the secret memo had been leaked — and I have it still.
Here’s what matched up:
• AFJ-CRC strategy memo: begins by complaining about the number of free-market economics seminars Smith has attended. Feingold: begins his remarks by complaining about the number of free-market economics seminars Smith has attended.
• AFJ-CRC memo: cites the locale of the trips, citing them by name. Feingold: cites the locale of the trips, citing them by name.
• AFJ-CRC memo: complains about the funding of the seminars, complaining that it comes from “large corporations” like “General Electric, Texaco and Monsanto.” Feingold: complains about the funding of the seminars, complaining that it comes from “large corporations” like “General Electric, Texaco and Monsanto.”
• AFJ-CRC memo: complains that other funding comes from “right-wing foundations such as the Sarah Scaife Foundation [Richard Mellon Scaife] and the Claude Lambe Foundation [run by Charles Koch, Koch Industries]…” Feingold: complains that other funding has come from “very conservative foundations funded by Richard Mellon Scaife and Charles Koch.”
• AFJ-CRC memo: says “As the Dean of the George Mason Law School told ABC News 20/20, which did an exposé on these trips in April, 2001, LEC is ‘out to influence minds…If court cases are changed, then that is something we are proud of as well.’” Feingold: says “For example, the Dean of the George Mason Law School told ABC News 20/20 in April 2001 that LEC is ‘out to influence minds.’ …If court cases are changed, then that is something we are proud of as well.”
No one in these interest groups knew there had been a leak of their memo. Feingold, who gave the impression to his audience that the questions were his, never said a word about the memo from which he was deriving his questions to the nominee, simply plagiarizing the group’s questions outright.
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