Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Federalist Society

Keep an eye on whether the question about John Roberts’ being a member of the Federalist Society "gains legs," as they say in the news bidness.

An Associated Press story running in Tuesday's Des Moines Register and elsewhere had little perspective of the impact this right-wing legal pressure group has had in America since it was formed in 1982. But membership has been almost a de facto requirement to work in the legal operations of the Reagan and both Bush administrations. Roberts worked under Clarence Thomas in Bush the Elder's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, And his membership could be monumentally important as the Senate seeks to pierce the veil of supposed judicial evenhandedness that the administration has thrown up about the candidate to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court.

As Craig Gordon reported in Tuesday's Newsday:
Membership in the Federalist Society would almost indisputably label a lawyer conservative, as the group's founding mission in 1982 was to combat what it viewed as creeping liberal activism in the nation's courts.

Several of President George W. Bush's top legal and court appointees have been Federalist Society members, almost a badge of conservative bona fides. (Read the entire article.)
The Federalist Society is no mere right-wing think tank. Its 25,000 members consist of some of the highly placed and influential far-right legal minds in the country. Before the 2000 election, Jerry Landay, a former correspondent for CBS and ABC, profiled the organization in The Washington Monthly. He noted how, among other things, the society was a prime mover in the drive to impeach Bill Clinton:
[A]s Joe Conason and Gene Lyons demonstrate in The Hunting of the President (see excerpts on pages 17-18), [Kenneth] Starr and the [Office of the Independent Counsel] benefited enormously from the efforts of a network of well-placed lawyers who, like Starr and other Republican luminaries, are members of, or linked to, the Federalist Society. Most of the self-styled "elves" who helped Linda Tripp's tapes find their way into Kenneth Starr's hands had links to the Society. And without the elves' handiwork plus the leaks, coaching, and sheer brainpower contributed by the extended Federalist network, Starr's investigation might never have gotten out of the blocks. (Read the entire article.)
Politics aside, the Federalist Society contains some folks with some interesting viewpoints. For instance, it has a long roster of media advisers, who are touted to the mainstream press as experts on any number of topics that make the news. The job of these experts, of course, is to provide a reporter with an authoritative take. When a reporter publishes a quote or an opinion from one of these sources and does not identify its origin as a far right entity with a stated agenda, the reader might well think that this opinion is objective, when it is not.

Who are some of these media advisers?

L. Lynn Hogue is executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation. Among other exploits, this virulently right-wing advocacy organization sued the state of North Carolina to abolish contract goals for minority-owned businesses; and sued the state of Alabama to restore English-only drivers’ license exams. It regularly publishes policy papers with headlines such as: LATEST FLASHPOINT IN GAY CAMPAIGN FOR GOVERNMENT-ENFORCED ACCEPTANCE. (Check out their website.)

Clint Bolick, another Federalist Society high priest, is president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice. While this organization claims to advocate for the poor, critics say Bolick uses a series of clever arguments to further the group's real objective: break down resistance to vouchers for private schools. This has been a key plank of the Republican Party education platform for decades and, in fact, was originally a part of No Child Left Behind, before the then-Democratic Senate killed that aspect of the legislation. Critics argue that vouchers would effectively cut the already meager funding of a good portion of the nation’s public schools. Indeed, Bolick spearheaded the campaign for the first school voucher program in Wisconsin.

Bolick also has been a staunch opponent of affirmative action. Published by the right-wing think tank Cato Institute, his book The Affirmative Action Fraud: Can We Restore the American Civil Rights Vision? hammers away at thge idea of school desegregation.

Their advisers on abortion are what you might expect, but it's regarding the stature of women in American society where the Federalist Society really goes to town. Media adviser Carolyn Graglia has written a book titled Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism. She also gives speeches in language Rush Limbaugh would approve of:
In pursuit of their goal to drive all women into the work force, feminists waged war on what had been the two underpinnings of our civil society, the traditional family with a breadwinner husband and homemaker wife and traditional sexual morality. The tangle of pathology that so many of our families have become is proof of this war's success.

No-fault's declaration of war against homemakers had exactly the result feminists sought: to make women distrust their husbands and fear leaving the work force; many women say they work only for divorce insurance. (Read the entire speech.)
Etc.

Look, it would make no difference to most people if John Roberts turned out to be slightly to the right of Robert Bork. The spineless Senate Democrats would confirm him even if he were. But it's important to the rest of us here in the wilderness that the press has the gumption to portray Roberts as whatever he really is, rather than just hove to the administration line. Pay attention to the legs.

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