Accuracy in Media

In March, we reported about a deepening scandal on Capitol Hill involving memos written by aides to Senators Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin.  The memos and hundreds of other records documented Senate Democrats’ strategies for blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations.  As we reported last month, the memos are particularly revealing about the deference shown by both Kennedy and Durbin to left-wing advocacy groups, like the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. 

Conservatives, like former Senate Judiciary Committee staffer Manuel Miranda, allege that the memos show a clear pattern of corruption and unethical behavior in actions by some Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.  For example, he charged that votes against pro-life judicial nominees were fueled more by funding from abortion clinics and trial lawyers than political principles.

New evidence that supports these allegations has now emerged from an investigation conducted by the Center for Individual Freedom.  The Center learned that one memo recommending that Senator Kennedy vote to hold up a nomination to the 6th Court of Appeals was authored by a Kennedy staffer with close ties to one of the parties in a case pending before the appeals court.  The case involved a challenge to affirmative- actions policies of the University of Michigan law school. 

The memo recommended that Senate Democrats stall the confirmation of Julia Smith Gibbons to the appeals court until after a ruling had been issued on the affirmative action case.  The memo’s author wrote: “The thinking is that the current 6th Circuit will sustain the affirmative action program, but if a new judge with conservative views is confirmed before the case is decided, that new judge will be able, under 6th Circuit rules, to review the case and vote on it.”

The Center has learned that the author of the memo, Olati Johnson, was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund before joining Kennedy’s staff in September 2001.  The memo indicates that Johnson was acting in response to a request from Elaine Jones, her former co-counsel at the NAACP.  That organization was a party to the University of Michigan case.  The Center issued a statement charging that the memo “raises significant new ethics questions” for Senator Kennedy.  CNS News’ Robert Bluey reported that Kennedy became flustered when confronted with these questions at a recent press conference.  He reported that Kennedy’s staff “quickly escorted” him from the press conference when he was asked about the memos. 

The Center for Individual Freedom has called for a Senate Ethics investigation of Kennedy and his staff.  But Senate Democrats and their friends in the media have transformed this story into a leak investigation.  They pressed for and got an internal investigation by the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.  That report was delivered last month, but media attention to the story has faded out.  One striking aspect of the report is the extent to which government systems were utilized for partisan political purposes.  That’s a scandal too, but don’t expect the liberal media to report on that.

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