The President of the United States "has a duty to fill judicial vacancies and appoint jurists who share his views."
Who said this? Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist? Republican Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Orrin Hatch? You might expect such a sentiment from them, considering Democrats are engaging in multiple simultaneous filibusters against Republican judicial nominees, an unprecedented act of obstruction. But no, the quote's from Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice.
Strange, isn't it? After all, Nan Aron and her Alliance for Justice have been the primary opponents of Bush's nominees. The unacceptable number of judicial vacancies, unconscionable delays in resolution of cases, and the putting-off of justice for the wronged are primarily her doing - her and the Democratic senators that follow her lead. So how can we understand her quote?
There's only one way to do it, and that's through the date. Nan Aron said what she said in July 1999, back when Bill Clinton was president. Now that a Republican sits in the Oval Office, she sings a very different tune. And that's really all there is to Nan Aron and her organization - hypocrisy in the cause of partisanship. When the political winds blow to the left, they try to ram through as many judicial appointments as they can. When a more moderate administration takes office, they impede, impede, impede, even at the cost of justice for ordinary Americans.
It's time to take a closer look at the inappropriately named Alliance for Justice. They make it harder for our justice system to operate properly; therefore, we all need to know who they are. While they run several programs out of their four and a half million dollars a year budget, the most important (and odious) by far is their 'Judicial Selection Project.' Established in 1984 by Nan Aron in an attempt to obstruct the judicial nominees of President Reagan, the Judicial Selection Project viciously slanders potential federal judges in an attempt to discredit them. Through character assassination and blatant misinformation, these nominees are painted as 'extremists,' outside mainstream public opinion.
The first major victory of the Judicial Selection Project occurred when Judge Robert Bork, a seasoned professional with a lifetime of experience, was nominated for the Supreme Court. Since Robert Bork is conservative, Nan Aron immediately promised a 'mass mobilization.' This is just rhetoric, of course - instead of mobilizing the masses, the Alliance for Justice prefers to lurk in the shadows. But they did pull out all the stops in their attempt to slander him. Immediately after his 1987 nomination, the Alliance for Justice sent messages to the editorial office of every newspaper in the country, urging the Senate to reject. They were in closed-doors meetings with Democratic Senators on the Judiciary Committee the day after. "We're in triple gear," bragged Aron. ("Groups Unlimber Media Campaigns Over Bork," Washington Post, Aug. 4, 1987) Aron went to gatherings of the American Bar Association multiple times to attempt to get them to declare Bork unqualified. Article after article declared Bork was nothing but a figure of the radical right, a pulsating propaganda wave that finally culminated in Senator Edward Kennedy's apocalyptic assertion that "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government, and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens."
Did any of these ravings have the slightest bit of merit? Of course not. Noted Washington liberal Lloyd N. Culter, a well-respected legal figure, stated that Judge Bork would be "closer to the middle than the right, and not far from the justice whose chair he has been nominated to fill" ("Culter's Stand Creates A Stir," The Washington Post, Sept. 14, 1987). But why let truth get in the way of a well-orchestrated smear campaign?
In the end, the Bork nomination was defeated. Emboldened, the Alliance for Justice sharpened its attacks on both Supreme Court nominees and nominees to the lower courts. In the hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas, the Alliance for Justice once again tried to tear a good judge down to their level. Although at first they declared Thomas' rulings "do not indicate an overly ideological tilt" ("Pros, Cons Aired On Nominee," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 2, 1991), soon Nan Aron was condemning Thomas for being against civil rights, claiming there was "something in [his] record to offend most everybody," and "he had a radical philosophy that exalts his own views over the Constitution" ("More Groups Register Opposition to Thomas," USA Today, July 30, 1991). This about a man who has always been a strict constructionist, refusing to read into the Constitution anything not intended by the Framers. When the first wave of misinterpretations failed, the Alliance for Justice's researchers dredged up Anita Hill.
During the administration of George W. Bush, the Alliance for Justice has been behind a steady stream of behind-the-scenes manipulation to block his judicial nominees and keep the court benches empty. Before the 200mid-term elections, when the Democrats lost the Senate, the Alliance for Justice attacked Judge Charles Pickering, nominated to the 5th Court of Appeals, for being against civil rights - a blatant lie. Although they called him a "throwback to the old, segregated South" ("Fight Over Judicial Nominee Resumes," NYT, Feb. 6, 2002), blacks in his own state sharply disagreed. The prominent black figures in Pickering's hometown overwhelmingly complemented Pickering - as the former head of his town's N.A.A.C.P. said, "[i]f those people who are voting against him because of some press release would just come down here and talk to the people who know him, I think they would have a very different opinion." ("Blacks At Home Support a Judge Liberals Assail," NYT, Feb. 17, 2002) But again, what's a little truth got to do with a judicial nomination? The Democrat-controlled Judiciary Committee refused to let a vote on Pickering go to the Senate floor, where they feared he would be confirmed despite their disapproval.
The midterm elections of 2002 turned control of the Judiciary Committee over to the Republicans. Nan Aron and her Alliance for Justice could no longer prevent nominees from being voted on in the Senate floor, unless the Democrats were so deeply in her back pocket they'd filibuster - that is, tie up the normal procedure of the Senate with endless debate, a procedural tactic that requires a sixty-vote supermajority to end. Right now, Democratic senators are tying up the nominations of Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen, both nominated to courts of appeals, with simultaneous filibusters. Now we see how much the Democratic party cares for getting Hispanics or women on the bench. Never has the confirmation process essential to our judicial system been so obstructed.
Two things must be understood about the Alliance for Justice. First, their ideology. Although newspapers constantly refer to the group as 'liberal,' a quick glance at their stances puts the lie to this. The Alliance for Justice always asserts that Bush's judicial nominations are "outside the mainstream," but a simple examination of their beliefs shows that the opposite is true. Take Priscilla Owen, a justice on the Texas Supreme Court, nominated by President Bush to sit on the Fifth Court of Appeals. Led by the urgings of the Alliance for Justice, Priscilla Owen was rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a straight party-line vote when the Democrats controlled the Senate. Now that the Republicans control the Senate, Priscilla Owen has once again been nominated, and the Alliance for Justice continues to oppose her - this time, through a filibuster on the Senate floor. Judge Owen's flaw? She upheld a Texas law that requires minors seeking an abortion to notify their parents. Not get their parents' consent, mind you - the law only required that the minor's parents be informed. Outside the mainstream? Hardly. Over eighty percent of Americans approve of parental notification laws. Similar examples exist in almost every area of popular debate, including immigration controls, racial preferences, school choice, and the right to bear arms. In every case, the 'mainstream' position of the Alliance for Justice is the hard left position, backed by a small minority of the population. Looser immigration controls, more racial discrimination, no school choice for parents, and most of all, the disarmament of the law-abiding population through iron-clad gun control. This is mainstream? In comparison, the positions of the Alliance's 'ultra-conservative' victims are far more moderate.
The second thing that must be understood about the Alliance for Justice - they've got most of the Democratic delegation to the Senate at their command. Writing for the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Lord has provided an intimate look at the judicial confirmations process in his "Judge Smith Goes to Washington: Anatomy of a Failed Borking." Read it all; it's illuminating. Nan Aron stalks the meeting room of the Judiciary Committee to indicate the degree of her displeasure with a Bush nominee. The Alliance for Justice takes advantage of its non-profit status to deliver press releases freely to reporters while conservative groups are banned. Questions put to the nominee by Democratic senators come directly from internal Alliance for Justice memos, in this case leaked to the nominee's supporters. The whole episode illustrates the extent to which the Alliance for Justice and its far-left collaborators control the Democratic senators. Although Lord's account ended happily, it required anhuge grassroots organizing effort. Most Senate confirmation battles don't end so sweetly.
Why on earth does the Democratic Party listen to the Alliance for Justice? To some extent, the Democratic Party is sympathetic to the Alliance for Justice's positions, but this isn't enough to explain their open and sustained subservience. To understand why the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee treat radical 'public interest' groups with more respect than the much more moderate public, we have to look at the other programs of the Alliance, and the groups it represents.
The Alliance for Justice was founded in 1979, when the Council for Public Interest Law, its predecessor, decided it was no longer content to limit its activism to the laws governing 'public interest' non-profits. Today, the Alliance for Justice is a major player in Washington. It's got deep pockets for its programs - in 2000, for instance, it took in over four and a half million in revenue, and spent around two and a half million on its causes. Much of the rest went to its own administration - the Alliance for Justice has over two dozen staff members, who receive quite generous wages for the non-profit sector. Nan Aron's salary alone is six figures; in 2000, eight others received over fifty thousand dollars.
In spite of their large central bureaucracy, the Alliance for Justice considers itself a coalition of member organizations, each of which pay nominal yearly 'dues.' These dues are nothing but an honorary gesture - in total, the Alliance receive $56,000 in dues in 2000, less than two percent of its revenue. The membership roster is a veritable directory of the 'liberal' left: the National Education Alliance, Planned Parenthood, the National Organization of Women's Legal Defense Fund, the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, the Welfare Law Center, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and so on.
The Alliance for Justice is not remotely accountable to you or I, because it doesn't depend on public donations from ordinary people; instead, the Alliance for Justice's cash comes from a few elite sources, bequests of the extremely wealthy. In 2001, the Alliance took in over six hundred thousand from the Ford Foundation, two hundred thousand from the Carnegie Corporation, a hundred thousand from the Surdna Foundation, seventy-five thousand from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, seventy-five thousand from the Joyce Foundation, and a host of other, smaller foundation grants. Previous years are similar; although the top donor changes, the same core of about a dozen foundations remains. For instance, in 2000, the Joyce Foundation and Packard Foundation were the big givers.
Only a small fraction of the Alliance for Justice's foundation money goes directly to their Judicial Selection Project. With the rest of their foundation money, the Alliance for Justice runs several programs, all designed to increase their influence in Washington. This is in part done by increasing the funds available to activist organizations, in part done by training other activist organizations to do their political lobbying for them. The Alliance's Foundation Advocacy Initiative persuades foundations to give more money to the most extreme of the politically-active non-profits; their Nonprofit Advocacy Project trains these non-profits to carefully tailor their political activities, maximizing their influence over Democratic politicians while retaining tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Many Americans do not realize that tax-exempt charities are allowed to directly lobby politicians. One fifth of a charity's first half million in expenditures may be spent on lobbying; for amounts above this, the percentage decreases, but the largest charities are still entitled to spend up to a million dollars a year. Lobbying comes in two forms - 'direct' lobbying and 'grassroots' lobbying. In direct lobbying, charities pressure legislators directly to vote how the charity wishes; indirect, 'grassroots' lobbying involves contacting the public and urging them to contact their legislators, pressuring them to vote how the charity wishes. In addition, there are many exceptions to the lobbying regulations. For instance, contacting Executive Branch employees - say, White House staff - and asking for a change in regulations is not considered lobbying. Neither is sending mass mailings to your members stating your position on legislation, as long as you do not directly urge them to contact legislators. Neither is making the results of 'nonpartisan' studies available to the public, which, under INS regulations, do not have to be neutral or objective. (Remember this, the next time a public interest group releases a new study they've commissioned!)
These basic rules of political lobbying are taught to non-profits by the Alliance for Justice through its series of publications - for instance, "Being a Player," "The Rules of the Game," and "Seize the Initiative." When the going gets complicated, and the law is pushed to its limits, the Alliance's staff lawyers are there to help out their members. Whether Americans want a small group of unelected and unaccountable radicals to be playing games and seizing initiatives in Washington is a question they never bother to ask.
The net result of these programs: the Alliance for Justice and its member organizations receive more cash from wealthy foundations and they spend more of it on political lobbying. Come election time, these groups urge their members to support Democratic rather than Republican positions, being careful to remain within the letter (if not the spirit) of the law. The paid political advertising of the Alliance for Justice and its influential member organizations can make a big difference for a Democrat's campaign - an ad run by a liberal organization is almost as good as an ad run directly by the Democrat himself. Now, which Democrats do you think benefit from the Alliance for Justice's cash? The ones who oppose their program of judicial obstruction, or the ones who meekly cooperate?
The Alliance for Justice also runs programs to recruit new volunteers, since campaigns need committed, energetic manpower just as badly as they need cash. True believers work harder and longer than hired campaign labor, and they do it for less. That's why the Alliance for Justice trains college student for careers as inside-the-Beltway political operatives. This is primarily done through their 'First Monday' program, held yearly since 1994 on the opening day of the Supreme Court. In collusion with sympathetic law school professors and students and a few prominent left-leaning celebrities, the annual 'First Monday' typically produces a slick but one-sided documentary, which is shown on college campuses and used as a tool for further organizing. For instance, the 2002 First Monday film focused on "The Threat to America's Freedoms" caused by our war on terrorism, and featured luminaries like Susan Saradon and radical historian Howard Zinn. Past First Mondays have campaigned to weaken the right to bear arms (2001, 2000), for below-market housing costs (1999), against the death penalty (1998), and for a loosening of the country's immigration laws (1997). Held at over 250 law schools and colleges across
America, First Monday events both try to manipulate young minds and introduce newly-formed radicals to the Alliance for Justice's preferred methodology for social transformation, 'public-interest law.' The students swept up by the Alliance for Justice's campaigns will organize for leftist causes on campus until graduation, and then, trained for nothing else, will almost invariably begin work for an Alliance-approved non-profit.
A few select college and high-school students are the beneficiaries of another of the Alliance for Justice's programs, "Co-Motion." Since 2000, Co-Motion has focused solely on the issue of 'gun violence,' their attempt to blame crimes on guns rather than criminals. They provide two-day training seminars to young people, teaching them to set up an Alliance for Justice in miniature, lobbying the locals and making use of a friendly local media to generate positive spin for their causes. Since the inception of the program, the Alliance for Justice has held hundreds of these training sessions across the country. In addition, almost one hundred and seventy thousand dollars a year is granted to 'youth activists' opposing the Second Amendment; in 2001, this was divided between eighteen different organizations.
The newest program of the Alliance for Justice is something called 'Gun Industry Watch,' which proclaims itself a 'student watchdog network' designed to monitor the firearms industry and the National Rifle Association. Since the program is new, its effectiveness is uncertain, but students aren't likely to be more than pawns in any organization set up and paid for by the experienced radicals behind the Alliance for Justice. As usual, the foundations provide the money, the extremists provide the organization, and the college students provide the respectable cover. When they get out of school, there will be jobs waiting for them in Washington.
What do all these recruited radicals do when they're not working for leftist non-profits? These people, true believers all, think politics 24/7 - when they're not working, they volunteer their time. Who do they volunteer for? It's sure not the Republicans. Instead, they rush into the campaigns and causes of the Democrats favored by their employers. And you don't get favored by the non-profit sector by slighting Nan Aron and the Alliance for Justice. Democratic senators wanting fresh young troops for their re-election campaigns had better shelve their principles and vote the Alliance line.
Recently, the Alliance for Justice has decided to step up its influence-buying by establishing the Alliance for Justice Action Campaign, a 501(c)4 organization affiliated with the Alliance for Justice. The main difference between a 501(c)4 and the main type of non-profit found in Washington, the 501(c)3, is the relaxation of limits on political activity and lobbying. Contributions to a 501(c)4 are not tax deductible, but they can be devoted solely to lobbying without any tax burden on the Alliance; should the Alliance be willing to pay a tax, they can be used for direct political action, including direct expenditures on behalf of a federal candidate. Since the Action Campaign is new, we do not yet know how much will spent on lobbying and how much will be funneled directly into Democratic campaigns, but we can be reasonably sure it will be used in the same manner as their other programs - to reward their compliant Senators and impose their own radical agenda.
Fundamentally, the Alliance for Justice and their fellow leftists see the law as a battlefield, its tenets the fluid prize to be fought over by left and right. Don't like what's in the Constitution? You've just got to get the right interpreter of it on the bench. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to conserve - that is, they want the courts to stick to the Constitution's original intent, and not add anything to it by judicial fiat. Leftists like Nan Aron don't understand this - they believe everyone is as manipulative as they are, on both sides of the political spectrum. That's why the Alliance for Justice criticizes the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative jurists dedicated to preserving the traditional interpretation of the Constitution as written, as a group that "seeks to change the role of the Federal courts to one that would uphold the right of the Government against the individual" ("The Federalist Society: Judge Scalia's Cheerleaders" NYT, July 23, 1986). That's why the Alliance for Justice constantly denigrates the decision of the Supreme Court in Bush vs. Gore, a decision based on the completely clear precedents of the liberal Warren Court. They've been manipulative for so long, they simply can't believe a legal decision - any legal decision - could based on anything but personal politics. Consistency, tradition, precedent - all these are chucked aside in favor of the class war.
Clearly, these 'take no prisoners' tactics need to be stopped. As President Bush recently said to the nation, "[t]he obstructionist tactics of a small group of senators are setting a pattern that threatens judicial independence. Meanwhile vacancies on the bench and overcrowded court dockets are causing delays for citizens seeking justice. The judicial confirmation process is broken and it must be fixed for the good of the country." But how do ordinary Americans combat an organization like the Alliance for Justice and allow our judiciary branch to function as the Framers intended? It's not easy for a unscrupulous politician to turn down the substantial resources the Alliance has to offer - perhaps they would develop more of a backbone if they knew how out of touch the Alliance's politics were with mainstream America, and how much Americans resent the type of backroom, insider politics the Alliance for Justice stands for. It's time the Alliance's collaborators in the Senate were asked why they support a group of unaccountable ultra-leftists over the moderate voice of the American electorate. When it comes to the cloak-and-dagger politics of these Beltway non-profits, sunlight is the best disinfectant.