Saturday, August 20, 2005

Blogging the Roberts Files

Nothing to see here, Senator Schumer. Please move along.

Finally, the marine layer hovering over Orange County since April has been burned away by the famous southern California sunshine – and how do I celebrate? By spending my Saturday reading and researching legal records from the 1980s. Only for Professor Hewitt and Generalissimo Duane!

Yesterday Hugh Hewitt invited the center-right community to adopt the virtual boxes of documents reviewed or authored by Judge John Roberts during his term as Associate Counsel to the President and post the resulting analyses at their blogs. I am a blogger, not a lawyer, but I routinely translate legalese for the non-profit corporation which I have served since 1993 as a Director. Thankfully, Judge Roberts writes even the most mundane correspondence in these files in an easily accessible style.

I was assigned a folder 47 pages full of Federal appointee clearances dated between February 1, 1985 and April 30, 1985. Among these are memoranda by others that were copied to John Roberts with no other relevant documents included, mostly to report that all necessary clearances had been accomplished.

My box o’ docs reveals a conscientious attorney executing his duties with precision and thoroughness. Many candidates named in memoranda written by Roberts are unknown to me, so I performed basic Google searches and learned that a few engaged in controversial conduct after leaving their political appointments. Only the most desperate, cynical opponent of Roberts would resort to embarrassment by such flimsy association. Then again, this isn’t your parents’ Democrat Party.

On the chance that readers might be able to provide additional information, I am presenting the available data for each subject and my analysis of Roberts’ writings in chronological order. The last entry is probably the most revealing of his judicial philosophy, but if you skip ahead you will miss what is essentially the 1985 edition of Who’s Who of Republican Insiders. Some of the subjects are still involved in GOP politics and, twenty years later, are now FOGYs – Friends of George the Younger.

Appointee Name: Paul J. Coleman, Jr.

Appointment: The National Commission on Space.

Roberts’ Record: February 19, 1985 memorandum for the file.

Summary: Roberts described a February 15, 1985 telephone conversation initiated by Coleman regarding the latter’s potential conflict of interest as a consultant to Boeing. Roberts recalled advising Coleman that his consultancy could continue, referencing his earlier clearance memorandum on appointees to the Commission (not included), in which he stated that similar advice was provided to other Commission members. Roberts advised Coleman to recuse himself if Commission discussions had a discernible effect on Boeing and to seek further advice about potential conflicts as necessary.

Background: Dr. Paul J. Coleman is Professor Emeritus of space physics at UCLA and an acclaimed leader in his field. In 1986, during his term on the National Commission on Space, the Commission published a report, “Pioneering the Space Frontier: An Exciting Vision of Our Next Fifty Years In Space.” Other contributing Commissioners included Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Neil Armstrong and General Chuck Yeager.

Appointee Names: Stephen I. Danzansky, Thomas N. Tripp, Virginia S. Weinman, and Linda J. Wachner.

Appointment: The Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations.

Roberts’ Record: February 28, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts concluded that no problem was presented by any of the candidates’ Personal Data Statements. He briefly listed their existing occupations, which were related to the trade area, but noted the applicable statute directed that the committee be representative of groups affected by trade policy. He described calling Mr. Danzansky, whose registration as a foreign agent ended in 1984, to alert him to a prohibition in 18 United States Code § 219 about future registration.

Background: Of the four candidates, all but Tripp were appointed to the Advisory Committee for Trade Negotiations. Weinman and her husband fund the Chair of Entrepreneurship and E-Business at the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration. Wachner, the first woman to own and operate a Fortune 500 company, was charged with SEC violations and penalized more than $1.3 million in 2004. Danzansky served in several positions under Presidents Reagan and Bush 41 before becoming the first CEO of the Mary Baker Eddy Library (Eddy founded the Christian Science Church and the Christian Science Monitor). In 1992 Rep. Henry Gonzalez charged that Danzansky was instrumental in the first so-called Iraqgate, in which Democrats such as Gonzalez and Sen. Patrick Leahy claimed that funds from Italy’s Banca Nazionale del Lavoro and the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation illegally funded Saddam Hussein’s purchase of WMDs. Shocking! That is, that Leahy used to believe in those imaginary WMDs, too.

Appointee Name: Maureen Reagan.

Appointment: The U.S. Delegation to the World Conference of the United Nations Decade of Women, 1985.

Roberts’ Record: March 1, 1985 memorandum for the file.

Summary: Roberts contacted Ralph Tarr, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, about a potential violation of the Anti-Nepotism Act presented by the appointment of the President’s daughter. Tarr advised him that the statute related to the act of appointment and therefore did not apply as authority for this appointment belonged with the Secretary of State.

Background: Maureen was a witty, charming, passionate, articulate spokesperson for the moderate wing of the Reagan family.

Appointee Name: Joe L. Allbritton.

Appointment: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees.

Roberts’ Record: March 12, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: With commensurate brevity and a hint of levity, Roberts reported that Allbritton met the only statutory requirement for the appointment – U.S. citizenship – and his Personal Data Statement revealed nothing to suggest he could not fulfill his duties.

Background: Allbritton, one of those wealthy old Republican FOGYs, retired as CEO of the Allbritton Communications Company and the Riggs National Bank, which the Justice Department is investigating for money laundering and personal use of company assets.

Appointee Name: George Cranwell Montgomery.

Appointment: Ambassador to Oman.

Roberts’ Record: March 13, 1985 memorandum for Richard A. Hauser.

Summary: Roberts concluded that the Public Financial Disclosure Report revealed no conflict of interest. He reported that Montgomery accepted interim employment with Vinson & Elkins to last until his confirmation, prompting ethics counseling by State. The next line was blacked out. Then Roberts noted that “this” presented no legal difficulties but might cause opposition to Montgomery’s nomination.

Background: Interestingly, Roberts considered a comment on what might incite opposition important enough for inclusion in an otherwise concise memo. Montgomery has a longstanding professional relationship with former Senator Howard Baker. He was the Counsel to Senate Majority Leader Baker before serving as Ambassador to Oman from 1985 until 1989 and went back to work for him again in the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz.

Appointee Name: Michael P. Castine.

Appointment: The President’s Advisory Council on Private Sector Initiatives.

Roberts’ Record: March 20, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts verified that he reviewed Castine’s Personal Data Statement and had no objection to his appointment. However, Roberts cited the committee’s scheduled expiration date of June 26, 1985, three months hence.

Background: Castine is President of Dover Management, an investment company. During the 2004 election campaign, he was reportedly one of Bush’s Pioneers, a fundraiser in the $100,000 range.

Appointee Name: Gerard K. O’Neill.

Appointment: The National Commission on Space.

Roberts’ Record: March 28, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Roberts reviewed O’Neill’s Personal Data Statement and enumerated the statutory requirements of the Commission and its members. Considering Dr. O’Neill’s continuing position as CEO of Geostar, a corporation that developed commercial satellites, Roberts speculated that O’Neill would have business overseen by the FCC. However, he determined that the National Commission on Space was advisory, not regulatory, with an agenda broad enough to offset any prospective conflicts.

Background: Every online biography and obituary I read of O’Neill was aglow with admiration. Dr. O’Neill’s middle name was Kitchen. Mine might as well be, but enough about my obsession with panini.

Appointee Name: Mollie Faison.

Appointment: Member of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Committee.

Roberts’ Record: April 1, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: In his review of the Personal Data Statement, Roberts offered no objection to her appointment but noted that Faison had not answered all of the PDS questions. In light of the position, he wrote, he assumed that she might have been sent an abbreviated form.

Background: Roberts’ dry humor might be misconstrued as contempt for the Arts and, of course, women – until the left learns that Faison is an evangelical Christian.

Appointee Name: Andrew K. Poepoe.

Appointment: Honolulu District Director, U.S. Small Business Administration.

Roberts’ Record: April 9, 1985 memorandum for Fred F. Fielding.

Summary: Fielding received a copy of a letter from Patricia Saika, Chairman of the Republican Party of Hawaii, to James C. Sanders, Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration (included with supporting documents). Saika requested that the District Director should be patronage selected instead of a career civil service appointment and recommended Poepoe for the position. Fielding had asked if the letter was proper and Roberts checked with Joe Morris, General Counsel of OPM, who advised that he found nothing inappropriate. Roberts noted that no action was required by the White House Counsel’s Office at that time.

Background: Poepoe still serves as the Honolulu District Director.

Appointee Name: Robert Fryer.

Appointment: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees.

Roberts’ Record: April 10, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: In a sequel to The Joe Allbritton Story, Roberts seemed to wonder if this kind of assignment was the reason he went to Harvard Law School. Roberts again noted that the candidate was a U.S. citizen, thus satisfying the only statutory requirement for the job, and that he already advised Holland verbally that he had no objection. He warned of a potential conflict if the Kennedy Center were to stage one of Fryer’s theatrical projects and advised recusal as necessary.

Background: Fryer is now an Emeritus Trustee of the Kennedy Center, which probably means that Washington, D.C. will never see Boston Strangler: The Musical.

Appointee Name: Naomi D. Zeavin.

Appointment: Member of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Advisory Committee.

Roberts’ Record: April 23, 1985 memorandum for Dianna G. Holland.

Summary: Based on his review of her Personal Data Statement, Roberts did not object to Zeavin’s appointment.

Background: Zeavin served on the Committee until 1992. In 1991, she directed a film that documented her return to her family's hometown of Augustow, Poland to build a memorial to its Jews.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the Speaker of the House: Lynne Cheney, Thomas Henry O’Connor, William Joseph Green, and Congressman Philip Crane.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the President pro tempore: Harry M. Lightway, Edward P. Morgan, Senator Ted Stevens, and Senator Wendell Ford.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the Chief Justice: Charles Wiggins, Cornelia Kennedy, Herbert Brownell, and O.C. Tanner.

Appointee Names as Recommended by the President: Bernard Siegan, Fred Biebel, Betty S. Murphy, Phyllis Schlafly, Ron Walker, Charles Alan Wright, and Russell Kirk.

Appointment: The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution.

Roberts’ Record: April 25, 1985 memorandum for Fred F. Fielding.

Summary: Roberts noted difficulty with the appointment of sitting members of Congress – Crane, Stevens and Ford – due to the Incompatibility Clause of the Constitution, which limited their service to the ceremonial or advisory. He identified separation of powers concerns over the service of sitting judges but acknowledged that pursuing them became pointless when the Chief Justice was made Chairman of the Committee. He presumed Schlafly would be "obviously" controversial and that Siegan’s theory of economic liberty would be controversial to many constitutional law scholars. He cited Wright’s involvement in the “controversial” case of Tavoulareas v. Washington Post. He described his telephone call to Walker, who in 1975 was a consultant for Saudi Arabia, regarding the foreign agent prohibitions under 18 United States Code § 219 and future registration requirements.

Background: This final memo from my Box 3 folder affirms that, for two decades at least, Roberts has been concerned about the constitutional separation of powers and hyper-aware of political controversy as a potential obstacle to professional advancement. I look forward to reading analyses by other center-right bloggers to see if the pattern I have detected is consistent throughout his writings from the White House Counsel's Office.

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