- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 5, 2004

Conservatives yesterday accused the Senate Republican leadership of betrayal for forcing the top Republican strategist for judicial nominations to resign amid an investigation into how internal Democratic memos found their way into print.

“This is a shameful scapegoating that serves only to advance the agenda of liberal special-interest groups and their efforts to construct an activist judiciary,” said Kevin H. Watson, legislative director for the Law Enforcement Alliance of America.

Manuel Miranda, legal counsel to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, who previously worked for Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said he read the internal Democratic memos but did not distribute them to The Washington Times or the Wall Street Journal.

The memos, written by staffers for Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, reveal a cozy relationship between Democrats on the committee and liberal special-interest groups.

In one memo, staffers for Mr. Kennedy urged that a Bush nominee to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals be stalled until after that panel had decided on the landmark affirmative action case. The Kennedy staffers, acting at the behest of a lobbyist for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People who was a party to the case, worried that the nominee might vote to strike down racial preferences at the University of Michigan.

“If you had told me this is how this would all end, I would not have believed you,” said Kay Daly, president of Coalition for a Fair Judiciary. “This is upside-down, backwards Alice in Wonderland.”

Conservatives accused Mr. Frist and Mr. Hatch of abandoning their most effective tactician in the continuing struggle over President Bush’s judicial nominations.

“It’s disgusting,” said Jeff Mazzella, with the Center for Individual Freedom. “Senator Frist and Senator Hatch bowed to the Democrats.”

“This is like ringing the dinner bell and throwing chum in the water,” said Mrs. Daly. “We’ve just thrown one of our most valuable people overboard, and Orrin Hatch couldn’t have done it fast enough.”

“There is no doubt Orrin Hatch is responsible for what happened,” said Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation. “It’s just another example of how he prefers to be loved by the Democrats rather than respected by everyone.”

Staffers for Mr. Frist and Mr. Hatch declined to address the criticisms.

In November, after the memos made headlines, Democrats immediately made an issue of the manner in which the documents had been acquired from a Senate computer server. They demanded an investigation into whether Republicans had hacked into the Democrats’ network.

Several Republicans, including Mr. Miranda, came forward and said they had viewed the Democratic documents through their own computers but had not hacked into any computer or used any unauthorized password. Rather, said several people familiar with the investigation, a faulty fire wall between the Democrats’ and Republicans’ computer servers allowed certain Democratic files to be accessed by Republicans without hindrance.

But before the resulting investigation was completed, Mr. Hatch called a news conference to announce he had put a staffer on leave for accessing the Democrats’ memos, saying he was “mortified” by what he called the staffer’s “unethical” actions.

Many Republicans say they were astonished by Mr. Hatch’s statement and by Mr. Frist’s response to the memo issue.

“Senator Hatch essentially threw all of us under the bus with that press conference,” said a Republican Judiciary staffer who was not involved in the memo’s release. “And Senator Frist did nothing to stop him.”

Conservatives marveled at how quickly the substance of the memos became overshadowed by an investigation into how the memos were obtained.

“What’s been lost here is the content of the memos and the corruption of the judicial nomination process,” Mr. Mazzella said.

“We had gold here and what did we do?” said Mrs. Daly, referring to the memos. “We throw it away with both hands.”

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