- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2003

The confirmation process for yet another of President Bush’s nominees to the federal courts broke down yesterday, with the two parties exchanging accusations about lying and stealing.

In one of the angriest Senate Judiciary Committee meetings this term, the nomination of Alabama Attorney General William H. Pryor to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was derailed, at least temporarily, by an internal committee investigation into claims that Mr. Pryor lied to the committee.

In earlier testimony, Mr. Pryor told the committee he was not aware of any political funds raised in his name from companies that had business before his Attorney General’s Office.

But a stash of documents delivered to the committee earlier this month raised questions about whether Mr. Pryor’s testimony was accurate.

“The question is whether he told the truth to this committee,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat. His answers in his committee testimony and “the documents seem to directly contradict one another.”

Already opposed by Democrats because of his staunch and vocal opposition to abortion, Mr. Pryor has become possibly the most divisive Bush nominee to date. The Judiciary panel already had postponed voting on his nomination three times.

When Democrats demanded yesterday that the vote be postponed again to allow for a thorough investigation into the accusations, Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and committee chairman, agreed — but only for a few hours.

“I’m not going to say this is a phony delay, but it certainly appears to be,” said Mr. Hatch, who dismissed a flurry of angry protests from Democrats on the committee.

The vote was rescheduled for late last night during what promised to be a long and disagreeable meeting.

At the heart of the dispute is the Republican Attorneys General Association, which raised money for the Republican candidates. As a member of the association, Mr. Pryor was responsible for making phone calls soliciting money from corporations.

The documents don’t say precisely which attorneys general raised how much money from which companies. But it is clear that the group raised money from companies that could fall under the regulatory purview of state attorneys general offices around the country.

Sen. John Cornyn, a former attorney general from Texas and current member of the Judiciary Committee, also appears numerous times in the documents. As a member of the association, he too was expected to raise money.

“There is nothing illegal, improper or untoward about what happened here,” he said.

Mr. Cornyn said the “documents appear to have been stolen by a disgruntled employee” and urged Mr. Hatch to investigate whether the Senate staffer who leaked the documents had conspired to steal the documents in the first place.

An unnamed Democratic staffer leaked the documents to The Washington Post, which ran an article about the association in yesterday’s editions.

Mr. Pryor appears universally opposed by Democrats and has been supported by all but one committee Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who remains undecided.

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