Alito and His Coaches
For Supreme Court nominee, hearings are an inside game

James Ridgeway with Michael Roston / VillageVoice | January 13 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C.--In the first hours of Samuel Alito's Senate confirmation hearings on Monday, Judiciary Committee member Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, may very well have irreparably compromised himself.

At the hearing, Graham told Alito, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, that he had already decided in Alito's favor. "I don't know what kind of vote you're going to get, but you'll make it through. It's possible you could talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it. So I won't even try to challenge you along those lines."

That certainly ought to be the case. Graham is one of a group of Republicans who have been coaching Alito behind the scenes. The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reported before the hearings began:

"On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the 'gang of 14' who sits on Judiciary, joined a so-called moot court session at the White House.''

The coaching session for Alito has raised a few eyebrows.

"Coaching a judicial nominee behind-the-scenes is not the proper role for a Judiciary Committee member who must subsequently sit in judgment on that nominee," writes Think Progress, a project of the American Progress Action Fund. "It could be a violation of the ethical duties of a senator."

Writing about the Alito situation, Think Progress cites Senate Rule 37 in the Senate Ethics Manual. The rule says: "No Member, officer, or employee shall engage in any outside business or professional activity or employment for compensation which is inconsistent or in conflict with the conscientious performance of official duties."

Think Progress further cites the ethics manual, saying that language has been interpreted as prohibiting "compensated employment or uncompensated positions on boards, commissions, or advisory councils where such service could create a conflict with an individual's Senate duties due to appropriation, oversight, authorization, or legislative jurisdiction as a result of Senate duties."

If this is true, how can Graham make an impartial decision about Alito based on what he learns at the Alito hearings? Graham has already made up his mind.

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