by Phil Wilayto
Hillary Rodham Clinton may have lousy taste in husbands, but she’s right about one thing: there is a "vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get Bill. Or at least that’s the conclusion a reasonable person might draw from the intricate connections between the various figures involved in the president’s latest political crisis.
Take, for example, Whitewater/Paula Jones/Monica Lewinsky independent counsel Kenneth Starr. A former Solicitor General in the Bush Administration, Starr is a highly paid senior partner in the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis, where he specializes in defending companies like Philip Morris and General Motors in liability suits. To date, Starr and his staff of fourteen lawyers and some 25 FBI agents have spent tens of millions of dollars in a dogged pursuit of the Clintons.
Starr’s no stranger to the right wing -- or to Wisconsin. He and law partner Jay Lefkowitz have worked for Milwaukee’s own Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, providing legal advice about "school choice" and other matters. When the state hired Starr and Kirkland & Ellis to defend the constitutionality of its school voucher program, Bradley picked up the tab for their services. With a half billion dollars in assets and extensive political connections, Bradley is the country’s leading right-wing grantmaker. Best known for its funding of the notoriously racist book "The Bell Curve", Bradley also underwrote the development of Wisconsin’s draconian welfare repeal program, W-2.
Bradley also helps fund the half-dozen conservative organizations and media that have promoted the Whitewater issue, including The American Spectator and the Free Congress Foundation, a group that in turns sponsors National Empowerment Television. The Bradley-funded Hudson Institute (the leading group in the development of W-2) also got into the act, paying for a study of the ethics of the Clintons and the Whitewater issue.
Another Bradley-funded outfit is Landmark Legal Foundation, a Kansas City-based law firm with offices in Herndon, Virginia. According to The Nation, Landmark has provided free legal representation to L. Jean Lewis, the Resolution Trust Corporation official who first brought Whitewater to light. And Landmark, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, "at one time provided advice to Paula Jones in her sexual harassment suit."
Landmark’s vice chairman is Edwin Meese, Nixon’s Attorney General. The treasurer is William Bradford Reynolds, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under Ronald Reagan. One of its directors is Robert L. Woodson Sr., a close associate of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and president of the Bradley-funded National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise.
Landmark has also played a key role in the legal battles around school choice. The defense for the first Wisconsin voucher law was led by Clint Bolick, at the time an attorney for Landmark. Later hired as part of the Starr/Lefkowitz legal team, Bolick is now director of litigation at the Bradley-funded Institute for Justice. Among other achievements, Bolick was the author of a bill that would end all affirmative action programs on the federal level.
Of course, Bradley isn’t the only right-wing foundation around. While working as independent counsel, Starr was offered, and initially announced he would accept, the deanship of Pepperdine University’s new School of Public Policy, a post heavily funded by conservative activist Richard Mellon Scaife. Scaife, heir to a sizable fortune based on the Mellon family industrial, oil and banking empire, plays a key role in the Sarah Mellon Scaife Foundation. The Scaife, Olin, Smith Richardson and Bradley foundations are often called the "four sisters" for their tendency to fund similar conservative institutions and causes. Scaife is also is vice chairman of the Heritage Foundation, the country’s leading national right-wing think tank, which also receives funding from Bradley.
Then there’s the Federalist Society, a Washington D.C.-based organization of conservative lawyers that counts among its members one Kenneth Starr. Other prominent Society members include Senator Orrin Hatch, Edwin Meese, Judge Robert Bork and Justice Antonin Scalia. Another Federalist is George T. Conway III, who The New York Times described as "a behind-the-scenes figure in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Clinton." Still another is James Moody, attorney for Linda Tripp, Monica Lewinsky’s "friend" who carried a wire for Ken Starr in an effort to gather information on Lewinsky to use against Clinton. According to the Times, Moody has also "been handling a Landmark suit against the IRS for alleged harassment of conservative non-profit groups." The Federalists, by the way, also have some strong Wisconsin ties, with chapters in Madison, Milwaukee, western Wisconsin, the U.W. Law School and Marquette University.
Moving right along (no pun intended), we come to The Rutherford Institute, a Virginia-based group of conservative lawyers that is financing Paula Jones’ legal costs in her sexual harassment case against Clinton. Rutherford normally concentrates on trying to break down the Constitutional separation of church and state. In the past, Rutherford has reportedly received fundraising help from the Rev. Jerry Falwell of Moral Majority fame.
So Clinton has a lot of right-wing enemies, which itself is interesting, considering that the richest 1% of the population has seen its net wealth increase faster under Clinton than under either Reagan or Bush. Clinton has successfully pushed NAFTA and GATT, repealed AFDC and can be counted on to bomb Iraq on a sickeningly regular basis. So what more could a right-winger ask for?
As of this writing, Clinton seems to be weathering the storm, which would indicate that the corporate class that runs this country isn’t yet ready to change horses in the midst of an increasingly turbulent economic stream. But one thing this crisis has revealed is that there is an extensive, well-funded right-wing establishment ready to try and create public opinion and control the political process. Understanding that this establishment exists is the first step in curtailing its influence.
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