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May 16, 2005
NARAL Raids On Private Financial Data

Robert Novak writes today that the pro-abortion lobby has financed a series of fishing expeditions into the financial records of judges deemed likely for federal appellate and Supreme Court nominations, and that one of the people with the pole is none other than a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. Mike Rice and his partner Craig Varoga, who used to work for Reid, work for NARAL Pro-Choice America and have begun work to collect financial dossiers on judges and justices around the country:

On May 5, the U.S. Judicial Conference in Washington received a request from a man named Mike Rice from Oakland, Calif., for the financial disclosure records of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones (5th Circuit) of Houston. A 20-year veteran on the bench, Jones is a perennial possibility for the U.S. Supreme Court. The demand for her personal records is part of a major intelligence raid preceding momentous confirmation fights in the Senate.

Jones was not alone as a target, and Rice is not just a nosy citizen. He and Craig Varoga, a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, are partners in a California political consulting firm. Their May 5 petition requested financial information on 30 appellate judges in all but one of the country's judicial circuits, including nine widely mentioned Supreme Court possibilities. Varoga & Rice's client: NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Nobody can recall any previous mass request for such disclosures by federal judges. This intelligence raid is financed by the abortion lobby, but it looks to Republicans like a front for Reid and other senators who will consider President Bush's appointments for Supreme Court nominations. But Reid told me that he had heard nothing about this, adding: "It's ridiculous. What do we have [Senate] committees for?" However, the material is certain to be given to Democratic senators well in advance of senatorial deliberations.

All of this is nothing more than a normal day's work for Rice & Varoga. They bill themselves as public records researchers who can help candidates "win elections", but as both Reid's former communications director and as national field director for General Wesley Clark in his abortive 2004 presidential run, Varoga specialized in oppo research, according to Novak. Bringing their ethics further into question, Rice failed to disclose that he represented NARAL when making the request for financial records, indicating that he thought he had something to hide.

If people think that the Democrats are prepared to compromise on judicial nominations, think again. Their proxies have worked hard to get as much dirt as possible, as far in advance as possible, in order to effectively torpedo every nominee that comes from George Bush's White House. Their intent is to force the GOP to accept the Democrats' nominees for open appellate court seats, even though the Democrats failed to win either the White House and the Senate majority. This effort to dig through financial disclosures demonstrates a will to not only have mud ready to sling at upcoming nominees, but also to intimidate these judges and justices into declining offers to the federal bench altogether.

Harry Reid told his fellow Democrats that "he knew how to fight," and it looks like he learned it from J. Edgar Hoover. If the Republicans used confidential files and secret quasi-legal investigators to dig up dirt on public servants like this, we'd be hearing about the end of civil liberties and the coming police state. Something tells me from the huge wave of apologetics coming from the Left over Reid's abuse of the Henry Saad file last week that the outrage will be limited to only those whose ox got gored on this particular go-around. For those people who yawned at Reid's vague smears and this kind of dossier collection for political attacks on judges merits nothing more than a "partisan yammering" dismissal, the next round may well be on you.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 16, 2005 6:09 AM

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Read Robert Novak’s Column here to find the answer: On May 5, the U.S. Judicial Conference in Washington received a request from a Mike Rice of Oakland, Calif., for the financial disclosure records of U.S. Appeals Court Judge Edith Jones (5th... [Read More]

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