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In Washington Lawyer’s Club, Politics Checked At the Door

Posted By Mary Jacoby On July 21, 2009 @ 12:01 am In News | Comments Disabled

It’s fascinating how clubby the Washington legal community is.

I mean, here’s former Solicitor General Ted Olson, one of the key architects of the 1990s “vast right-wing conspiracy” against the Clintons. In January, he co-wrote a very nice letter [1] to the Senate Judiciary Committee lavishing praise on former Clinton White House associate counsel Elena Kagan, nominated to be Solicitor General.

Now, strapping his ideological armor back on, the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher [2]partner is preparing to square off against Kagan in September, when she makes her debut before the Supreme Court. [3]

They will be arguing opposite sides of this issue: whether the conservative Citizens United advocacy group broke election law by using corporate contributions to distribute a sinister anti-Hillary video called “Hillary: The Movie” during last year’s presidential campaign.

Olson in the 1990s was in the middle of practically every effort by conservatives to pump up the scandals that almost drove Bill Clinton out of office. Just one example: Olson served on the board of the conservative American Spectator magazine, which spent more than $2 million for something called the “Arkansas Project,” [4] to dig dirt on the Clintons. The Arkansas Project revealed Paula Jones to the world. The former Arkansas state employee’s claims of sexual harassment by then-Gov. Clinton came under investigation by Olson’s friend Ken Starr, the Whitewater special counsel. Starr’s probe led to Monica Lewinsky, which led to Hillary going on television to denounce a “vast right-wing conspiracy” [5] trying to bring the Clintons down, all of which ultimately culminated in Clinton’s impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.

But that’s the story of Olson the ideological warrior. Then there’s the Olson who’s a wise and respected member of the Washington legal establishment. In the latter capacity, Olson in January signed a letter [1] with former Clinton administration SG Walter Dellinger in support of Kagan’s nomination.

Dellinger and Olson wrote [1]of Kagan:

“The well deserved stature that Kagan has achieved in the legal profession will enhance her tenure as Solicitor General …. Her brilliant intellect will be respected by the Justices, and her directness, candor and frank analysis will make her an especially effective advocate.”

In all, eight former SGs put their name to the letter in support of Kagan’s nomination for the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among them: Ken Starr.


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