Attorney General Eric Holder finally has some company at the Department of Justice, despite the efforts of one prominent conservative group, which tried to splash holy water on the DOJ’s newest devil’s advocates. Thursday afternoon, the Senate confirmed President Obama’s picks for deputy attorney general and associate attorney general, David Ogden and Thomas Pirelli.
The Family Research Council, an influential Christian right group, had launched an unprecedented effort to cow Republican senators into voting against both nominees, who were opposed by conservatives because of controversial, high-profile cases they fought earlier in their careers. The FRC reportedly sent lawmakers a letter urging opposition, and threatening to include their votes in the group’s annual rating of members of Congress; a bad rating could hurt their standing with social conservatives.
Some Republican senators, unsurprisingly, joined the chorus of criticism. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., described Ogden as “more than just a lawyer who has had a few unsavory clients” but someone who’d “devoted a substantial part of his career, case after case, for 20 years, in defense of pornography.”
Like Shelby, opponents targeted Ogden largely for his work on obscenity-related First Amendment cases, which has tied him in the past to Playboy Magazine and a porn company. Also controversial was one case during his stint at the American Civil Liberties Union in which he argued that a conviction for receiving and possessing child pornography should be overturned on constitutional grounds. Pirelli, for his part, drew conservatives’ ire for representing Michael Schiavo during his ultimately successful seven-year-long effort to have his wife Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube removed.
Regardless, both nominees were easily confirmed. Ogden cruised in by a vote of 65-28. Perelli had an even smoother ride, with 75 senators voting in his favor and only 20 against.