Judicial Watch vs. DeLay

Plus: Bush's poll numbers plummet; Is Florida Judge Sanders Sauls a card-carrying Freeper? And: Is Richard Mellon Scaife pimping for Chris Hitchens?

By Anthony York
Published April 9, 2001 6:13PM (EDT)

Big buzz

From our "Where is the love?" department: It appears that all is not well between Judicial Watch's Larry Klayman and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). Just get a load of this letter sent to DeLay and later posted on the Judicial Watch Web site.

Dear Congressman Delay:

It has been reported by the Associated Press that you are, on behalf of the National Republican Congressional Committee, selling meetings with Bush Administration officials for $20,000 donations. If this report is correct (copy attached), your activity is illegal under the following U.S. Code statutory provisions, and we respectfully request that you immediately cease and desist.

18 USC ' 201 (Bribery of Public Officials and Witnesses); and/or 18 USC ' 600 (Promise of Employment or Other Benefit for Political Activity).

Please confirm within 24 hours if the Associated Press report is true. If it is true, and you do not acknowledge having ceased and desisted, Judicial Watch will pursue swift legal action against you and the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Sincerely, Judicial Watch Inc.

Larry Klayman
Chairman and General Counsel

An unnamed spokesman from the National Republican Campaign Committee tells Roll Call the threatening letter was essentially a shakedown motivated by an ongoing squabble between Klayman and DeLay over mailing lists.

"He's grandstanding, he's outrageous, he's a clown," the NRCC official said. "This is very clearly an attempt to extort the NRCC. Judicial Watch owes the NRCC $17,500 in name value for the Judicial Watch lists that Judicial Watch sells to the NRCC ... This is clearly an attempt to say, hey, I'll sue you and maybe I won't have to make good on the $17,500 owed the NRCC."

Roll Call reports Klayman flatly denies the allegation. "It's a lie. It's from outer space -- we know nothing to that effect," he said.

What say ye, ladies and gentlemen of the jury?

The thread on FR was a busy one, with more than 250 posts as of Monday evening. And it seemed to be a pro-DeLay crowd. "[Judicial Watch] has totally gone looney tunes," writes one poster on the Free Republic.

"This garbage," writes another. "Judicial Watch makes an allegation without producing any evidence. Delay doesn't have to say squat in response to him. Judicial Watch should put up or shut up. Also, Judicial Watch is spread so thin now and has lost focus to the point of being irrelevant."

Klayman was even subjected to the ultimate Freeper insult. "I'm am sure Judicial Watch will be quoting Salon.com or Democrats.com next."


Smirking Chimp: Incoming! Bush sends his budget off to Congress
Drudge Report: "Clinton Once Again Casts Spell Over Indian Village"
Antiwar.com: "US Spy Plane Was Forced to Land"
MediaWhores Online: "Is Christopher Hitchens Receiving Money from Richard Mellon Scaife?"
The Spleen: "George W's Psycho-Economic Tent Revival"

Anger management

On the campaign trail, George W. Bush said his administration would devalue public opinion polls. And it's a good thing, because two new polls have a bit of bad news for the new president. A new Harris poll of George W. Bush's job approval rating shows the Bush honeymoon is certainly over. His approval ratings, once in the low-60s, has fallen to mirror his percentage of the popular vote last November.

"After approximately two months in office, George W. Bush's overall job rating has slipped to a current 49 percent positive and 38 percent negative, with 13 percent of the public still undecided about his performance. Since The Harris Poll began asking this question in 1964, no other president at an equivalent point in his first term has had such a low positive standing."

According to an April 6 CBS poll, "Fifty-three percent approve of the overall job George W. Bush is doing as president, but 35 percent disapprove. Just last month, 60 percent approved and 22 percent disapproved."

The Freepers tagged news of the new polls with a "barf alert," taking another swing at the vast, left-wing media conspiracy.

"You forgot to mention that the poll was created by Dan Rather," writes one Freeper.

"And that he was 'polling' at a Democrat fundraiser," adds another.

Speaking of fundraisers: It appears that the departure of the media spotlight has left some of the key players in the Florida election standoff a little hungry for attention. As the Online Journal's Pam Parker reports, Circuit Court Judge Sanders Sauls is the latest to attract controversy in his pursuit of just a few more flashbulbs.

"Last week we learned that Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris would headline the June rally of the all-anti-Clinton-all-the-time Web site, FreeRepublic.com," Parker writes. "Now comes the announcement that Florida Election 2000's Judge N. Sanders Sauls will co-star with Harris at the freep-meet in South Carolina.

"Their upcoming appearance puts them openly in alliance with the rabid right partisans known as Freepers. Harris and Sauls have each tagged themselves as one of them.


The Free Republican critique of Parker was the typical muted, thoughtful reaction we have all come to expect.

"This Parker bimbo seems to have a real hard-on for Free Republic. I love it when the liberals whine!" writes one poster. "Now, if we can get Ann Coulter and Dick Cheney to come, my life will be fulfilled."

Touching, isn't it?

But at least one Freeper was aware of the public relations coup the site secured by locking up both Sauls and Harris. "Hey guys ... free publicity!"

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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