Spinning away the Payne

Bush withdraws a judicial nomination, but it had nothing to do with conflict-of-interest allegations, OK?

By Tim Grieve
March 10, 2006 9:04PM (UTC)
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When Judge James Payne asked George W. Bush to withdraw his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, you might have thought it had something to do with a report by the Center for Investigative Reporting's Will Evans, published in Salon, that Payne had repeatedly issued orders in cases involving corporations in which he owned stock.

That's what we thought, anyway.


Payne asked Bush to withdraw his nomination in a letter dated Feb. 28, a week after the ABA's committee on judicial nominees lowered its assessment of Payne from "well qualified" to "qualified" in the wake of the conflict-of-interest allegations. But Payne says the allegations didn't drive his "ultimate decision" to give up on the nomination. "The allegations were without merit and had nothing to do with my ultimate decision requesting my name be withdrawn, Payne tells the Muskogee Phoenix. Rather, Payne says, his decision to pull out came as a result of consultation with his family and extensive prayer.

Republican Sen. James Inhofe figures there was some other problem with Payne's nomination, but he says he doesn't know what it was. "We've talked to [the White House] for weeks, trying to get some information," he tells the Phoenix. "Im very, very frustrated."

Oklahoma's other senator, Republican Tom Coburn, seemed perfectly happy when concerns from the right forced Harriet Miers to withdraw her nomination before she had a hearing, but he's singing a different tune about Payne's withdrawal. Coburn tells the Oklahoman that it is "wrong" that "allegations can be enough to derail the most qualified nominee before they receive a fair hearing," and that Payne's withdrawal will discourage other "admirable and qualified people" from serving.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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