Federalist Society: No Mere “Debating Society”

Several years ago, we wrote a report debunking the Federalist Society’s protestations that it is little more than a “debating society” and didn’t try to shape legislation, support or oppose nominees, or take political positions. As we noted at the time, and which has become increasingly clear in the interceding years, Federalist Society members have all but overrun various government agencies during George Bush’s tenure in office and the administration has worked hand-in-glove with its members both inside and outside of government to press their common agenda.  

But still the Federalist Society insists that it is just a quaint little group of like-minded people who are only interested in debating ideas:

Q. Does the Federalist Society take positions on legal or policy issues or engage in other forms of political advocacy?

A. No. The Society is about ideas. We do not lobby for legislation, take policy positions, or sponsor or endorse nominees and candidates for public service. While overall the Society believes in limited government, its members are diverse and often hold conflicting views on a broad range of issues such as tort reform, privacy rights, and criminal justice.

That claim makes this article from the AP all the more interesting because, as the AP reports, back in 2007 right-wing judicial activists were not happy with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt’s pick for the state Supreme Court and were trying to derail it.  That that end, Blunt’s own chief of staff sought to enlist the help of the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who was more than happy to oblige:   

In a July 2007 e-mail, Martin asked Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the conservative legal group Federalist Society, to send an “unsolicited” e-mail saying: “go get ’em governor – and we’ve got your back.”

A day later, Leo sent Martin an e-mail addressed to Blunt. It pledged help and urged the rejection of the Missouri Supreme Court nominees if they are “anything less than outstanding.” Leo, in later e-mails, said Breckenridge should be framed as “out of the mainstream.”

Tipped off early that Breckenridge was picked, Leo told Martin that Blunt’s decision “leaves a big problem for many future generations of Missourians.”

“Your boss is a coward, and conservatives have neither time nor patience for the likes of him,” Leo wrote.

Apparently, just because the Federalist Society is “nonpartisan” and doesn’t weigh in on “nominees and candidates for public service” doesn’t mean that Leo can’t use his position as executive vice president of the organization to do just that – something, it should be noted, he also did as part of the “Four Horsemen” on behalf of the Bush administration’s judicial nominees.