Son of a bench : LUSENET : Exposing Rightwing Corruption : One Thread

Son of a bench

Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange

08.31.01 - For months, I've been watching President George W. Bush's appointments. The most obviously egregious ones, the Iran/Contra retreads --
Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs, John Negroponte as the Ambassador to the United Nations and Elliott Abrams as senior director of the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations -- have received some scrutiny in the press.

However, the lower-profile under-card appointments have been a heck of a lot more difficult to ferret out. These are the folks that have moved from Washington, DC's right-wing think tanks and policy institutes into the administration. Now they get to play around in America's public policy trough.

There are so many examples of these types of appointments that even the most steadfast denial-prone Ralph Nader-supporter might admit to being troubled.

Consider these two examples:

The New Republic recently pointed out that President Bush's Social Security commission bent on some form of privatization, has become a second home for the good folks from the conservative/libertarian Washington, DC-based Cato Institute. Ryan Lizza wrote that "Andrew Biggs, [an] assistant for Cato's Project on Social Security Privatization, is now a staff member for Bush's commission and helped write its recently released draft report. Randy Clerihue left his job as press secretary at Cato to become the commission's official spokesman. Commission members Tim Penny and Sam Beard are members of Cato's privatization advisory board. Carolyn Weaver, who was appointed to the commission by Bush...authored the original 1979 Cato article on privatization.

John Cogan, a Bush economic adviser, and Thomas Saving, both commission members, are signatories of Cato's Social Security petition, a privatization manifesto signed by a who's who of the movement.

The Heritage Foundation is also contributing mightily to the right-wing population explosion on Capitol Hill. Former Heritage policy wonks now on the public payroll include: Elaine Chao (formerly Distinguished Fellow, now Secretary of Labor), Kay Cole James (an African American women and a long time favorite of the Christian Right; a former Senior Fellow, now Director of Personnel Management), Stephen Yates (former Senior Policy Analyst, now Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs), Kris Ardizzone (former Director of U.S. Senate Relations, now Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Office of Policy Development), Sarah Youssef (former Research assistant, now Associate Director, Domestic Policy), and Angela Antonelli (former Director of Economic Policy Studies, now Chief Financial Officer, Department of Housing and Urban Development).

Well, as Mark Levin, head of the right-wing Landmark Legal Foundation, facetiously asked on a recent edition of the FOX NEWS Channel's Hannity & Colmes, "What should President Bush do, appoint someone who George McGovern would appoint?"

Eugene Scalia?come on down

Did you know that in early spring President Bush appointed Eugene Scalia, son of the Supreme Court's Antonin Scalia, to the top legal position at the Department of Labor? I wasn't aware of this until I read it in Gloria R. Lalumia's August 17, BuzzFlash Media Watch column. (The intrepid Lalumia's column is an extraordinary compendium of useful quotes, factoids and dicey tidbits -- not to mention sarcastic and wry observations -- for those who don't have neither the time nor the stomach to watch television's nightly talking-head programs.)

If the prospect of having another Scalia on the government payroll doesn't freak you out, keep in mind that the Supreme Court Justice has eight other children who just might be waiting in the wings.

Eugene Scalia's name first came to public attention during the zany and wicked aftermath of November's election. At the time, the "Extreme" Court was in the process of deciding that George W. Bush should be president. Theodore B. Olson, one of Scalia's law partners, and now the U.S. Solicitor General, was Bush's lead council in the Florida vote-count case. Scalia the younger and Olson worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where Scalia practiced labor law, administrative law, and general and appellate litigation. The Los Angles-based law firm, which often represents Republicans, has frequently sent its attorneys into Republican presidential administrations and has argued before the Supreme Court on a number of occasions.

Ironically, writes Tony Mauro, in the May 7 edition of American Lawyer Media, Scalia's appointment may prove troublesome for the pro-business majority on the Supreme Court. Eugene Scalia "as solicitor of labor, affix[es] his name to a significant number of briefs filed in cases before his father's court -- possibly triggering recusals for the justice in some of the most important cases the Labor Department litigates." Such an optimistic thought!

Mauro goes on to describe how the Supreme Court views the recusals and how rarely they are actually taken. (For more details, see "Scalia Son's Appointment to Labor Department May Boomerang on Business.")

According to U.S. Newswire, Scalia's resume includes a stint as Special Assistant to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr from 1992 to 1993 and as a speechwriter for U.S. Education Secretary William J. Bennett from 1985 to 1987.

He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and received his law degree from the University of Chicago.

Labor Dept. disaster in the making.

One of the Bush Administration's first anti-labor moves was to dump the OSHA Ergonomics Standard. But the issue isn't completely dead, writes Cindy Skrzyck in the Washington Post. Although "Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao won't show her hand until September about whether she will propose a new rule on repetitive-motion injuries in the workplace" despite the fact that "one off her chief lieutenants-to-be [Eugene Scalia] has played his card publicly about the hot-button issue." For years, according to Skrzyck, Scalia, as a labor-management lawyer, represented "the most strident opponents of a federal ergonomics rule -- the National Coalition on Ergonomics, United Parcel Service Inc. and Anheuser-Busch Cos."

SEMCOSH (the Southeast Michigan Coalition on Occupational Safety and Health) cites a Cato Institute article in June 2000, "OSHA's Ergonomics Litigation Record: Three Strikes and It's Out," where Scalia wrote: "OSHA wants to entrench the questionable science of ergonomics in a permanent rule.

But no agency should be permitted to impose on the entire American economy a costly rule premised on a 'science' so mysterious that the agency itself cannot fathom it."

"There couldn't be a more dangerous person nominated for this position," commented Bill Borwegen, SEIU health and safety director. "He has a total disregard for workers rights." According to SEMCOSH, Peg Seminario, AFL-CIO safety and health director said that Scalia is "one of the leaders in the effort to prevent OSHA from effectively protecting workers. He's part of the extreme fringe that doesn't believe that ergonomics injuries are real, or that they are work-related or need to be addressed."

Seminario added: "It's very telling that the Bush Administration would nominate someone for such an important policymaking position who has opposed every single major regulatory initiative of OSHA's in recent years."

Eugene Scalia has his appointment, and his dad has racked up a few friends over at the Labor Department. According to the Post, Eugene is "the third top-level appointee at Labor with ties" to the Justice. Others include D. Cameron Findlay, the new deputy secretary, and Howard Radzely, the new deputy solicitor, who were both law clerks for the Supreme Court justice.

As goes Scalia, so goes labor? Oi veh!

? 2001


-- Cherri (, September 13, 2001

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