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Context of 'January 13, 1992: Supreme Court Denies Inslaw Leave to Appeal'

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Senator Benjamin Tillman, an ardent segregationist who once said, ‘My Democracy means white supremacy.’ Senator Benjamin Tillman, an ardent segregationist who once said, ‘My Democracy means white supremacy.’ [Source: Black Americans in Congress]President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt signs the Tillman Act into law. The Act prohibits monetary contributions to national political campaigns by corporations and national banks. Roosevelt, dogged by allegations that he had accepted improper donations during his 1904 presidential campaign, has pushed for such restrictions since he took office (see August 23, 1902 and December 5, 1905). [Federal Elections Commission, 1998; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] Senator Benjamin Tillman (D-SC), later described by National Public Radio as a “populist and virulent racist,” sponsored the bill. [National Public Radio, 2012] In 1900, Tillman was quoted as saying about black voters: “We have done our level best. We have scratched our heads to find out how we could eliminate every last one of them. We stuffed ballot boxes. We shot them. We are not ashamed of it.” [Atlas, 2010, pp. 205] Unfortunately, the law is easily circumvented. Businesses and corporations give employees large “bonuses” with the understanding that the employee then gives the bonus to a candidate “endorsed” by the firm. Not only do the corporations find and exploit this loophole, they receive an additional tax deduction for “employee benefits.” The law will be amended to cover primary elections in 1911 (see 1911). [Campaign Finance Timeline, 1999]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Tillman, Theodore Roosevelt, Tillman Act

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

In the case of United States v. Auto Workers, the Supreme Court reverses a lower court’s dismissal of an indictment against a labor union accused of violating federal laws prohibiting corporations and labor unions from making contributions or expenditures in federal elections (see June 23, 1947). Justice Felix Frankfurter writes the majority opinion; Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justices William O. Douglas and Hugo Black dissent. In a 5-3 decision, the Court finds the International Union United Automobile, Aircraft, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America liable for its practice of using union dues to sponsor television commercials relating to the 1954 Congressional elections. [UNITED STATES v. AUTO. WORKERS, 2011; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] Law professor Allison R. Hayward will later write that in her opinion the Court finding created “a fable of campaign finance reform… dictated by political opportunism. Politicians used reform to exploit public sentiment and reduce rivals’ access to financial resources.… [J]udges should closely examine campaign finance regulation and look for the improper use of legislation for political gain instead of simply deferring to Congress. Undue deference to the Auto Workers fable of reform could lead to punishment for the exercise of political rights. Correcting the history is thus essential to restoring proper checks on campaign finance legislation.” Hayward will argue that Frankfurter used a timeline of Congressional efforts to curb and reform campaign finance practices as an excuse to allow powerful political interests to exert restrictions on political opponents with less access to large election finance contributions. The case is used uncritically, and sometimes unfairly, to influence later campaign reform efforts, Hayward will argue. [Hayward, 6/17/2008 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Earl Warren, Allison R. Hayward, Felix Frankfurter, International Union United Automobile, Aircraft, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, William O. Douglas, Hugo Black

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

An application known as PROMIS, the Prosecutor’s Management Information System, is developed. [Wired News, 3/1993] It is designed to be used to keep track of criminal investigations through a powerful search engine that can quickly access all data items stored about a case. [Salon, 7/23/2008] William Hamilton, one of the application’s developers, will describe what it can be used to do: “Every use of PROMIS in the court system is tracking people. You can rotate the file by case, defendant, arresting officer, judge, defence lawyer, and it’s tracking all the names of all the people in all the cases.” Wired magazine will describe its significance: “What this means is that PROMIS can provide a complete rundown of all federal cases in which a lawyer has been involved, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented defendant A, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented white-collar criminals, at which stage in each of the cases the lawyer agreed to a plea bargain, and so on. Based on this information, PROMIS can help a prosecutor determine when a plea will be taken in a particular type of case.” In addition, PROMIS can integrate several databases without requiring any reprogramming, meaning it can “turn blind data into information.” PROMIS is developed by a private business entity that will later become the company Inslaw, Inc. Although there will later be a series of disputes over the application’s use by the US government and others, this version of PROMIS is funded by a Law Enforcement Assistance Administration grant and is therefore in the public domain. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, the general counsel of the Institute for Law and Social Research, leaves his position. The circumstances of his departure from the institute, which will later be transformed into the company Inslaw, will later be disputed. The departure is significant because Brewer will later be hired by the Justice Department to manage a contract with Inslaw (see April 1982), and will adopt a combative approach to his former employer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982).
Hamilton's Account - Inslaw owner William Hamilton will later say that Brewer is asked to leave because he is unable to perform his duties, but is given sufficient time to find another job instead of being forced out. Inslaw vice president John Gizarelli will corroborate Hamilton’s account, telling the House Judiciary Committee under oath that Hamilton told him Brewer had been asked to resign.
Contradictory Statements by Brewer - Brewer will give different accounts of his departure. He will tell investigators from the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR): “At no time did he [Hamilton] ever say you are fired and at no time did he [Hamilton] ever indicate great dissatisfaction with my performance.… I never felt that I was discharged, let alone wrongfully discharged.” He will repeat this line to investigators from the House committee: “I never thought that he asked me to leave. It has always been my understanding that I was not asked to leave. I have never viewed my departure from the institute as either being a discharge, or forced.” However, another statement he will make puts a different slant on this; he tells the OPR: “[I]t has been my view that Mr. Hamilton obviously wanted me gone. He had been sending these signals, if not directly indicating a job dissatisfaction, since April, and it was now February, almost one year later, and I was still extricating myself.” In addition, Brewer will say in a court appearance: “On one occasion Mr. Hamilton came and said to me, ‘can you go to lunch?’ I explained that I couldn’t. And he said, ‘Well, what I have to say over lunch I can say right now. I think you ought to find [an] alternative—that you ought to leave the Institute.’”
Impact - The committee will comment, “The circumstances surrounding Mr. Brewer’s departure from the institute appear to have had a major influence over his views about Inslaw and its president, Mr. Hamilton.” Gizarelli will say that he had occasional contact with Brewer before his departure, and: “[H]e thought that Mr. Hamilton was insane. And I think he meant that literally. He did make comments about his rationality, his sanity, thought he wasn’t capable of leading an organization. The tenor of his remarks were to me very startling.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Inslaw, Inc., House Judiciary Committee, John Gizarelli, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo, filed by Senator James L. Buckley (R-NY) and former Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-WI) against the Secretary of the Senate, Francis R. Valeo, challenges the constitutionality of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972 and 1974) on free-speech grounds. The suit also named the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as a defendant. A federal appeals court validated almost all of FECA, and the plaintiffs sent the case to the Supreme Court. The Court upholds the contribution limits set by FECA because those limits help to safeguard the integrity of elections. However, the court overrules the limits set on campaign expenditures, ruling: “It is clear that a primary effect of these expenditure limitations is to restrict the quantity of campaign speech by individuals, groups, and candidates. The restrictions… limit political expression at the core of our electoral process and of First Amendment freedoms.” One of the most important aspects of the Supreme Court’s ruling is that financial contributions to political campaigns can be considered expressions of free speech, thereby allowing individuals to essentially make unrestricted donations. The Court implies that expenditure limits on publicly funded candidates are allowable under the Constitution, because presidential candidates may disregard the limits by rejecting public financing (the Court will affirm this stance in a challenge brought by the Republican National Committee in 1980).
Provisions of 'Buckley' - The Court finds the following provisions constitutional:
bullet Limitations on contributions to candidates for federal office;
bullet Disclosure and record-keeping provisions; and
bullet The public financing of presidential elections.
However, the Court finds these provisions unconstitutional:
bullet Limitations on expenditures by candidates and their committees, except for presidential candidates who accept public funding;
bullet The $1,000 limitation on independent expenditures;
bullet The limitations on expenditures by candidates from their personal funds; and
bullet The method of appointing members of the FEC, holding that as the method stands, it violates the principle of separation of powers.
In May 1976, following the Court’s ruling, the FEC will reconstitute its board with six presidential appointees after Senate confirmation. [Federal Elections Commission, 3/1997; Federal Elections Commission, 1998; Campaign Finance Timeline, 1999; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file; Casebriefs, 2012]
No Clear Authors - The opinion is labeled per curiam, a term usually reserved for brief and minor Court decisions when authorship of an opinion is less relevant. It is unclear exactly which Justices write the opinion. Most Court observers believe Justice William Brennan writes the bulk of the opinion, but Brennan’s biographers will later note that sections of the opinion are authored by Chief Justice Warren Burger and Justices Potter Stewart, Lewis Powell, and William Rehnquist. The opinion is an amalgamation of multiple authors, reflecting the several compromises made in the resolution of the decision. [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Criticism of 'Buckley' - Critics claim that the ruling enshrines the principle of “money equals speech.” The ruling also says that television and radio advertisements that do not expressly attack an individual candidate can be paid for with “unregulated” funds. This leads organizations to begin airing “attack ads” that masquerade as “issue ads,” ostensibly promoting or opposing a particular social or political issue and avoiding such words as “elect” or “defeat.” [National Public Radio, 2012] In 1999, law professor Burt Neuborne will write: “Buckley is like a rotten tree. Give it a good, hard push and, like a rotten tree, Buckley will keel over. The only question is in which direction.” Neuborne will write that his preference goes towards reasonable federal regulations of spending and contributions, but “any change would be welcome” in lieu of this decision, and even a completely deregulated system would be preferable to Buckley’s legal and intellectual incoherence. [New York Times, 5/3/2010] In 2011, law professor Richard Hasen will note that while the Buckley decision codifies the idea that contributions are a form of free speech, it also sets strict limitations on those contributions. Calling the decision “Solomonic,” Hasen will write that the Court “split the baby, upholding the contribution limits but striking down the independent spending limit as a violation of the First Amendment protections of free speech and association.” Hasen will reflect: “Buckley set the main parameters for judging the constitutionality of campaign finance restrictions for a generation. Contribution limits imposed only a marginal restriction on speech, because the most important thing about a contribution is the symbolic act of contributing, not the amount. Further, contribution limits could advance the government’s interest in preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption. The Court upheld Congress’ new contribution limits. It was a different story with spending limits, which the Court said were a direct restriction on speech going to the core of the First Amendment. Finding no evidence in the record then that independent spending could corrupt candidates, the Court applied a tough ‘strict scrutiny’ standard of review and struck down the limits.” [Slate, 10/25/2011] In 2012, reporter and author Jeffrey Toobin will call it “one of the Supreme Court’s most complicated, contradictory, incomprehensible (and longest) opinions.” [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]

Entity Tags: Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, Federal Election Commission, James Buckley, Jeffrey Toobin, US Supreme Court, Eugene McCarthy, Lewis Powell, Potter Stewart, Burt Neuborne, William Rehnquist, Warren Burger, Richard L. Hasen, William Brennan

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Amendments to the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972 and 1974) passed by Congress after the controversial Buckley ruling by the Supreme Court (see January 30, 1976) bring FECA into conformity with the Court’s decision. The amendments repeal expenditure limits except for presidential candidates who accept public funding, and revise the provisions governing the appointment of commissioners to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The amendments also limit the scope of PAC fundraising by corporations and labor unions. The amendments limit individual contributions to national political parties to $20,000 per year, and individual contributions to a PAC to $5,000 per year. [Federal Elections Commission, 1998; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file] However, the Constitution restricts what Congress can, or is willing, to do, and the amendments are relatively insignificant. [Campaign Finance Timeline, 1999]

Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, US Supreme Court

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Supreme Court, in the case of First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, rules 5-4 that corporations have the First Amendment right to make contributions in order to influence political processes. Writing for the majority, Justice Lewis Powell finds that under the recent Buckley ruling (see January 30, 1976), corporate political donations are protected speech. Powell’s opinion finds that a Massachusetts criminal statute prohibiting corporations from spending money for the purpose of “influencing or affecting” voters’ opinions is not legitimate. The split among the justices is unusual, with Powell, a conservative, being joined by two more conservatives, Chief Justice Warren Burger and Potter Stewart, and liberals Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens. The four dissenters are liberals William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall, and conservatives Byron White and William Rehnquist. [FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BOSTON v. BELLOTTI, 2012; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] Rehnquist’s standalone dissent advocates for far stricter controls on corporate spending in elections than most of the other justices’ dissents, with Rehnquist writing that such spending could “pose special dangers in the political sphere.” [Reclaim Democracy, 4/26/1978; FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF BOSTON v. BELLOTTI, 2012]

Entity Tags: Lewis Powell, Byron White, John Paul Stevens, William Rehnquist, Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, US Supreme Court, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The federal government passes even more amendments to the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976). The new amendments simplify campaign finance reporting requirements, encourage political party activity at the state and local levels, and increase the public funding grants for presidential nominating conventions. The new amendments prohibit the Federal Election Commission (FEC) from conducting random campaign audits. They also allow state and local parties to spend unlimited amounts on federal campaign efforts, including the production and distribution of campaign materials such as signs and bumper stickers used in “get out the vote” (GOTV) efforts. [Federal Elections Commission, 1998; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file] The amendment creates what later becomes known as “soft money,” or donations and contributions that are essentially unregulated as long as they ostensibly go for “party building” expenses. The amendments allow corporations, labor unions, and wealthy individuals to contribute vast sums to political parties and influence elections. By 1988, both the Republican and Democratic Parties will spend inordinate and controversial amounts of “soft money” in election efforts. [National Public Radio, 2012] While the amendments were envisioned as strengthening campaign finance law, many feel that in hindsight, the amendments actually weaken FECA and campaign finance regulation. Specifically, the amendments reverse much of the 1974 amendments, and allow money once prohibited from being spent on campaigns to flow again. [Campaign Finance Timeline, 1999]

Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Laurence McWhorter, director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, tells one of his subordinates, “We’re out to get Inslaw.” Inslaw developed the PROMIS database and search application (see Mid-1970s) and is soon to become embroiled in a dispute with the Justice Department over it. Mallgrave will later tell Wired magazine: “We were just in his office for what I call a B.S. type discussion. I remember it was a bright sunny morning.… [McWhorter] asked me if I would be interested in assuming the position of assistant director for data processing… basically working with Inslaw. I told him… I just had no interest in that job. And then, almost as an afterthought, he said ‘We’re out to get Inslaw.’ I remember it to this day.” [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Frank Mallgrave, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Laurence McWhorter

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A PROMIS oversight committee is formed at the Justice Department to supervise the implementation of the PROMIS software at US attorneys’ offices. The committee’s members are initially Associate Attorney General Rudolph Giuliani, Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris, Director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys William P. Tyson, and the Justice management division’s Assistant Attorney General for Administration Kevin D. Rooney. The associate attorney general is the chairman of the committee. The date on which the committee is established is unclear, but it will be mentioned in a memo dated August 13, 1981, so it must be at this date at the latest. Lowell Jensen will also be significantly involved in the committee, first as the associate attorney general for the criminal division until early 1983, and then as associate attorney general, meaning he also chairs the committee. The main official who reports to the committee is PROMIS project manager C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, although he will not be hired by the department until the start of the next year (see April 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Justice Management Division, William P. Tyson, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), US Department of Justice, Criminal Division (DoJ), Kevin D. Rooney, Stanley E. Morris, Rudolph (“Rudy”) Giuliani, Lowell Jensen

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department issues a request for proposals (RFP) for the installation of public domain PROMIS software. Two of the 104 companies that ask for the request for proposals submit bids. However, one of them, Systems Architects, Inc., has problems in its bid and the contract will be awarded to the other, Inslaw (see March 1982).
Problems with Installation Concept - The installation is to be on minicomputers and word processors, although both Inslaw, which developed PROMIS, and other potential bidders had previously advised the department not to try to perform PROMIS functions on word processing equipment, as it is not powerful enough. One reason for this is that PROMIS involves over 500,000 lines of Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) program code and requires a very large-capacity computer at this time. In addition, Inslaw advises the department to move toward the use of more powerful computers that could perform both case management and word processing. However, the department ignores the advice.
Existence of Privately-Funded Enhancements 'Explicit' - There will later be an argument about how much the department should pay Inslaw for the software. This dispute will turn on privately-funded enhancements to the application Inslaw says it makes after an initial version of PROMIS was developed using government money. According to a report drafted by the House Judiciary Committee, during the contract negotiations, Inslaw is “explicit in stating to the department that its version of PROMIS had been enhanced with private funds and future enhancements funded outside the department’s contract were expected.” Nevertheless, the department will say that it owns the software, and will cite as support amendments to the RFP that make available to all bidders copies of the pilot project software, and state that the RFP does not anticipate redevelopment of the public domain PROMIS software used in the pilot offices. If any alterations are made under the contract, they are to be made available to the offices using a current version. Regarding the amendments, the committee will comment, “Unfortunately, this language may also have blinded department management to the idea that Inslaw had made privately funded enhancements that were its property.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., Systems Architects, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The PROMIS database application is used for a program called “Follow the Money” to track loans made by Western banks to the Soviet Union and its allies. The top-secret program is run for the National Security Council (NSC) by Norman Bailey, who uses NSA signals intelligence to track the loans. Bailey will later say that the PROMIS application is “the principal software element” used by the NSA and the Treasury Department in their electronic surveillance programs that track financial flows to the Soviet bloc, organized crime, and terrorist groups. According to Bailey, this program marks a significant shift in resources from human spying to electronic surveillance, as a way to track money flows to suspected criminals and American enemies. [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: National Security Agency, US Department of the Treasury, National Security Council, Norman Bailey

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw wins a $9.6 million contract from the Justice Department to install the public domain vesion of PROMIS application in 20 US attorneys’ offices as a pilot program. PROMIS is an application designed to be used by prosecutors to keep track of case records (see Mid-1970s). If the trial installation is successful, the company will install PROMIS in the remaining 74 federal prosecutors’ offices around the country. The contract is also for the necessary training, maintenance, and support for three years. According to William Hamilton, one of Inslaw’s owners, the eventual market for complete automation of the Federal court system is worth up to $3 billion. However, this is the last contract Inslaw receives from the Justice Department for PROMIS, as the deal becomes mired in a series of disputes. [US Congress, 9/10/1992; Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

C. Madison “Brick” Brewer gets the job of supervising a contract with Inslaw for the installation of the PROMIS database and search application (see March 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992; Wired News, 3/1993] According to a report by the House Judiciary Committee, Brewer gets the job from William P. Tyson of the Justice Department’s Executive Office for US Attorneys (EOUSA). [US Congress, 9/10/1992] However, according to Wired magazine, Brewer is appointed by EOUSA Director Laurence McWhorter, who had told a previous candidate for the position that he was “out to get Inslaw” (see Spring 1981). [Wired News, 3/1993] Brewer had originally been hired by the EOUSA in January. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] He once worked for Inslaw, but was allowed to resign when its founder William Hamilton found his performance inadequate (see 1976). [Wired News, 3/1993] Brewer will soon demonstrate his hostility to Inslaw, and the company will ask that he be replaced (see April 14, 1982, April 19, 1982, and Mid-April 1982).
Importance of Job - As the project manager, Brewer is involved in all major contract and technical decisions, including forming the department’s position on Inslaw’s claim that it should be paid for privately-funded enhancements it makes to PROMIS. Brewer also reports on progress on the contract to the department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee (see August 13, 1981 or Before).
Comment by Assistant Attorney General - Assistant Attorney General Lowell Jensen will later comment: “I would think that the better path of wisdom is not to do that [i.e. hire an allegedly fired employee to direct the contract of his former employer] if that’s possible to do. I think that it’s better to have these kinds of issues undertaken by people who don’t have questions raised about them one way or the other whether they are biased in favor of or against the people they deal with.” However, this thinking apparently does not impact the department’s decision to hire Brewer.
House Judiciary Committee Investigation - In the light of these circumstances, the House Judiciary Committee will call the appointment a “curious choice,” partly because Brewer tells it: “I was not a computer person. We talked about my role viewed as being liaison, the person who would make things happen, a coordinator. It was not contemplated that I would, by osmosis or otherwise, learn computer science.” After interviewing Justice Department staff, the committee will find that it is “unable to determine how Mr. Brewer came to be considered for the position.” The committee will also point out: “The potential conflict of interest was an unsatisfactory situation irrespective of his admittedly negative feelings about his forced resignation from the company. Had Mr. Brewer taken actions which could have been construed to unduly favor Inslaw throughout the life of the contract, similar questions of potential conflict could just as easily have arisen either from within the department or from outside competitors of the company.”
Findings of Government Accountability Office and Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations - The Government Accountability Office and Congress’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI) will find that Brewer’s appointment as project manager creates an appearance of a conflict of interest that should have been avoided by the department. The PSI report will say, “The staff finds that the department exercised poor judgment in ignoring the potential for a conflict of interest in its hiring of the PROMIS project director [Brewer], and then, after receiving allegations of bias on his part, in failing to follow standard procedures to investigate them in a timely manner.”
Courts' Opinions - During the legal proceedings that stem from a dispute between Inslaw and the department, two courts will comment on the issue. George Bason, of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, will say, “On the basis of the evidence taken as a whole, this court is convinced beyond any doubt that Brewer was consumed by hatred for and an intense desire for revenge against Mr. Hamilton and Inslaw, and acted throughout this matter in a thoroughly biased and unfairly prejudicial manner toward Inslaw.” William Bryant, of the District Court for the District of Columbia, will add, “The nature and circumstances of his separation from that employment are somewhat in dispute, but it is clear that Brewer was not happy in his job when he left it after being urged to do so by Hamilton.”
Brewer's Motivation - Inslaw attorney Harvey Sherzer will comment in court on one of the motivations apparently driving Brewer: “[H]e seemed to think there was something wrong with a contractor benefiting from a government contract.… The gist of what he seemed to be saying was that by performing this contract Inslaw and Mr. Hamilton, specifically, was making an effort to expand the company. And there seemed to be a negative inference toward Inslaw’s ability to use the base created by this contract to expand.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Office of Professional Responsibility Conclusion - On the contrary, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility will examine the matter and rule there is no conflict of interest. Brewer will later tell a federal court that everything he does regarding Inslaw is approved by Jensen. Jensen had previously supervised a product known as DALITE, which lost a major contract to Inslaw in the 1970s. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, William Bryant, Office of Professional Responsibility, Laurence McWhorter, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, US District Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee, Harvey Sherzer, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Inslaw, Inc., Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), George Bason, Government Accountability Office, Frank Mallgrave, William P. Tyson

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A lawyer acting for Inslaw writes to the Justice Department telling it that Inslaw intends to market a version of the PROMIS software commercially. The lawyer, Roderick M. Hills of Latham & Watkins, tells Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris, who is also a member of the committee overseeing PROMIS, that, even though the software was initially developed with government money (see Mid-1970s), private enhancements to it mean that Inslaw can sell the improved version for a fee. The letter is accompanied by a memorandum from Inslaw owner William Hamilton explaining the situation. Inslaw and the department have just signed a contract for Inslaw to implement the public domain version of the software at US attorneys’ offices for the department (see March 1982). However, the privately-funded enhancements mean that if the department chose to use the latest version, it would have to pay for the actual software, as well as installation and maintenance costs. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Latham, Watkins & Hills, Roderick M. Hills, William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

One month after the Justice Department and Inslaw sign a contract on the installation of PROMIS software (see March 1982), a departmental official raises the possibility of terminating the contract. At a meeting of the PROMIS Project Team, project manager C. Madison Brewer, the Justice Department’s contracting officer Peter Videnieks, and Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director for the Office of Management Information Systems Support, discuss terminating the contract with Inslaw for convenience of the government, according to notes taken at the meeting. “Discussed Inslaw’s ‘PROMIS II’ memo, termination for convenience discussed,” read Videnieks’ notes. When the contract becomes the subject of a series of legal actions, the three men begin to suffer from what the House Judiciary Committee will call “severe memory loss” over what happened at the meeting. In a sworn statement, Brewer will say he does not recall the details of the meeting, but if this recommendation were made, it was made “in jest.” However, he will admit to being upset with Inslaw’s handling of the contract and its demand for payment for enhancements it had made privately to the application (see April 2, 1982). Bankruptcy Court Judge George Bason will comment: “All of the [Justice Department] witnesses who attended the April 14, 1982 meeting professed a total lack of memory about it. They testified they had no recollection of any such meeting. This court disbelieves that testimony. None of them could offer any credible explanation, or indeed any explanation, of the meaning of Videnieks’ handwritten notes other than what this court finds to be their meaning.… These notes constitute a ‘smoking gun’ that clearly evidences Brewer’s intense bias against Inslaw, his single-minded intent to drive INSLAW out of business, and Rugh’s and Videnieks’ complicity.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Peter Videnieks, Jack Rugh, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw asks the Justice Department to appoint a manager other than C. Madison “Brick” Brewer to run the PROMIS project that Inslaw is working on for the department. Brewer had formerly worked for Inslaw, but had left under a cloud (see 1976), and later been hired by the department to supervise the contract between it and Inslaw (see April 1982). Following initial problems with Brewer (see April 14, 1982 and April 19, 1982), Inslaw asks Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris to replace him, as Inslaw owner William Hamilton thinks he has antagonistic feelings toward Inslaw due to their past. However, departmental officials say that Brewer’s skills and prior employment with Inslaw were important factors in his hiring by the department. Laurence McWhorter, deputy director of the Executive Office for US Attorneys, will later say that Brewer’s employment by Inslaw qualified him to “run the implementation of a case tracking system for US attorneys” and “to basically direct the implementation of a case tracking system in US attorneys offices.” The House Judiciary Committee will comment, “It is difficult to understand, however, how… McWhorter could make this statement” because Brewer himself admitted that at the time he left Inslaw, “he had very little, if any, experience in managing computer projects and government ADP [automated data processing] procurement law,” and he also “admitted to a lack of experience or detailed understanding of computers or software.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Stanley E. Morris, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), Laurence McWhorter, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Justice Department manager C. Madison Brewer displays his hostility towards Inslaw, Inc., in a meeting to discuss the implementation of the PROMIS application. An Inslaw memorandum of the meeting says, “Brewer seized upon this issue [that Inslaw wanted to be paid for privately-financed enhancements it had made to the software] and launched into a tirade which was very emotional, unorganized, and quite illogical.” Brewer’s complaints are:
bullet The memo claiming the payments is “typical of Inslaw and [Inslaw owner] Bill Hamilton and that it was self-serving and unnecessary.”
bullet How did the Justice Department “know that we might say work was not finished under our government contracts and the next week copyright the work and begin selling it back to the Justice Department?”
bullet A press release about a contract awarded to Inslaw was inaccurate because “it described West Virginia as a successful implementation when in fact, they had spent an additional 20K [$20,000] on the project and Lanier was doing all the work.”
bullet The memo had caused “all kinds of problems in Justice and had many people upset.”
bullet “Illinois Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, Michigan Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, Andy Voight, and others,” would say that “Inslaw did not do good or successful work.”
bullet “Hamilton started the PROMIS system as an employee of the DC, USAO [US Attorneys Office in Washington, DC]. And that all of the software was developed with Federal funds and what right did Hamilton have to try to claim ownership of the software.”
The memo adds, “All of these comments were based with an obvious dislike of Bill Hamilton and a resentment for the success of Inslaw personified in him.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw enhances its PROMIS software under contract to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. The improvement, known as the “printed inquiry enhancement,” is delivered to the department on May 17, 1982. As the development of the original software and this enhancement is government-funded (see Mid-1970s), Inslaw cannot charge for providing the software to the government solely by virtue of this improvement. However, Inslaw also says it makes privately-funded enhancements at this time, enabling it to charge a fee for a version of the application with these enhancements (see April 2, 1982 and July 17, 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw’s attorney James Rogers writes to the Justice Department in an attempt to allay fears the department has about the implementation of the company’s PROMIS software for it. Rogers provides Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley E. Morris with a detailed description of what the company plans to do to market the software commercially from the next month, and asks that the department respond to Inslaw to “ensure that these representations are correct.” Rogers says that the version of PROMIS the company will market comprises three parts: (1) the original application developed with government money (see Mid-1970s); (2) enhancements made by Inslaw using private money (see April 2, 1982 and July 17, 1982); and (3) an enhancement made for the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see Before May 17, 1982). Parts (1) and (3) do not entitle Inslaw to market the software commercially themselves. However, part (2) does. At the Justice Department, both C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, who supervises the PROMIS contract, and Peter Videnieks, the department’s contracting officer, are unhappy with this intention. The House Judiciary Committee will comment that this letter is “followed by a very antagonistic meeting” between Brewer and Inslaw representatives, and that Brewer and Videnieks continue “to believe that, because the department was currently funding the implementation of PROMIS, they could ignore Inslaw’s proprietary interest in the privately funded enhancements made to the PROMIS software.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Stanley E. Morris, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, House Judiciary Committee, Peter Videnieks

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

In an internal memo, Inslaw employee John Gizarelli outlines a problem concerning the PROMIS project with the Justice Department official handling the contract, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer (see April 14, 1982, April 19, 1982, and Mid-April 1982). Brewer had left Inslaw under a cloud in the mid-1970s (see 1976), but is now overseeing the PROMIS implementation project at the Justice Department. Gizarelli writes to Inslaw vice president Dean Merrill that Brewer “has made no secret of his dislike of [Inslaw president] Bill Hamilton.” He adds: “In his present job, he is in a position to demonstrate his dislike. Bill, however, has kept his distance from the project and probably will continue to do so, until and unless there are large problems which Bill—in his role as president—must deal with personally. It is entirely possible—and I believe likely—that Brick will escalate the level of controversy until he draws Bill into the project, at which time he will be able to ‘lord it over him’ and show who’s boss. I don’t think Brick will ever be at peace with his feelings about Bill and therefore, with us.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Dean Merrill, John Gizarelli, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Joyce Demy, an employee of the software company Inslaw, writes to the firm’s lawyer saying that it made enhancements to its PROMIS software worth $1 million between May 1981 and May 1982. She also tells the lawyer, James Rogers of Latham, Watkins & Hills, that no government money was used for the enhancements, which were paid for solely out of private funds. Prior to the enhancements, the original PROMIS software was in the public domain, as it had been paid for by government money (see Mid-1970s). However, the various privately-funded enhancements mean that Inslaw can claim ownership of it. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., James Rogers, Joyce Demy, Latham, Watkins & Hills

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Associate Deputy Attorney General Stanley Morris writes to James Rogers, an attorney acting for Inslaw, and admits that the company owns privately funded improvements to the PROMIS software. Morris first points out that part of the software was financed by the government: “We agree that the original PROMIS, as defined in your letter of May 26, 1982 (see May 26, 1982), is in the public domain. We also agree that the printed inquiry enhancement is in the public domain.” This means that Inslaw could never charge the department for the use of software comprising only the original application and the printed inquiry enhancement (although it could of course charge for installation and maintenance). However, Morris adds, “To the extent that any other enhancements to the system were privately funded by Inslaw and not specified to be delivered to the Department of Justice under any contract or other arrangement, Inslaw may assert whatever proprietary rights it may have.” This means the department agrees that Inslaw can sell a version of the software with privately-funded enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] This statement is made in response to a letter sent by lawyers acting for Inslaw founder William Hamilton, informing the department that Inslaw intends to become a private company, and asking it to waive any proprietary rights it might claim to the enhanced version. Clarification will be provided in a 1988 deposition in which Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns will say, “Our lawyers were satisfied that Inslaw’s lawyers could sustain the claim in court, that we had waived those [proprietary] rights.” [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, William Hamilton, Arnold Burns, Inslaw, Inc., Stanley E. Morris

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Peter Videnieks, the Justice Department’s contracting officer, writes to Inslaw to demand that it turn over all computer programs and supporting documentation relating to a contract to install PROMIS software for the department (see March 1982). In response, Inslaw says it will not do this without the department modifying the contract between them to acknowledge that it has inserted privately-funded enhancements into a public domain version developed for the department. This modification is apparently required because the department is using a time-share version of the application in advance of full installation, and Inslaw’s other timesharing customers also use a version with the enhancements. The department then says that the original contract called for software in which the government has unlimited rights, and asks Inslaw to identify the parts of the software it claims are proprietary. Inslaw offers to provide the enhanced software to the 94 attorneys’ offices covered by the contract at no extra charge, provided the department agrees to Inslaw’s rights and does not disseminate the software beyond these offices. However, Videnieks will later tell investigators for the House Judiciary Committee that the department believed that it had unlimited rights to any versions of PROMIS, and if restrictions were placed on data rights, then this would not satisfy Inslaw’s obligation under the contract. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice, Peter Videnieks

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department’s PROMIS project manager, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, writes a memo about potential developments in the project. In the memo, he says he is concerned about the possibility Inslaw, the company that is implementing the PROMIS software, may go bankrupt, and that staff at the Executive Office for US Attorneys may need to take over the project. Brewer also mentions the possibility that the contract with Inslaw could be terminated by the department. Inslaw will enter bankruptcy in 1985, at least partially as a result of the department withholding payments from it (see February 1985). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department makes a counter-proposal in the dispute over whether Inslaw should provide an enhanced version of the PROMIS software and documentation to the department to ensure against the company’s bankruptcy (see December 6, 1982). The counter-proposal is made in a letter from Peter Videnieks, the department’s contracting officer, to Harvey Sherzer, an attorney for Inslaw. Videnieks still wants a copy of the enhanced PROMIS software, but is willing to limit the software’s dissemination to the attorneys’ offices contemplated by the original contract. However, the department does not admit that Inslaw has made privately-funded enhancements to the software, so this limitation on dissemination will only apply if Inslaw can demonstrate the privately-funded enhancements that it claims have actually been made. Nevertheless, no mechanism for producing such proof will be specified. If Inslaw can show the software contains such enhancements, the department will either tell it to remove them, or negotiate regarding inclusion of the enhancements. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Harvey Sherzer, Inslaw, Inc., Peter Videnieks, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw and the Justice Department conclude a modification, number 12, to a contract under which the company is to install PROMIS software for the department (March 1982). The modification appears to resolve a dispute that has arisen between the two parties (see December 6, 1982 and March 18, 1983), as the department wants Inslaw to give it a copy of the software, but Inslaw says it has made privately-funded enhancements to the code and wants the department to undertake not to disseminate the enhanced software beyond the locations specified in the original contract (the department is entitled to disseminate an earlier, public domain version of the contract any way it wants). The modification says that Inslaw will give the department a copy of the software, and the department undertakes not to disseminate it in future, provided that Inslaw can demonstrate the enhancements were actually made. As a result of the agreement, the department will continue to make advance payments to Inslaw. It is this modification that leads to a series of legal disputes that will last well into the next decade, as the parties never come to an agreement on how the enhancements are to be demonstrated and the department begins to disseminate the software unchecked. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A Justice Department official writes a memo saying he will soon provide the PROMIS application to an Israeli government representative. The official is Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director of the Office of Management Information Systems Support at the Executive Office of US Attorneys. The memo states that “Reference my memorandum to file dated April 22, 1983, on the same subject. [C. Madison] Brick Brewer [PROMIS project manager at the Justice Department] recently instructed me to make a copy of an LEAA version of PROMIS [a version wholly owned by the Justice Department] available to Dr. Ben Orr, a representative of the government of Israel. Dr. Orr called me to discuss that request after my earlier memorandum was written. I have made a copy of the LEM DEC version of PROMIS and will provide it along with the corresponding documentation, to Dr. Orr before he leaves the United States for Israel on May 16.”
High Officials Possibly Involved - The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “Given the international dimensions to the decisions, it is difficult to accept the notion that a group of low-level Department personnel decided independently to get in touch with the government of Israel to arrange for transfer of the PROMIS software. At the very least, it is unlikely that such a transaction occurred without the approval of high-level Department officials, including those on the PROMIS Oversight Committee.”
Actual Version of PROMIS Unclear - The committee will also later speculate that a version whose ownership is under dispute was also given to the Israelis, saying: “[I]t is uncertain what version actually was transferred. Department managers believed that all versions of the Enhanced PROMIS software were the Department’s property. The lack of detailed documentation on the transfer, therefore, only creates new questions surrounding allegations that Enhanced PROMIS may have been sold or transferred to Israel and other foreign governments.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Rugh will pass the application to Brewer for handing over to Orr six days later (see May 12, 1983).

Entity Tags: Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ), C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, US Department of Justice, Office of Management Information Systems Support, Benjamin Orr, Jack Rugh

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Jack Rugh, the acting assistant director of the Office of Management Information Systems Support at the Justice Department’s Executive Office for US Attorneys, writes a memo turning over the PROMIS application to a colleague, C. Madison Brewer. The application is for passage to the government of Israel, a transfer already discussed by Brewer and Rugh (see May 6, 1983). Rugh writes: “Enclosed are the PROMIS materials that you asked me to produce for Dr. Ben Orr of the government of Israel. These materials consist of the LEM DEC PDP 11/70 version of PROMIS on magnetic tape along with the printed specifications for that tape, as well as two printed volumes of PROMIS documentation for the LEAA version of the system.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Management Information Systems Support, Jack Rugh, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Benjamin Orr, Executive Office for US Attorneys (DOJ)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw implements its enhanced PROMIS software at 20 US attorneys’ offices. The implementation is performed pursuant to a contract signed by the company and the Justice Department in 1982 (March 1982). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen and other members of the Justice Department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee approve the termination of part of a contract with Inslaw, Inc., for the installation of PROMIS software (see March 1982). The termination, pushed through despite a report that there was progress with Inslaw’s attorney on the resolution of contract problems, only concerns the part of the contract for the installation of PROMIS on word processing hardware in 74 small US attorneys’ offices. Inslaw will still be contracted to install the application in 20 other US attorneys’ offices. The termination is to be for default, as Inslaw has allegedly failed to perform this portion of the contract, although a different reason will later be given (see February 1984). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Justice Department procurement counsel William Snider issues a legal opinion stating that the department lacks legal justification to terminate part of a contract on the installation of PROMIS software for default. The department’s PROMIS Oversight Committee had decided on this course of action in December (see December 29, 1983), as it said that Inslaw, the company installing PROMIS, was not performing the contract properly. However, the committee decides to terminate the portion of the contract anyway, but for convenience—meaning Inslaw may receive some compensation—not default. PROMIS project manager C. Madison Brewer then notifies INSLAW owner William Hamilton that Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen has decided on partial termination. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Lowell Jensen, William Hamilton, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, William Snider

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court, in the case of Federal Election Commission v. NCPAC, rules that political action committees (PACs) can spend more than the $1,000 mandated by federal law (see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976). The Democratic Party and the FEC argued that large expenditures by the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) in 1975 violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which caps spending by independent political action committees in support of a publicly funded presidential candidate at $1,000. The Court rules 7-2 in favor of NCPAC, finding that the relevant section of FECA encroaches on the organization’s right to free speech (see January 30, 1976). Justice William Rehnquist writes the majority opinion, joined by fellow conservatives Chief Justice Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Lewis Powell, and liberals Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, and William Brennan. Justices Byron White and Thurgood Marshall dissent from the majority. [Oyez (.org), 2012; Moneyocracy, 2/2012]

Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, William Brennan, William Rehnquist, Byron White, Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, US Supreme Court, Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, Thurgood Marshall, National Conservative Political Action Committee, Democratic Party, Lewis Powell

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

February 1985: Inslaw Declares Bankruptcy

Inslaw, the owner and developer of the enhanced PROMIS software, declares bankruptcy, applying for Chapter 11 reorganization at the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. Inslaw’s poor financial condition is at least partly due to a dispute with the Justice Department over the software, as the department owes it a minimum of $1.6 million in contract payments for implementation, but is withholding them. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw representatives Elliot Richardson and Donald Santarelli, a former administrator of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, meet with acting Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen to discuss a resolution of the Inslaw affair concerning the Justice Department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Richardson and Santarelli ask for rapid talks to resolve disputes that have caused the department to withhold money from Inslaw and the company to go bankrupt, that the department consider a new proposal for work by Inslaw, and that Jensen appoint somebody to investigate Inslaw’s claims that some department officials, in particular C. Madison Brewer (see 1976 and April 1982), are biased against it. The business proposal is that Inslaw implement PROMIS in smaller US attorneys’ offices. This was originally covered by a contract between Inslaw and the department (see March 1982), but this part of the contract was terminated in 1984 (see December 29, 1983 and February 1984). [US Congress, 9/10/1992] The department rejects the proposal for additional work, but it is unclear whether the allegations against Brewer and others are investigated (see After March 13, 1985).

Entity Tags: Elliot Richardson, Donald Santarelli, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department starts an internal review of the Inslaw affair, but the content of the review will be disputed. The review follows a meeting at which Inslaw representatives made three requests (see March 13, 1985): that the department negotiate on a resolution of the disputes between it and Inslaw; that it consider a new proposal made by Inslaw for additional work; and that it investigate allegations of misconduct against departmental personnel. The review is ordered by Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen and performed by Deputy Associate Attorney General Jay Stephens.
Jensen's Version - According to Jensen, the review is to look at the bias allegations. He will say he recalls discussing the results of Stephens’ review, adding that, based on Stephens’ assessment of the allegations, no review by the Office of Professional Responsibility is merited.
Stephens' Version - However, Stephens will tell the House Judiciary Committee under oath that he does not undertake a review of the misconduct allegations, but only looks at Inslaw’s business proposal. The committee will point out that this is in “direct contradiction” of Jensen’s version. While examining the proposal, Stephens receives several telephone calls from Inslaw attorneys Charles Work and Elliot Richardson. He feels they are lobbying the department very hard because they believe Inslaw has what the committee will call “some special relationship” with the department. According to a report by the committee, Work and Richardson attempt to convey that, “based on a longstanding relationship between the department and Inslaw, the department should look favorably on Inslaw’s new business proposal.”
Outcome of Review - However, Stephens reports to Jensen that the need for Inslaw’s business proposal is questionable and the department thinks the work can be done in-house. Jensen then writes to Richardson, saying that the department does not have an immediate need for the work, and will not act on the proposal.
Comment by House Committee - The committee will comment, “Because the department did not adequately investigate Inslaw’s allegations, the company was forced into expensive, time-consuming litigation as the only means by which the department’s misappropriation of Inslaw’s enhanced PROMIS could be exposed.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., Elliot Richardson, Charles Work, Jay B. Stephens, Lowell Jensen

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department makes enhanced PROMIS software available at multiple locations, outside the framework of its contract with Inslaw on the application’s installation and over protests by the company. The software is first installed at 25 US attorneys’ offices in addition to 20 still covered by a contract between Inslaw and the department (see Between August 29, 1983 and February 18, 1985). According to Inslaw’s counsel Elliot Richardson, an enhanced version of the software is then illegally copied to support an additional two sites. Finally, 31 additional sites are brought on line via telecommunications. These additional, smaller US attorneys’ offices had initially been covered by the contract with Inslaw, but this portion of the contract was terminated in 1984 (see February 1984). Inslaw will repeatedly protest about this installation (see March 14, 1986), and a bankruptcy court will find it is in violation of the law (see September 28, 1987), although this ruling will be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Elliot Richardson, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw complains about additional installations of enhanced PROMIS software by the Justice Department. Inslaw and the department had a contract for the company to install the software in 20 large US attorneys’ offices and then dozens of smaller ones (see March 1982), but the portion of the contract for the smaller offices was terminated (see February 1984), and the department is installing an enhanced version of the software Inslaw says it owns in these smaller offices (see Between June 24, 1985 and September 2, 1987). The complaint is made in a letter by Inslaw president William Hamilton to H. Lawrence Wallace, the assistant attorney general for administration. “I am extremely disturbed and disappointed to learn that the Executive Office for US Attorneys has begun to manufacture copies of the PROMIS software for customization and installation in additional US attorneys offices, specifically those in St. Louis, Missouri, and Sacramento, California,” Hamilton writes. “This action occurs at the very time that the Department of Justice and Inslaw are attempting to resolve, by negotiation, Inslaw’s claim that the US attorneys version of PROMIS contains millions of dollars of privately-financed enhancements that are proprietary products of Inslaw and for which Inslaw has, to date, received no compensation.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: H. Lawrence Wallace, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice, William Hamilton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A lawyer acting for Inslaw warns the Justice Department that the department’s use of the enhanced version of PROMIS software contravenes bankruptcy legislation. Inslaw, in Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to a dispute between itself and the department (see February 1985), writes to the department’s contracting officer saying that the software’s use without Inslaw’s consent and the payment of licensing fees would contravene Inslaw’s property rights and its rights as a debtor in possession of the software under the bankruptcy code. In addition, Inslaw argues it is “a wrongful exercise of control over property of the debtor’s estate in violation of the automatic stay now in effect.” The automatic stay is a legal mechanism that prevents creditors—such as the Justice Department—harassing a debtor—such as Inslaw—in bankruptcy. Inslaw also says that the department’s dissemination of the software to third parties could damage or destroy the product’s commercial value, possibly wrecking the company. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Inslaw files a complaint for a declaratory judgment, the enforcement of automatic stay bankruptcy protection provisions, and damages against the Justice Department in the dispute over the department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software. The automatic stay is one of the fundamental debtor protections provided by bankruptcy laws. It stops all collection efforts, harassments, and foreclosure actions, giving the debtor temporary relief from creditors. It is important because it allows a bankruptcy court to centralize all disputes concerning property of the debtor’s estate so that reorganization can proceed orderly and efficiently. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Inslaw’s attorney for the case, Leigh Ratiner of the Washington firm Dickstein, Shapiro & Morin, chooses the bankruptcy court for the filing based on the premise that the Justice Department, as the creditor, has control of enhanced PROMIS. He will later say: “It was forbidden by the Bankruptcy Act for the creditor to exercise control over the debtor property. And that theory—that the Justice Department was exercising control—was the basis that the bankruptcy court had jurisdiction. As far as I know, this was the first time this theory had been used. This was ground-breaking.” [Wired News, 3/1993] Inslaw claims that Justice Department manager C. Madison Brewer, who was responsible for implementing PROMIS in the department, was instrumental in propelling Inslaw into bankruptcy (see April 1982, April 14, 1982, and April 19, 1982), and that he then hindered Inslaw in its development of a reorganization plan. Inslaw also alleges that its concerns were made known to the highest levels of Justice Department’s management, without any response. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Leigh Ratiner, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Inslaw, Inc., Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), a Justice Department oversight component, receives a letter from Laurie A. Westly, chief counsel to Senator Paul Simon (D-IL), asking for its view of allegations made by the software company Inslaw against the Justice Department. The letter mentions claims of misconduct by department official Lowell Jensen. Westly also refers to litigation recently initiated by Inslaw (see June 9, 1986), specifically the claim that Jensen contributed to the bankruptcy of Inslaw and had a negative bias toward its software. She also asks whether Jensen has breached any ethical or legal responsibility as a department employee. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] It is unclear what action the OPR takes in response to this matter. However, it conducts a preliminary investigation into whether Jensen was biased against Inslaw this year, and this may be in response to this letter (see 1986). It will also begin a fuller investigation the next year (see October 14, 1987).

Entity Tags: Lowell Jensen, Laurie A. Westly, Office of Professional Responsibility, Paul Martin Simon, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight unit at the Justice Department, conducts an initial review of bias allegations against departmental officials in the Inslaw affair. The exact timing of the review is uncertain, although it may come after a query about the case from Senator Paul Simon in June (see June 16, 1986). The review finds that there is no misconduct by Justice Department manager Lowell Jensen. According to statements made by acting OPR counsel Robert Lyon and assistant counsel David Bobzein to the House Judiciary Committee in 1990, the OPR does not perform a full review at this time because the allegations of bias are not an issue OPR would normally review. Therefore, it plans to rely on the findings of a bankruptcy court hearing the Inslaw case (see June 9, 1986). However, after the bankruptcy court finds in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987), partly because it thinks the bias allegations are well founded, OPR begins a full investigation (see October 14, 1987) and concludes there was no bias (see March 31, 1989). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, David Bobzein, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, Robert Lyon

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Senator Charles Mathias (R-MD) sends a letter to the Justice Department asking about the dispute with Inslaw over enhanced PROMIS software. The letter will spark interest by Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns in the case (see After July 9, 1986). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Charles Mathias, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns is told that the Justice Department has waived its rights to enhanced PROMIS software (see August 11, 1982). Following a letter asking about the Inslaw case from Senator Charles Mathias (see July 9, 1986), Burns asks subordinates about the litigation with Inslaw and is told the company wants the department to pay royalties. Burns then suggests that the issue should be turned around and that a claim against Inslaw should be made for it to pay royalties to the government, which funded the development of the first version of PROMIS (see Mid-1970s). However, further research comes up with a result shocking to Burns, who will say in 1988, “The answer that I got, which I wasn’t terribly happy with but which I accepted, was that there had been a series of old correspondence and back and forthing [sic] and stuff, that in all of that, our lawyers were satisfied that Inslaw could sustain the claim in court, that we had waived those rights, not that I was wrong that we didn’t have them but that somebody in the Department of Justice, in a letter or letters, as I say in this back and forthing [sic], had, in effect, waived those rights.” The House Judiciary Committee will later comment, “Considering that the deputy attorney general was aware of Inslaw’s proprietary rights, the department’s pursuit of litigation can only be understood as a war of attrition between the department’s massive, tax-supported resources and Inslaw’s desperate financial condition, with shrinking (courtesy of the department) income.” The committee will add, “In light of Mr. Burns’ revelation, it is important to note that committee investigators found no surviving documentation (from that time frame) which reveal the department’s awareness of the relative legal positions of the department and Inslaw, on Inslaw’s claims to proprietary enhancements referred to by Mr. Burns.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., House Judiciary Committee, Arnold Burns, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court rules in Federal Election Commission v. Massachusetts Citizens for Life that an anti-abortion organization can print flyers promoting “pro-life” candidates in the weeks before an election, and that the portion of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976) that bars distribution of such materials to the general public restricts free speech. In September 1978, the Massachusetts Citizens For Life (MCFL) spent almost $10,000 printing flyers captioned “Everything You Need to Vote Pro-Life,” which included information about specific federal and state candidates’ positions on abortion rights, along with exhortations to “vote pro-life” and “No pro-life candidate can win in November without your vote in September.” The Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that MCFL’s expenditures violated FECA’s ban on corporate spending in connection with federal elections. A Massachusetts district court ruled against the FEC, finding that the flyer distribution “was uninvited by any candidate and uncoordinated with any campaign” and the flyers fell under the “newspaper exemption” of the law. Moreover, the court found, FECA’s restrictions infringed on MCFL’s freedom of speech (see January 30, 1976 and April 26, 1978). An appeals court reversed much of the district court’s decision, but agreed that the named provision of FECA violated MCFL’s free speech rights. The FEC appealed to the Supreme Court. By a 5-4 vote, the Court affirms that FECA’s prohibition on corporate expenditures is unconstitutional as applied to independent expenditures made by a narrowly defined type of nonprofit corporation such as MCFL. The Court writes that few organizations will be impacted by its decision. The majority opinion is written by Justice William Brennan, a Court liberal, and joined by liberal Thurgood Marshall and conservatives Lewis Powell, Antonin Scalia, and (in part) by Sandra Day O’Connor. Court conservatives William Rehnquist and Byron White, joined by liberals Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens, dissent with the majority, saying that the majority ruling gives “a vague and barely adumbrated exception [to the law] certain to result in confusion and costly litigation.” [Federal Election Commission, 2011; Moneyocracy, 2/2012]

Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, US Supreme Court, William Brennan, Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, Thurgood Marshall, Massachusetts Citizens for Life, Byron White, Lewis Powell

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Richard Willard, assistant attorney general of the civil division, writes a memo to Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns about the Inslaw affair. According to Willard, George Bason, the bankruptcy court judge dealing with the Justice Department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software, should be taken off the case. Willard writes that Bason’s conduct is “so extraordinary that it warranted reassignment to another judge.” The House Judiciary Committee will comment that department officials are “concerned” about Bason’s handling of the case “very early in the litigation,” and that they think Bason tends to believe statements made by Inslaw. The committee will add: “The department believed that Judge Bason disregarded the sworn statements of department witnesses. The department also believed that Judge Bason made lengthy observations regarding the credibility of its witnesses and that Judge Bason’s uniformly negative conclusions were based on inferences not supported by the record.” Therefore, by the summer of 1987, the department is “actively seeking ways to remove Judge Bason from the case.” Bason will rule in favor of Inslaw in the autumn (see September 28, 1987). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Richard Willard, George Bason, Civil Division, Arnold Burns, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Justice Department staff tell Attorney General Edwin Meese that Judge George Bason of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia is “off his rocker,” according to a sworn statement Meese will later make to the House Judiciary Committee. Bason is presiding over a dispute between the department and the software company Inslaw (see June 9, 1986) and will eventually rule against the department (see September 28, 1987). This comment appears to be part of a campaign to get Bason removed from the case (see June 19, 1987) and a judge more favorable to the department appointed. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Edwin Meese, US Department of Justice, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns asks his subordinates at the Justice Department’s civil division to “consider initiatives for achieving a more favorable disposition of this matter [a legal dispute between the department and Inslaw over PROMIS software].” This is apparently a reference to the possible removal of Judge George Bason from the case, as the department thinks he is biased against it (see June 19, 1987). In response to the comments, the department will draft a report about removing Bason (see After July 7, 1987). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Civil Division, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason, Arnold Burns, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Following a request from the Justice Department’s leadership (see July 7, 1987), Michael Hertz, the director of the civil division’s commercial litigation branch at the department, writes a memo entitled “Feasibility of Motion to Disqualify the Judge in Inslaw.” The department has come to believe that the judge, George Bason, is biased against it (see June 19, 1987) and hopes to challenge his findings of fact by saying they are unsupported by evidence and reflect a desire to reach a preordained conclusion. This position is mostly based on the department’s observations that some of Bason’s findings of fact are “rambling and based on deductions that are both strained and have flimsy support.” However, Hertz writes to Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart Schiffer that the facts simply do not support a case of bias strong enough to disqualify Bason from the remainder of the Inslaw case. Hertz adds that he is “fairly confident” that any motion to dismiss Bason would not succeed and the denial of any such motion could not be successfully challenged on appeal. He gives the following reasons:
bullet The department has no evidence that what it views as “Bason’s incredible factual conclusions or alleged bias” actually stem from an extrajudicial source, as the case law requires;
bullet Adverse factual findings and inferences against the government are not enough to support a claim of bias; and
bullet Adverse credibility rulings about some of the government’s witnesses in a prior phase of the proceedings are not on their own sufficient to disqualify Bason from the rest of the proceedings.
Hertz says that attempting to demonstrate bias by Bason could adversely affect any future appeal by the department on the findings of fact. He also advises Schiffer that as much as the department may disagree with Bason’s findings: “[T]hey are not mere conclusory statements. Instead they reflect a relatively detailed judicial analysis of the evidence, including reasons for believing certain witnesses and disbelieving others, as well as consideration of what inferences might or might not be drawn from the evidence.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Despite this, the department will twice attempt to get Bason recused, failing both times (see January 19, 1988 and January 25, 1988).

Entity Tags: Michael Hertz, Civil Division, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Stuart Schiffer, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Assistant Attorney General Richard Willard reports to Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns about the Inslaw case. Willard says that the Justice Department has developed a good trial record, but: “[T]here is virtually no reason for optimism about the judge’s ruling. Even though our witnesses performed admirably and we believe we clearly have the better case, Judge Bason made it apparent in a number of ways that he is not favorably disposed to our position.” The department has been trying to have Bason removed from the case for some time (see June 19, 1987) and he will soon rule in favor of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Richard Willard, Arnold Burns, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Judge George Bason of the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia issues an oral finding that the Justice Department “took, converted, and stole” the enhanced version of Inslaw’s PROMIS software by “trickery, fraud, and deceit.” The ruling is issued at the end of a trial that lasts over two weeks and involves sworn statements from over 40 witnesses and thousands of pages of documentary evidence. Bason finds that a key departmental official, project manager C. Madison Brewer, was biased against Inslaw (see April 1982, April 14, 1982, and April 19, 1982). In addition, Brewer’s boss Lowell Jensen (see December 29, 1983 and February 1984) is said to have “a previously developed negative attitude about PROMIS and Inslaw,” because he had been associated with the development of a rival case management system while he was a district attorney in California, and this affected his judgment throughout his oversight of the contract. Further, the department violated bankruptcy protection legislation that applied to Inslaw by using and exercising control over Inslaw’s property—the enhanced PROMIS software—without negotiating a license fee. This oral finding is confirmed in a written opinion issued on January 25, 1988. In the written finding, Bason adds, “[T]his court finds and concludes that the department never intended to meet its commitment and that once the department had received enhanced PROMIS pursuant to Modification 12 (see April 11, 1983), the department thereafter refused to bargain in good faith with Inslaw and instead engaged in an outrageous, deceitful, fraudulent game of ‘cat and mouse,’ demonstrating contempt for both the law and any principle of fair dealing.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Lowell Jensen, George Bason, C. Madison “Brick” Brewer, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight component at the Justice Department, begins an investigation into allegations made by the software company Inslaw against some Justice Department staff. The OPR had conducted a preliminary investigation the previous year (see 1986), concluding the officials were not biased against the company. However, after a bankruptcy court finds serious wrongdoing by departmental officials (see September 28, 1987), Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns asks for “a complete and thorough investigation into the allegation of bias and misconduct by various Justice Department officials against Inslaw.” The full investigation will again conclude that the officials were not biased against Inslaw (see March 31, 1989). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Arnold Burns, Office of Professional Responsibility, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Stuart Schiffer, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil division, writes to Richard Willard, the assistant attorney general for the civil division, about the Inslaw case. Schiffer writes: “[Judge George] Bason has scheduled the next [Inslaw] trial for February 2 [1988]. Coincidentally, it has been my understanding that February 1 [1988] is the date on which he [Bason] will either be reappointed or replaced.” Bason had ruled in favor of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987) and the department had been trying to have him removed from the case for months (see June 19, 1987). After Bason’s bid for reappointment fails (see December 15, 1987), he will say that the department used its influence against him (see December 5, 1990). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Civil Division, Richard Willard, Stuart Schiffer, US Department of Justice, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

An official written report is drafted for the panel considering the appointment of a judge to the Bankruptcy Court to the District of Columbia. The two-page report briefly assesses the final four candidates, including the incumbent George Bason, who is, however, at loggerheads with the Justice Department over his handling of the Inslaw case (see June 19, 1987 and September 28, 1987). However, another—longer but unofficial—report will be drafted two weeks later and will be critical of Bason (see December 8, 1987). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

An apparently unofficial, confidential memo marked “read and destroy” is drafted about the four final candidates for the position of judge at the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia. The memo is clearly critical of the incumbent, George Bason, who is up for reappointment. Bason recently displeased the Justice Department by ruling against it in the Inslaw affair over the alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987). The memo states that “its purpose is to ‘help’ elucidate in particular our reasoning in ranking the candidates as we did,” and describes each of the four. The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “What is striking about the memorandum is that the description of each candidate except Judge Bason begins with positive commentary about the individual. The section describing Judge Bason begins, ‘I could not conclude that Judge Bason was incompetent.’ Other phrases used to describe Judge Bason include ‘he is inclined to make mountains out of molehills,’ ‘Judge Bason seems to have developed a pronounced and unrelenting reputation for favoring debtors,’ and finally, ‘Judge Bason evidenced no inclination to come to grips personally with the management challenge posed by the terrible shortcomings of the Office of the Clerk of our Bankruptcy Court.’” The memo is addressed to Judge Norma Johnson, who Bason will allege may have been an instrument of a campaign waged against him by the Justice Department (see May 1988). The panel appointing the bankruptcy court judge will meet a week later and decide not to give the position to Bason, but to a Justice Department lawyer who represented the government in the Inslaw case (see December 15, 1987). After Bason asks appeals court judges to reconsider his non-reappointment (see January 12, 1988), the memo will be circulated to them. The memo is unsigned, but an appeals court judge who later provides the memo to the House Judiciary Committee investigating the Inslaw affair will say another judge on the appointment panel drafted it. However, this judge will deny having done so. When, some years later, several members of the panel are asked by the committee whether they saw this memo, they will say they do not recognize it. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Norma Johnson, George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who recently found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute over the Justice Department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987), is not reappointed to the bench. Bason had been appointed in February 1984 instead of another judge who had resigned mid-term, but a decision is now taken to replace him with a Justice Department attorney named Martin Teel, who had appeared before him in the Inslaw case. Although the official report for the appointments panel about the candidates did not criticize Bason (see November 24, 1987), a subsequent unofficial report addressed to Norma Johnson, the head of the panel, did (see December 8, 1987). The unofficial report claimed that there were shortcomings in Bason’s administration of the clerk’s office, although the office appears to be running smoothly by this time (see Second Half of 1987). Several judges on the selection council will later say they did not know much about the candidates, and therefore relied on Johnson and her interpretation of reports prepared about them. The House Judiciary Committee will find that Johnson’s oral presentation “played a large role in the selection,” that Johnson ran the panel “firmly,” and that the other members “relied on her judgment.” Overall, it will call the selection process “largely informal, undocumented, and highly subjective.” Bason learns he will not be reappointed from Chief Judge Patricia Wald, of the US Court of Appeals, on December 28. Bason will later say that Teel was not qualified for the position (see January 12, 1988) and that the department had influenced the selection process in order to have him removed from the bench (see December 5, 1990). In this context, Bason will point out to the House committee that Johnson had previously worked with a departmental official named Stuart Schiffer, so he could have influenced her against Bason (see May 1988). Bason will also note that Johnson worked with Judge Tim Murphy for 10 years from 1970, and that Murphy had later worked as the assistant director on the implementation of PROMIS at the Justice Department. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Tim Murphy, Stuart Schiffer, Norma Johnson, Martin Teel, Jr., George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who ruled in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the Justice Department over the alleged theft of PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987) and was subsequently not reappointed to the bench (see December 15, 1987), requests a hearing on his non-reappointment before the Judicial Council of the District of Columbia. Bason criticizes the other candidate, Justice Department official Martin Teel, who was given the position, saying he has “a considerably shorter total period of legal experience,” as he has mostly worked on taxation matters, not bankruptcy, and for the last few years has worked as a reviewer and then manager, without doing his own independent work. Teel will dispute this characterization in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, saying he was qualified and, when appointed, had “six years of fairly extensive bankruptcy experience.” The request for a hearing will not change the decision to not reappoint Bason. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason, Judicial Council of the District of Columbia, Martin Teel, Jr.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department files a motion that bankruptcy court judge George Bason recuse himself from further participation in a case over the bankruptcy of Inslaw and the department’s alleged theft of the enhanced PROMIS application, saying that he is biased against the department. Bason had ruled in favor of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987) and the department has been trying to have him removed from the case for months (see June 19, 1987). The motion is filed despite a report from Michael Hertz, the director of the civil division’s commercial litigation branch at the department, saying that such a move would not succeed (see After July 7, 1987). The bankruptcy court denies the motion three days later. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] The department will make a similar request later in the month (see January 25, 1988).

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, George Bason, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department again tries to get Judge George Bason removed from the Inslaw case over the company’s bankruptcy and the department’s alleged theft of an enhanced version of the PROMIS software. Bason had ruled in favor of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987) and the department has been trying to have him removed from the case for months (see June 19, 1987). Following the failure of a recusal motion to Bason (see January 19, 1988), the department argues a motion before Chief Judge of the District Court for Columbia Aubrey Robinson for a writ of mandamus directing Judge Bason to recuse himself over allegations of bias. Robinson denies the department’s writ, ruling: “I can’t see anything in this record that measures up to the standards that would be applicable to force another judge to take over this case. There isn’t any doubt in my mind, for example, that the declaration filed by the Justice Department in support of the original motion is inadequate.” When the department appeals Bason’s ruling (see Between February 2, 1988 and November 22, 1989), it will again raise the issue of recusal, but District Court Judge William Bryant will say, “This court like the courts before it can find no basis in fact to support a motion for recusal.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice, US District Court for the District of Columbia, William Bryant, Aubrey Robinson

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The software company Inslaw submits allegations about the Justice Department’s conduct in the dispute over the enhanced PROMIS application to the Public Integrity Section (PIS), a departmental oversight component. The allegations follow on from the findings of a bankruptcy court favourable to Inslaw (see September 28, 1987 and January 25, 1988). In the complaint, Inslaw charges the department with:
bullet Procurement fraud. Inslaw claims that Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen schemed to ensure that enhancements made to the PROMIS software by Inslaw would be obtained for free by the department, which would then make them available to a businessman named Earl Brian;
bullet Violation of automatic stay debtor protection provisions invoked by the bankruptcy court. Inslaw says that by using the enhancements it made to the software after the bankruptcy case was filed, the department violated federal bankruptcy law. The bankruptcy court found that the department committed such violation, an act that could constitute an obstruction of the bankruptcy proceedings; and
bullet Attempts to change Inslaw’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for the company’s reorganization, into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, for the company’s liquidation. Inslaw says that the department unsuccessfully attempted to have an official named Harry Jones detailed from the US Trustee’s office in New York to Washington to take over the Inslaw bankruptcy to get Inslaw liquidated. Inslaw also says unsuccessful pressure was exerted by departmental official Thomas Stanton on US Trustee William White to convert the bankruptcy case into a Chapter 7 liquidation.
The PIS says it will examine some of the allegations, but in the end it will not open a formal preliminary investigation (see February 29, 1988). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William White, Inslaw, Inc., Harry Jones, Edwin Meese, Lowell Jensen, US Department of Justice, Public Integrity Section, Thomas Stanton

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia awards $8 million in damages to Inslaw in the dispute over the Justice Department’s use of the enhanced PROMIS software. The decision follows on from a ruling by the court that the department had violated Inslaw’s automatic stay bankruptcy protection rights by using and copying an enhanced version of Inslaw’s PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987). The award consists of $6.8 million in actual and punitive damages, as well as $1.2 million in attorneys’ fees. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc.

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Justice Department appeals an adverse ruling by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia in its dispute with Inslaw (see September 28, 1987). The main grounds of the appeal include the following claims:
bullet The bankruptcy court judge appeared to be biased and should have recused himself. In addition, he used the bankruptcy proceedings to find culpability by the government;
bullet Inslaw did not prove that automatic stay protection provisions had been violated;
bullet The bankruptcy court lacked jurisdiction over Inslaw’s claim because the department had not waived its immunity from monetary judgements against the United States;
bullet The dispute is really a contract dispute, not a bankruptcy argument, and should therefore have been heard by the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals;
bullet The court exceeded its authority in the field of damages, and no attorney fees should have been awarded.
The appeal court will find for Inslaw (see November 22, 1989), although its ruling will later be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US District Court for the District of Columbia, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Public Integrity Section (PIS), a Justice Department oversight component, decides not to open a preliminary investigation of the Inslaw affair over the department’s alleged misappropriation of PROMIS software (see February 1988). The decision is communicated in a memo drafted by William F. Weld, the assistant attorney general for the department’s criminal division, of which the PIS is a part. The PIS finds that at least some of the people Inslaw complains about, including Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen, and Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns, are appropriate targets of an investigation and that Inslaw is generally a credible source for allegations. However, according to Weld, the information Inslaw provides is not specific enough to constitute grounds to begin a preliminary investigation of the need for an independent counsel. This is because the PIS regards the facts Inslaw presented as unsupported speculation that the officials were involved in a scheme to get the enhanced PROMIS software. Therefore, the review should be closed “due to lack of evidence of criminality.” The House Judiciary Committee will be critical of the PIS’s finding, calling its investigation “shallow and incomplete,” and saying the department appeared to be “more interested in constructing legal defenses for its managerial actions rather than investigating claims of wrongdoing which, if proved, could undermine or weaken its litigating posture.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, House Judiciary Committee, William F. Weld, Inslaw, Inc., Lowell Jensen, Public Integrity Section, Arnold Burns, Edwin Meese, Criminal Division (DoJ)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A news reporter tells George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute over the alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987), that his failure to be reappointed to the bench was because of pressure from the Justice Department. According to the House Judiciary Committee, Bason says that the reporter has “excellent contacts and sources in the department.” Bason will say the reporter suggests his removal from the bench could have been procured as follows: “The district judge chairperson of the Merit Selection Panel [Judge Norma Johnson, who was crucial to his non-reappointment (see December 15, 1987)] could have been approached privately and informally by one of her old and trusted friends from her days in the Justice Department. He could have told her that I was mentally unbalanced, as evidenced by my unusually forceful ‘anti-government’ opinions. Her persuasive powers coupled with the fact that other members of the panel or their law firms might appear before her as litigating attorneys could cause them to vote with her.” The reporter also tells Bason that a high-level department official has boasted to him that Bason’s removal was because of his rulings on the Inslaw affair. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia, Norma Johnson, George Bason

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), an oversight unit at the Justice Department, issues a report on the Inslaw affair over the department’s alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software. The report finds that allegations of bias made by Inslaw and seconded by a bankruptcy court (see September 28, 1987) against departmental officials are unsupported. Inslaw had questioned the performance of former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen, former Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns, and others. The OPR says that the court’s findings on misconduct by department officials are “clearly erroneous.” In addition, the report says: “There is no credible evidence that the department took or stole Inslaw’s enhanced PROMIS by trickery, fraud, and deceit. Additionally, we have found no credible evidence that there existed in the department a plot to move to convert Inslaw’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy to one under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code.” The House Judiciary Committee will be extremely critical of this investigation, commenting, “During its investigation OPR chose to ignore the court’s findings and conclusions that there was bias against Inslaw at the department.” In addition, the committee will say that the OPR looked at the bias allegations in isolation and “incredibly” did not examine the merits of the contract dispute, meaning its conclusions on the taking of PROMIS and the type of bankruptcy were “gratuitous,” especially as Burns had told it the department agreed Inslaw owned the enhancements it made to PROMIS (see August 11, 1982). The committee will also point out that the OPR’s deputy counsel, Richard M. Rogers, said he was recused from the investigation because of his association with Burns, although he was present when Meese provided a sworn statement. In this context, the committee will highlight problems found by the Government Accountability Office with OPR around this time (see February 7, 1992). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Office of Professional Responsibility, Richard M. Rogers, Inslaw, Inc., Arnold Burns, Edwin Meese, Lowell Jensen, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Elliot Richardson, an attorney acting for the software company Inslaw, writes to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh about the dispute with the Justice Department over the department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Richardson complains about a review of the case by the Public Integrity Section (PIS), an oversight component at the department, which came down against Inslaw’s claims (see February 29, 1988). He says that there is a conflict of interest because the department is defending itself against a civil action by Inslaw while at the same time investigating itself over the allegations that form the basis of the action. If the internal investigation found wrongdoing by the department, this would destroy the department’s case in court. His view is that the department has given priority to defending itself against the civil action, not the criminal investigation of its own wrongdoing. Richardson adds that no one from the PIS has contacted him, Inslaw counsel Charles Work, some of the witnesses in the case, or Inslaw’s owners. Despite this, the owners provided the PIS with the names of 30 people who had information relevant to the investigation in December 1988. Therefore, Richardson concludes that the only solution is for the department to appoint an independent counsel. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Elliot Richardson, Inslaw, Inc., Public Integrity Section, Richard Thornburgh

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Charles Work, counsel for the software company Inslaw, writes to the Justice Department over the department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Work says that an investigation of the case by the Public Integrity Section, an oversight component at the department, is deficient, and he describes specific problems with it (see February 29, 1988). However, the department does not re-open the inquiry. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Charles Work, Inslaw, Inc., Public Integrity Section, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US District Court for the District of Columbia upholds a bankruptcy court ruling in favor of Inslaw. The ruling concerned the dispute over the PROMIS software between Inslaw and the Justice Department, which was found to have violated bankruptcy protection provisions (see September 28, 1987 and February 2, 1988), but had appealed (see Between February 2, 1988 and November 22, 1989). Judge William Bryant finds that the department knew an enhanced version of PROMIS was Inslaw’s central asset, that ownership of the software was critical to the company’s reorganization in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and that the department’s unilateral claim of ownership and its installation of the enhanced version in offices around the United States violated automatic stay bankruptcy provisions in multiple ways. In addition, Bryant agrees with the bankruptcy court’s conclusion that the department never had any rights to the enhanced version and that “the government acted willfully and fraudulently to obtain property that it was not entitled to under the contract.” In addition, when Inslaw suggested mechanisms to determine whether the private enhancements had been made, the government rejected them, and “when asked to provide an alternative methodology that would be acceptable, the government declined.” The department could have used established procedures to get relief from the automatic stay provisions, but simply chose not to do so. Bryant, who also finds that the department tried to convert Inslaw’s bankruptcy to Chapter 7 liquidation, adds, “What is strikingly apparent from the testimony and depositions of key witnesses and many documents is that Inslaw performed its contract in a hostile environment that extended from the higher echelons of the Justice Department to the officials who had the day-to-day responsibility for supervising its work.” Finally, Bryant finds that, as the case was grounded in bankruptcy law, the bankruptcy court was an appropriate forum to hear the dispute and it did not have to be submitted to the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals, an arena for contract disputes. Although most of the damages awarded are upheld, as Bryant finds the bankruptcy court assessed damages based on the evidence it obtained, he reduces compensatory damages by $655,200.88. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: William Bryant, US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., US District Court for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court, in the case of Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, rules that the Michigan Chamber of Commerce (MCC) cannot run newspaper advertisements in support of a candidate for the state legislature because the MCC is subject to the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, which prohibits corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates running for state offices. The Court finds that corporations can use money only from funds specifically designated for political purposes. The MCC holds a political fund separate from its other monies, but wanted to use money from its general fund to buy political advertising, and sued for the right to do so. The case explored whether a Michigan law prohibiting such political expenditures is constitutional. The Court agrees 7-2 that it is constitutional. Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy dissent, arguing that the government should not require such “segregated” funds, but should allow corporations and other such entities to spend their money on political activities without such restraints. [Public Resource (.org), 1990; Casebriefs, 2012; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] The 2010 Citizens United ruling (see January 21, 2010) will overturn this decision, with Scalia and Kennedy voting in the majority, and Kennedy writing the majority opinion.

Entity Tags: Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Anthony Kennedy, Michigan Campaign Finance Act, US Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The US Justice Department appeals an adverse decision of the US District Court for the District of Columbia in the dispute with Inslaw over the alleged theft of the enhanced PROMIS application (see November 22, 1989). The department raises some of the same issues previously raised in its appeal of a bankruptcy court ruling to the District Court and requests a reversal on the basis of the facts found in the bankruptcy court, which it says made “clear errors.” In addition, it argues:
bullet That its use of enhanced PROMIS did not violate automatic stay bankruptcy protection, so the argument should not have been in the bankruptcy court, but before the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals under the Contract Disputes Act;
bullet That since no motion was filed to convert Inslaw from a chapter 11 bankruptcy to a chapter 7, there was no violation of the automatic stay protection in this respect;
bullet That the department has not filed a claim, so it is still entitled to sovereign immunity; and
bullet That damage awards for violation of the automatic stay can only be paid to individuals, not corporations.
The department will be successful and the District Court ruling will be overturned (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Inslaw, Inc., US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Marc Valois of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used to support 900 locations around the Canadian government. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Another Canadian official will soon make a similar statement (see January 1991), but both he and Valois will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

Entity Tags: William Hamilton, Nancy Hamilton, House Judiciary Committee, Department of Communications (Canada), Marc Valois

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law holds a hearing about the failure of Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to provide full access to all documents and records about the Inslaw case. At the hearing, Inslaw owner William Hamilton and its attorney Elliot Richardson air their complaints about an alleged criminal conspiracy in the Justice Department’s handling of a contract with Inslaw and its alleged theft of an enhanced version of the PROMIS application. Steven Ross, the general counsel to the clerk of the US House of Representatives, refutes the Justice Department’s rationale for withholding documents related to possible wrongdoing by its officials involved with the Inslaw contract. In addition, Government Accountability Office representatives describe deficiencies in the Justice Department’s Information Resources Management Office and its administration of data processing contracts.
Bason's Allegations - Judge George Bason, a bankruptcy judge who had found in favor of Inslaw in a dispute with the department (see September 28, 1987), testifies that he believes his failure to be reappointed as bankruptcy judge was the result of improper influence on the court selection process by the department because of his findings. Bason cites information provided to him by a reporter (see May 1988) and negative statements about him by departmental employees (see June 19, 1987 and June 1987 or Shortly After). After investigating these allegations, the committee will find: “The committee could not substantiate Judge Bason’s allegations. If the Department of Justice had influence over the process, it was subtle, to say the least.” Bason will point out that Norma Johnson, the judge who chaired the meeting at which he was not reappointed (see December 15, 1987), had previously worked with departmental official Stuart Schiffer, who was involved in the Inslaw case. However, the committee will comment that it has “no information that Judge Johnson talked to Mr. Schiffer about Inslaw, Judge Bason, or the bankruptcy judge selection process.”
Thornburgh's Reaction - Following this hearing, Thornburgh agrees to cooperate with the subcommittee, but then fails to provide it with several documents it wants. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Steven Ross, William Hamilton, Richard Thornburgh, Government Accountability Office, Elliot Richardson, George Bason, House Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The CIA says that it does not have the PROMIS database and search application (see Mid-1970s). The statement is made in response to a letter sent to CIA Director William Webster by the House Judiciary Committee on November 20 asking him to help them “by determining whether the CIA has the PROMIS software.” In response the CIA states, “We have checked with Agency components that track data processing procurement or that would be likely users of PROMIS, and we have been unable to find any indication that the [CIA] ever obtained PROMIS software.” However, information contradicting this will subsequently emerge. For example, a retired CIA official whose job it is to investigate the Inslaw allegations internally will tell Wired magazine that the Justice Department gave PROMIS to the CIA: “Well, the Congressional committees were after us to look into allegations that somehow the agency had been culpable of what would have been, in essence, taking advantage of, like stealing, the technology [PROMIS]. We looked into it and there was enough to it, the agency had been involved.” However, the official will say that when the CIA accepted PROMIS, it did not know that there was a serious dispute about the Justice Department’s ownership of the software. [Wired News, 3/1993]

Entity Tags: William H. Webster, House Judiciary Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A second Canadian government official says that Canada is using the PROMIS software, according to Inslaw owners William and Nancy Hamilton. The Hamiltons pass the information on to the House Judiciary Committee, which is investigating allegations that the US Justice Department has misappropriated an enhanced version of the software from Inslaw and passed it on to other governments. The official, Denis LaChance of the Canadian Department of Communications, apparently says that PROMIS is being used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to support its field offices. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Another Canadian official had previously made a similar statement (see November 1990), but both he and LaChance will later say they were not referring to Inslaw’s PROMIS, but to a product of the same name from a different company (see March 22, 1991).

Entity Tags: Nancy Hamilton, Denis LaChance, House Judiciary Committee, William Hamilton, Department of Communications (Canada)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Ari Ben-Menashe, a former employee of an Israeli intelligence agency, says he is willing to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in its investigation into the alleged theft of PROMIS software. In return, however, he asks the committee to arrange an extension for his US visa, which is about to expire, and to provide him with immunity from any prosecution. The immunity is to relate to information and documents he allegedly possesses regarding the illegal distribution and sale of an enhanced version of the software by businessman Earl Brian to the Israeli government. However, the committee refuses the request, and Ben-Menashe will later provide a sworn statement with no conditions (see May 29, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Ari Ben-Menashe

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A Canadian government official tells the US House Judiciary Committee that Canada is reluctant to cooperate with the committee’s inquiry into the alleged theft of a version of the PROMIS software by the US Justice Department and its subsequent passage to Canada. This is in response to a letter sent on February 26, 1991, in which the committee asked Canadian Ambassador Derek Burney for help determining what version of the software the Canadian government was using. The official, Jonathan Fried, counselor for congressional and legal affairs at Canada’s Washington embassy, says that “Canadians had been burned once before by Congress,” and imposes conditions on Congressional questioning of Canadian officials. The conditions are that interviews of individuals be conducted only in the presence of lawyers for the relevant departments and their superiors and that no Canadian public servants would be witnesses in any foreign investigative proceedings. The committee accepts these conditions in mid-March, and identifies the two Canadian officials it wants to speak to (see November 1990 and January 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Derek Burney, Jonathan Fried, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Shortly before the US House Judiciary Committee interviews two Canadian officials who have said Canada has the allegedly stolen PROMIS software (see November 1990 and January 1991), the Canadian government contacts the committee and imposes a further condition on the interviews. The Canadians had already insisted the officials be accompanied by minders (see Shortly After February 26, 1991), but now says that, in addition, they will only answer questions specifically related to the software. They will not answer questions about any allegations that four software programs that may have been acquired by the Canadian government may be derivates of the PROMIS software. If the committee wants information about such alleged derivatives, it will have to submit a written request. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Two Canadian officials who had previously said that the Canadian government was using Inslaw’s PROMIS software now tell the US House Judiciary Committee that it is not. In an interview with the committee, officials Denis LaChance and Marc Valois of the Canadian Department of Communications say that they had incorrectly identified software used by the Canadians as being Inslaw’s PROMIS (see November 1990 and January 1991), whereas in fact it was actually project management software from a company called the Strategic Software Planning Corporation that is also called PROMIS. Despite an objection by the Canadians to them being asked about PROMIS derivatives in Canada (see Before March 22, 1991), the two officials also say they do not use or know of a derivative of Inslaw’s PROMIS in Canada. The president of the Strategic Software Planning Corporation will later acknowledge in a sworn statement to committee investigators that his company had sold a few copies of his firm’s PROMIS software to the Canadian government in May 1986. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Denis LaChance, House Judiciary Committee, Marc Valois, Department of Communications (Canada)

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reverses two rulings in favor of Inslaw in the dispute over enhanced PROMIS software, following an appeal by the Justice Department (see October 12, 1990). The rulings had been issued by Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia (see September 28, 1987) and the US District Court for the District of Columbia (see November 22, 1989). The reversal is granted on what a House Judiciary Committee report favorable to Inslaw will call “primarily jurisdictional grounds.” The appeal court says the bankruptcy court was the wrong place to litigate the issues it decided and, in any case, the department has not violated automatic stay bankruptcy provisions. However, the appeal court notes that both lower courts found that the department had “fraudulently obtained and then converted Enhanced PROMIS to its own use,” and that “such conduct, if it occurred, is inexcusable.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli intelligence employee, provides a sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee on the PROMIS affair. He had previously said he would only tell what he knows under conditions (see February 6, 1991), but now waives this demand. Ben-Menashe says under oath that, in 1982, businessman Earl Brian and Robert McFarland, a former director of the National Security Council, provided the public domain version of PROMIS software to the Israeli government’s special intelligence operation Defense Forces. (This version was owned by the Justice Department; correspondence indicates the department provided a version of the software to Israel in 1983—see May 6, 1983 and May 12, 1983). Ben-Menashe also alleges he was present in 1987 when Brian sold an enhanced version of the software (which would have been owned by Inslaw) to the Israeli intelligence community and the Singapore armed forces and that, after these sales were completed, approximately $5.5 million was placed in a foreign bank account to which Brian had access. He also says that Brian sold the public domain version of PROMIS to military intelligence organizations in Jordan in 1983 and to the Iraqi government in 1987, a transaction brokered by a businessman named Carlos Cardoen. Ben-Menashe further claims that he has information about the sale of a public domain version of PROMIS by Israel to the Soviet Union in 1986, and the sale of the enhanced version to the Canadian government coordinated by Brian. Ben-Menashe states that various unnamed Israeli officials would corroborate his statements, but refuses to identify these officials or provide evidence to corroborate his statements unless he is called as an official witness for the committee under a grant of immunity. The committee decides not to grant immunity and will include these claims in a section of its report that merely states what witnesses told it, without endorsing their claims. [US Congress, 9/10/1992] Ben-Menashe will go on to be involved in numerous major and minor international scandals, picking up a chequered reputation for honesty. [New Statesman, 2/25/2002]

Entity Tags: Ari Ben-Menashe, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

Following an adverse ruling in an appeals court, Inslaw files an appeal for a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court. If the writ were granted, it would mean the Supreme Court agreed to hear a further appeal in the case. The appeals court had reversed bankruptcy and district court rulings favorable to Inslaw in its dispute with the Justice Department over the enhanced PROMIS software (see September 28, 1987, November 22, 1989, and May 7, 1991). The application will be denied (see January 13, 1992). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Supreme Court, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

A judge hearing the PROMIS case for the Department of Transportation Board of Contract Appeals (DOTBCA) says that findings by the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Columbia and the US District Court for the District of Columbia have left a “cloud” over the Justice Department. The two courts originally found for Inslaw (see September 28, 1987 and November 22, 1989), which is in dispute with the department over an enhanced version of the PROMIS software, but these rulings were overturned on appeal, mostly on jurisdictional grounds (see May 7, 1991). At a hearing, counsel for the department says, “I think those trials speak for themselves, and every order has been vacated.” However, the judge responds: “There is one problem. The fact that a judge or a court doesn’t have jurisdiction doesn’t mean that the court is completely ignorant. True, Mr. Bason [the bankruptcy court judge] and Mr. Bryant [the judge that heard the initial appeal] did not have jurisdiction, but they did make some very serious findings on the basis of sworn testimony. They had been truly vacated, and it may be that all the statutes to run have run and they can’t go anywhere. Those cases may be dead forever. But it has left a cloud over the respondent [the department].” The House Judiciary Committee will comment: “As the DOTBCA judge concluded, there definitely remains a cloud over the department’s handling of Inslaw’s proprietary software. Department officials should not be allowed to avoid accountability through a technicality or a jurisdiction ruling by the Appeals Court.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: idateasiapi, House Judiciary Committee, Inslaw, Inc., US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The US Supreme Court denies an application for a writ of certiorari made by Inslaw, meaning that the court will not hear its case. The application had been filed the previous year (see October 9, 1991), as Inslaw wanted to overturn an adverse ruling by an appeals court in its dispute with the Justice Department over the alleged theft of enhanced PROMIS software (see May 7, 1991). [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., US Supreme Court, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) releases a study of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) called “Employee Misconduct: Justice Should Clearly Document Investigative Actions.” The report is drafted at the request of the House Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture Subcommittee. The GAO finds that:
bullet OPR operates informally, does not routinely document key aspects of its investigations, and provides little background information in its case documentation;
bullet OPR generally does not record the complete scope of and rationale behind its investigations, or of the decisions reached in the course of its investigations;
bullet OPR’s conclusions that allegations are or are not substantiated are generally not explained;
bullet In many instances, OPR does not pursue all available avenues of inquiry;
bullet OPR counsel rely on an attorney’s judgment and informal consulting among attorneys within OPR as the basis for making decisions and reaching conclusions about specific investigations.
The GAO concludes that these failings expose the OPR and the department to a range of risks, such as if OPR’s informality led it to conclude an investigation prematurely, the department’s integrity could be compromised. In addition, if asked to defend an investigation against a charge that it was not aggressively pursued, OPR probably would not have sufficient documentation to do so. A review of the quality of an investigation based on the documentation would yield little information. Therefore, the GAO recommends that OPR:
bullet Establish basic standards for conducting its investigations;
bullet Establish case documentation standards;
bullet Follow up more consistently on the results of misconduct investigations done by other units and what disciplinary actions, if any, are taken as a result of all misconduct investigations. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]

Entity Tags: Government Accountability Office, Subcommittee on Government Information, Justice, and Agriculture, Office of Professional Responsibility, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Misc Entries

The Justice Department issues a 187-page report clearing department officials of wrongdoing in the Inslaw affair, which concerned the alleged misappropriation of an enhanced version of PROMIS software. According to a department press release, “there is no credible evidence that department officials conspired to steal computer software developed by Inslaw, Inc. or that the company is entitled to additional government payments.” This concurs with a previous report by Nicolas Bua, a special counsel appointed by the department. The main points of the report are:
bullet The use of PROMIS by the Executive Office of United States Attorneys and in US attorneys’ offices conforms with contractual agreements, and Inslaw is not entitled to additional compensation for the use of its PROMIS software;
bullet No independent counsel should be appointed and the matter should be closed;
bullet The investigative journalist Danny Casolaro, who died while investigating the Inslaw affair and other issues, committed suicide;
bullet MIT professor Dr. Randall Davis was hired to compare the computer code in Inslaw’s PROMIS software with the code in the FBI’s FOIMS software, which Inslaw claimed was a pirated version of PROMIS. Davis concluded that there was no relation between FOIMS and PROMIS;
bullet Two of the people who made allegations about the distribution of PROMIS outside the Justice Department, Michael Riconosciuto and Ari Ben-Menashe, are untrustworthy. The departmental press release calls them “primary sources relied on by Inslaw”;
bullet None of the anonymous sources that had previously been reported to have made statements supportive of Inslaw came forward, despite assurances from Attorney General Janet Reno that they would be protected from reprisals. The press release says, “Individuals who were identified as sources denied making the statements attributed to them by Inslaw”;
bullet The department did not obstruct the reappointment of bankruptcy Judge George Bason, who ruled in favour of Inslaw (see September 28, 1987, November 24, 1987, December 8, 1987, December 15, 1987, and January 12, 1988);
bullet No documents related to the matter have been destroyed by the Justice Department command center;
bullet There is no credible evidence that Inslaw’s PROMIS is being used elsewhere in the government (see 1982-1984, December 11, 1990, and May 2008), or has been improperly distributed to a foreign government or entity (see May 6, 1983, May 12, 1983, November 1990, and January 1991);
bullet PROMIS was not stolen to raise money to reward people working for the release of American hostages in Iran, to penetrate foreign intelligence agencies, as part of a US-Israeli slush fund connected with the late British publisher Robert Maxwell, or in aid of a secret US intelligence agency concealed within the Office of Special Investigations Nazi-hunting unit. [US Department of Justice, 9/27/1994]

Entity Tags: George Bason, Daniel Casolaro, Inslaw, Inc., Randall Davis, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court rules in the case of Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. Federal Election Committee. The case originated with advertisements run by the Colorado Republican Party (CRP) in 1986 attacking the Colorado Democratic Party’s likely US Senate candidate. Neither party had yet selected its candidate for that position. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) sued the CRP’s Federal Campaign Committee, saying that its actions violated the “party expenditure provision” of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, and May 11, 1976) by spending more than the law allows. The CRP in turn claimed that FECA violated its freedom of speech, and filed a counterclaim. A Colorado court ruled in favor of the CRP, dismissing the counterclaim as moot, but an appeals court overturned the lower court’s decision. The Supreme Court rules 7-2 in favor of the FEC. The decision is unusual, lacking a clear majority, but being comprised of a “plurality” of concurrences. The majority opinion, such as it is, is authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the Court liberals, and is joined by fellow liberal David Souter and conservative Sandra Day O’Connor. Conservatives Anthony Kennedy, William Rehnquist, and Antonin Scalia go farther than Breyer’s majority decision, writing that the provision violates the First Amendment when it restricts as a “contribution” a political party’s spending “in cooperation, consultation, or concert, with a candidate.” In yet another concurrence, conservative Clarence Thomas argues that the entire provision is flatly unconstitutional. Liberals John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissent, agreeing with the appeals court. [Oyez (.org), 2011; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] In 2001, the Court will revisit the case and find its initial ruling generally sound, though the later decision will find that some spending restrictions are constitutional. In the revisiting, four of the Court’s five conservatives will dissent, with the liberals joined by O’Connor. [Oyez (.org), 2011; Moneyocracy, 2/2012]

Entity Tags: Colorado Republican Party, Colorado Democratic Party, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas, Federal Election Campaign Act of 1972, David Souter, Colorado Republican Party Federal Campaign Committee, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Federal Election Commission, John Paul Stevens

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Judge Christine Miller of the Court of Federal Claims rejects allegations by the software firm Inslaw that the Justice Department illegally stole its enhanced PROMIS software and distributed it. The finding is contained in a 186-page opinion issued by Miller that says there is “no merit to the claims.” The decision follows a three-week trial. The matter was sent to the court by Congress, which referred the case as a part of considerations about whether to pass a private bill to compensate Inslaw. The original contract required Inslaw to install in US attorneys’ offices a public domain version of PROMIS owned by the government. But, according to Miller, without notice to the government, Inslaw installed a different version of the software and then asserted that the government could not use the software in other offices. (Note: the contract was signed in March 1982 (see March 1982), and Inslaw notified the department of the enhancements on April 2 (see April 2, 1982).) Miller’s findings are:
bullet Inslaw has not shown it has any ownership rights to the software and that the enhancements it claims are not proprietary to it. Miller says that some of the enhancements do actually exist—12 of the over 100 Inslaw says it made—but Inslaw cannot demonstrate it owns them;
bullet Neither has Inslaw shown that the department acted improperly in any way in connection with the software, as it had unlimited rights to the enhanced software it received and acted in good faith;
bullet Inslaw’s decision to take its case to the bankruptcy court, rather than courts with certain jurisdiction to hear it, was a tactical one (see June 9, 1986);
bullet A panel of independent experts appointed by the judge to review other software applications Inslaw claims are pirated versions of PROMIS found that Inslaw’s allegations were false;
bullet In addition to not having a legal claim against the US, Inslaw does not have an equitable claim either, because it did not own the software and the Justice Department acted properly.
Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger, head of the civil division, comments: “Both parties benefit from having a decision from a court with authority to resolve the matter—a court that has heard all the evidence. And the public benefits because all the evidence has been aired and they can be confident that the facts have finally been revealed. Certainly, the department benefits from the lifting of the cloud that has hung over it for a decade.” As the court investigated the matter at the request of Congress, the decision will be sent back there, although Inslaw will have the chance to appeal the matter to a three-judge panel at the same court beforehand. [US Department of Justice, 8/4/1997]

Entity Tags: Inslaw, Inc., Frank Hunger, Christine Miller, Court of Federal Claims, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

After years of battling Republican filibuster efforts and other Congressional impediments, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 is signed into law. Dubbed the “McCain-Feingold Act” after its two Senate sponsors, John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), when the law takes effect after the 2002 midterm elections, national political parties will no longer be allowed to raise so-called “soft money” (unregulated contributions) from wealthy donors. The legislation also raises “hard money” (federal money) limits, and tries, with limited success, to eliminate so-called “issue advertising,” where organizations not directly affiliated with a candidate run “issues ads” that promote or attack specific candidates. The act defines political advertising as “electioneering communication,” and prohibits advertising paid for by corporations or by an “unincorporated entity” funded by corporations or labor unions (with exceptions—see June 25, 2007). To a lesser extent, the BCRA also applies to state elections. In large part, it supplants the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, and January 8, 1980). [Federal Election Commission, 2002; Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file; Connecticut Network, 2006 pdf file]
Bush: Bill 'Far from Perfect' - Calling the bill “far from perfect,” President Bush signs it into law, taking credit for the bill’s restrictions on “soft money,” which the White House and Congressional Republicans had long opposed. Bush says: “This legislation is the culmination of more than six years of debate among a vast array of legislators, citizens, and groups. Accordingly, it does not represent the full ideals of any one point of view. But it does represent progress in this often-contentious area of public policy debate. Taken as a whole, this bill improves the current system of financing for federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law.” [Center for Responsive Politics, 2002 pdf file; White House, 3/27/2002]
'Soft Money' Ban - The ban on so-called “soft money,” or “nonfederal contributions,” affects contributions given to political parties for purposes other than supporting specific candidates for federal office (“hard money”). In theory, soft money contributions can be used for purposes such as party building, voter outreach, and other activities. Corporations and labor unions are prohibited from giving money directly to candidates for federal office, but they can give soft money to parties. Via legal loopholes and other, sometimes questionable, methodologies, soft money contributions can be used for television ads in support of (or opposition to) a candidate, making the two kinds of monies almost indistinguishable. The BCRA bans soft money contributions to political parties. National parties are prohibited from soliciting, receiving, directing, transferring, and spending soft money. State and local parties can no longer spend soft money for any advertisements or other voter communications that identify a candidate for federal office and either promote or attack that candidate. Federal officeholders and candidates cannot solicit, receive, direct, transfer, or spend soft money in connection with any election. State officeholders and candidates cannot spend soft money on any sort of communication that identifies a candidate for federal office and either promotes or attacks that candidate. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003; ThisNation, 2012]
Defining 'Issue Advertisements' or 'Electioneering Communications' - In a subject related to the soft money section, the BCRA addresses so-called “issue advertisements” sponsored by outside, third-party organizations and individuals—in other words, ads by people or organizations who are not candidates or campaign organizations. The BCRA defines an “issue ad,” or as the legislation calls it, “electioneering communication,” as one that is disseminated by cable, broadcast, or satellite; refers to a candidate for federal office; is disseminated in a particular time period before an election; and is targeted towards a relevant electorate with the exception of presidential or vice-presidential ads. The legislation anticipates that this definition might be overturned by a court, and provides the following “backup” definition: any broadcast, cable, or satellite communication which promotes or supports a candidate for that office, or attacks or opposes a candidate for that office (regardless of whether the communication expressly advocates a vote for or against a candidate).
Corporation and Labor Union Restrictions - The BCRA prohibits corporations and labor unions from using monies from their general treasuries for political communications. If these organizations wish to participate in a political process, they can form a PAC and allocate specific funds to that group. PAC expenditures are not limited.
Nonprofit Corporations - The BCRA provides an exception to the above for “nonprofit corporations,” allowing them to fund electioneering activities and communications from their general treasuries. These nonprofits are subject to disclosure requirements, and may not receive donations from corporations or labor unions.
Disclosure and Coordination Restrictions - This part of the BCRA amends the sections of FECA that addresses disclosure and “coordinated expenditure” issues—the idea that “independent” organizations such as PACs could coordinate their electioneering communications with those of the campaign it supports. It includes the so-called “millionaire provisions” that allow candidates to raise funds through increased contribution limits if their opponent’s self-financed personal campaign contributions exceed a certain amount.
Broadcast Restrictions - The BCRA establishes requirements for television broadcasts. All political advertisements must identify their sponsor. It also modifies an earlier law requiring broadcast stations to sell airtime at its lowest prices. Broadcast licensees must collect and disclose records of purchases made for the purpose of political advertisements.
Increased Contribution Limits - The BCRA increases contribution limits. It also bans contributions from minors, with the idea that parents would use their children as unwitting and unlawful conduits to avoid contribution limits.
Lawsuits Challenge Constitutionality - The same day that Bush signs the law into effect, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the National Rifle Association (NRA) file lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the BCRA (see December 10, 2003). [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003]

Entity Tags: Russell D. Feingold, Mitch McConnell, John McCain, National Rifle Association, George W. Bush, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Supreme Court rules in the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission. The case addresses limitations on so-called “soft money,” or contributions to a political party not designated specifically for supporting a single candidate, that were imposed by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA), often known as the McCain-Feingold law after its two Senate sponsors (see March 27, 2002). A three-judge panel has already struck down some of McCain-Feingold’s restrictions on soft-money donations, a ruling that was stayed until the Court could weigh in. Generally, the Court rules that the “soft money” ban does not exceed Congress’s authority to regulate elections, and does not violate the First Amendment’s free speech clause. The ruling is a 5-4 split, with the majority opinion written by liberal Justice John Paul Stevens and his conservative colleague Sandra Day O’Connor. The opinion finds that the “minimal” restrictions on free speech are outweighed by the government’s interest in preventing “both the actual corruption threatened by large financial contributions and… the appearance of corruption” that might result from those contributions. “Money, like water, will always find an outlet,” the justices write, and the government must take steps to prevent corporate donors from finding ways to subvert the contribution limits. The majority is joined by liberal justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and David Souter, and the four other conservatives on the court—Anthony Kennedy, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—dissent. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003; Oyez (.org), 2011] The case represents the consolidation of 11 separate lawsuits brought by members of Congress, political parties, unions, and advocacy groups; it is named for Senator Mitch McConnell, who sued the FEC on March 27, 2002, the same day the bill was signed into law. Due to the legal controversy expected to be generated by the law and the need to settle it prior to the next federal election, a provision was included in the BCRA that provided for the case to be heard first by a special three-judge panel and then appealed directly to the Supreme Court. This District of Columbia district court panel, comprised of two district court judges and one circuit court judge, was inundated with numerous amicus briefs, almost 1,700 pages of related briefs, and over 100,000 pages of witness testimony. The panel upheld the BCRA’s near-absolute ban on the usage of soft money in federal elections, and the Supreme Court agrees with that finding. However, the Court reverses some of the BCRA’s limitations on the usage of soft money for “generic party activities” such as voter registration and voter identification. The district court overturned the BCRA’s primary definition of “noncandidate expenditures,” but upheld the “backup” definition as provided by the law. Both courts allow the restrictions on corporate and union donations to stand, as well as the exception for nonprofit corporations. The Court upholds much of the BCRA’s provisions on disclosure and coordinated expenditures. The lower court rejected the so-called “millionaire provisions,” a rejection the Supreme Court upholds. A provision banning contributions by minors was overturned by the lower court, and the Court concurs. The lower court found the provision requiring broadcasters to collect and disclose records of broadcast time purchased for political activities unconstitutional, but the Court disagrees and reinstates the requirement. [Legal Information Institute, 12/2003] McConnell had asked lawyer James Bopp Jr., a veteran of anti-campaign finance lawsuits and the head of McConnell’s James Madison Center for Free Speech, to take part in the legal efforts of the McConnell case. However, before the case appeared before the Supreme Court, McConnell dropped Bopp from the legal team due to a dispute over tactics. [New York Times, 1/25/2010] The 2010 Citizens United decision will partially overturn McConnell (see January 21, 2010).

Entity Tags: Federal Election Commission, David Souter, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, William Rehnquist, US Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, Sandra Day O’Connor, National Rifle Association, Mitch McConnell, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, James Bopp, Jr, Clarence Thomas

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Newsweek’s Jonathan Darman reports that Citizens United (CU), a conservative lobbying and advocacy group headed by activist David Bossie, is producing an unflattering documentary on Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), the current frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008. The title of the story highlights Clinton’s “likability gap,” but the story itself focuses on the “grudge” borne by Bossie and CU against Clinton and the presidency of her husband, Bill Clinton. The documentary is scheduled for release in theaters in the fall of 2007, Darman reports. One of its potential targets is a generation of young voters who know little about the Whitewater and Lewinsky scandals that dogged the Clinton administration. Bossie says, “There’s an enormous market for Hillary Clinton information.” R. Emmett Tyrell Jr., the editor of the American Spectator and the author of numerous books purporting to tell the truth behind the Clinton allegations, says there are “active research teams” working to expose Clinton. “They’re out there,” he says. “I get calls all the time.” Clinton’s campaign says the documentary is “old news” and “cash for rehash.” Darman notes: “For all the charges through the years, none has ever stuck. Arguably the most-investigated woman in contemporary American life moved from tabloid target in the White House to winning a Senate seat in one of the nation’s most contentious states. It’s her resilience and capacity to survive and thrive against all comers that partly fuels the haters’ fury.” However, some voters still harbor distrust and resentment towards Clinton, stemming in part from her reputation as “secretive, controlling, and paranoid,” as Darman characterizes her critics’ feelings towards her, as first lady. Her negative perception polling is remarkably high for a potential presidential candidate. Darman writes: “[T]he real problem many Democratic voters have with Clinton is the sneaking suspicion that with so much of the country against her, she can never win a general election. Clinton’s fate may well come down to her ability to deal with a vexing question: what is it about me that so many people don’t like?” Clinton is, Darman writes, “a comic-book villain for her detractors—a man-eating feminist, they claimed, who allegedly threw lamps at her husband, communed psychically with Eleanor Roosevelt, and lit a White House Christmas tree adorned with sex toys. The narrative of depravity—a tissue of inventions by conservatives—was often hard to follow. Was she, as they imagined her, a secret lesbian who fostered a West Wing culture of rampant homosexuality? Or was she the duplicitous adulteress who slept with former law partner Vincent Foster, ordered his death, and then made it look like a suicide? Disjointed as they may have been, Hillary horror tales soon became big business on talk radio.” But the attacks have not weakened her appreciably, and may have strengthened her as a candidate. [Newsweek, 6/17/2007] The liberal watchdog organization Media Matters notes that Darman fails to alert his readers to what it calls Bossie’s past “slimy tactics” (see May 1998). [Media Matters, 6/11/2007] The documentary will not be released until the summer of 2008 (see January 10-16, 2008), and will become the focus of a landmark Supreme Court decision regarding campaign finance (see January 21, 2010).

Entity Tags: Media Matters, Clinton administration, Citizens United, David Bossie, Jonathan Darman, R. Emmett Tyrell Jr, Hillary Clinton, Newsweek

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The Supreme Court, ruling in the Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission case, finds that some political advertisements can be exempted from the “electioneering communications” provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act (see March 27, 2002). The case stems from attempts by an anti-abortion advocacy group, Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL), to run ads asking viewers to contact their senators and urge them to oppose filibusters of judicial nominees. WRTL tried to run its ads during the 30 and 60-day “blackout” periods before the upcoming 2004 elections, but because it accepted corporate contributions and was itself incorporated, the McCain-Feingold restrictions prevented the ads from running. WRTL argued that the ads were not targeting candidates, but were strictly issue-related (see Mid-2004 and After). The case was initially dismissed, but the Supreme Court reversed that decision and remanded the case back to the lower courts. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) argued that the ads were intended to influence US Senate elections in Wisconsin, and thusly should be regulated by McCain-Feingold. A district court disagreed, ruling against the FEC and finding that the ads were “protected speech” (see January 30, 1976), though it limited its findings solely to the WRTL ads and specified that its ruling was not to apply to other cases. The FEC appealed the case to the US Supreme Court, which in a 5-4 decision finds that the district court’s ruling is valid. Chief Justice John Roberts writes the majority opinion, which establishes broad exemptions for advertisements that could be “reasonably” interpreted as being about legislative issues and not directed on behalf of, or against, a particular candidate. As long as “issue ads” do not contain the “functional equivalent” of express advocacy for or against a candidate, the Roberts opinion holds, and the advertisements are legal. The ads involve “core political speech” that is protected by the First Amendment, Roberts finds: “We give the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship.” Justice David Souter writes the dissenting opinion. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas write a concurring opinion that joins them with Roberts and the other two conservative justices, but in their concurrence, they say they would overturn the McCain-Feingold law in its entirety. [Connecticut Network, 2006 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 6/26/2007; FindLaw, 2011; National Public Radio, 2012; Oyez (.org), 7/1/2012] Roberts is careful in the language of his majority opinion, writing that “the First Amendment requires us to err on the side of protecting political speech rather than suppressing it.” He does not directly advocate for the overturning of the McCain-Feingold law, but referring to the 2003 McConnell decision that upheld the law (see December 10, 2003), he writes, “We have no occasion to revisit that determination today.” In 2012, reporter Jeffrey Toobin will write of Roberts’s use of the word “today,” “To those who know the language of the Court, the Chief Justice was all but announcing that five justices would soon declare the McCain-Feingold law unconstitutional.” [New Yorker, 5/21/2012] Toobin is referring to the 2010 Citizens United decision that will overturn most of the law (see January 21, 2010).

Entity Tags: John G. Roberts, Jr, Clarence Thomas, David Souter, Antonin Scalia, Federal Election Commission, Wisconsin Right to Life, US Supreme Court, Jeffrey Toobin

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

A poster promoting ‘Hillary: The Movie.’A poster promoting ‘Hillary: The Movie.’ [Source: New York Times]The conservative lobbying group Citizens United (CU—see May 1998 and (May 11, 2004)) releases a film entitled Hillary: The Movie. The film is a lengthy diatribe attacking the character and career of Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Large portions of the film are comprised of conservative critics launching attacks against the personalities and character of Clinton and her husband, former President Clinton. CU president David Bossie (see May 1998) says he based his film on a documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, released in 2004 by liberal filmmaker Michael Moore (see August 6, 2004), and calls it “a rigorously researched critical biography” comparable to the material presented on political talk shows such as Meet the Press. [Washington Post, 3/15/2009; Moneyocracy, 2/2012] Bossie intended for the film to be released in late 2007 and impact the 2008 race in the same way that he believes Fahrenheit 9/11 impacted the 2004 race. A cable company made the film, at a cost of $1.2 million, available for free to viewers on “video on demand.” Bossie also scheduled a small theater run for the film, but his primary focus was always cable television and the accompanying television advertisements. Knowing the film will probably run afoul of campaign law, he hired lawyers, first James Bopp Jr. (a former member of the far-right Young Americans for Freedom—YAF—and the former general counsel for the National Right to Life Committee—see November 1980 and After) [New Yorker, 5/21/2012] and later Theodore B. Olson, the former solicitor general under the Bush administration. Olson will later say the film is “a critical biographical assessment” that provides “historical information about the candidate and, perhaps, some measure of entertainment as well.” The New York Times calls it “a scathingly hostile look at Mrs. Clinton” replete with “ripe voice-overs, shadowy re-enactments, and spooky mood music.” The film also contains interviews and material from mainstream media reporters, and interviews with figures such as former CIA agent Gary Aldrich, who wrote a “tell-all” book about the Clinton administration, and with Kathleen Willey, who has claimed that Bill Clinton once made an unwelcome sexual advance towards her. Reviewer Megan Carpentier of Radar Online will trounce the movie, saying that it “scrolls through more than a decade of press clippings and a treasure trove of unflattering pictures in its one-sided romp” and will advise potential viewers to watch it “while inebriated in the manner of your choosing, and only if you don’t pay $10 for the privilege.” [New York Times, 3/5/2009] Bossie claims the movie has nothing to do with the impending primary elections. CU intends to show the movie in a small number of theaters but primarily on “video on demand” cable broadcasts, with accompanying television advertisements. In return for a $1.2 million fee, a cable television consortium has agreed to make the movie freely available to its customers as part of what CU calls its “Election ‘08” series. (CU has another negative documentary on Clinton’s Democratic challenger Barack Obama in the works—see October 28-30, 2008—but apparently has no plans to air any documentaries on Republican candidate John McCain or any other Republican presidential candidates.) However, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) refuses to allow the film to be aired on cable channels, or advertised for theater release, because the FEC considers the film “electioneering” and thus subject to campaign finance law (see March 27, 2002) restrictions. Moreover, the film and its planned distribution are funded by corporate donations. [United States District Court for the District Of Columbia, 1/15/2008; Richard Hasen, 1/15/2008; New Yorker, 5/21/2012] Bossie claims the film takes no position on Clinton’s candidacy, and says that if he had to vote between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, he would vote for Clinton. [New York Times, 3/5/2009]
Court Fight - Bopp, CU’s original lawyer, decides to pursue the same general aggressive course that he took in a recent successful Supreme Court campaign finance case, the Wisconsin Right to Life (WRTL) decision (see Mid-2004 and After). The Hillary film was envisioned from the outset to serve multiple purposes: to advance conservative ideology, damage Clinton’s presidential chances (despite Bossie’s claims), and generate profits. Bopp knows that the FEC would likely classify the film as a political advertisement and not a work of journalism or entertainment (see August 6, 2004), and therefore would fall under campaign law restrictions. Before the film is officially released, Bopp takes the film to the FEC for a ruling, and when the FEC, as expected, rules the film to be “electioneering communication” that comes under campaign law restrictions, Bopp files a lawsuit with the Washington, DC, federal district court. The court rules in favor of the FEC judgment, denying CU its request for a preliminary injunction against the FEC’s ruling. The court specifically finds that the WRTL decision does not apply in this case. “[I]f the speech cannot be interpreted as anything other than an appeal to vote for or against a candidate, it will not be considered genuine issue speech even if it does not expressly advocate the candidate’s election or defeat,” the court states. The court also questions CU’s statement that the film “does not focus on legislative issues.… The movie references the election and Senator Clinton’s candidacy, and it takes a position on her character, qualifications, and fitness for office.” Film commentator Dick Morris has said of the film that it will “give people the flavor and an understanding of why she should not be president.” The court rules, “The movie is susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her.” (During arguments, Bopp says that the film is much like what a viewer would see on CBS’s evening news show 60 Minutes, and Judge Royce Lamberth laughs aloud, saying: “You can’t compare this to 60 Minutes. Did you read this transcript?” Other judges find it problematic that one of the film’s central “issues” is its assertion that Clinton is, in Bopp’s words, “a European socialist,” but still claims not to be overtly partisan.) [Mother Jones, 1/13/2008; United States District Court for the District Of Columbia, 1/15/2008; Richard Hasen, 1/15/2008; New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Supreme Court Appeal - CU appeals the court’s decision directly to the Supreme Court. Bossie soon decides to replace Bopp with Olson, a far more prominent figure in conservative legal circles. Toobin will write: “Ted Olson had argued and won Bush v. Gore (see 9:54 p.m. December 12, 2000), and was rewarded by President Bush with an appointment as solicitor general. Olson had argued before the Supreme Court dozens of times, and he had a great deal of credibility with the justices. He knew how to win.” [Richard Hasen, 1/15/2008; New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Previous Attempt - In September 2004, Bossie and CU attempted, without success, to release a similar “documentary” supporting President Bush and attacking Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA) on television, just weeks before the presidential election. The FEC turned down the group’s request. The FEC did allow the film to be shown in theaters (see September 8, 2004 and September 27-30, 2004).
'Ten-Year Plan' - Bopp will later reveal that the lawsuit is part of what he will call a “10-year plan” to push the boundaries of campaign finance law, and that he urged Bossie and other CU officials to use the documentary as a “test case” for overturning the body of law (see January 25, 2010).

Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Kathleen Willey, Megan Carpentier, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, New York Times, Michael Moore, John McCain, Royce Lamberth, James Bopp, Jr, Dick Morris, Gary Aldrich, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Hillary Clinton, Citizens United, David Bossie, Federal Election Commission, Clinton administration

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, 2008 Elections

Former national security official Norman Bailey admits publicly and on the record that the PROMIS database and search application has been given to the NSA. As Salon magazine points out: “His admission is the first public acknowledgement by a former US intelligence official that the NSA used the PROMIS software.” Bailey also says that the application was given to the Treasury Department for a financial tracking project in the early 1980s that also involved the National Security Council (see 1982-1984). Bailey worked for US governments from the Ronald Reagan era until the George W. Bush administration and, in addition to the 1980s tracking program, he headed a special unit within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence focused on financial intelligence on Cuba and Venezuela in 2006 and 2007. [Salon, 7/23/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Treasury, National Security Agency, Norman Bailey

Timeline Tags: Inslaw and PROMIS

The Supreme Court finds in the case of Davis v. Federal Election Commission that part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act (see March 27, 2002) is unconstitutional. Jack Davis (D-NY), a millionaire who has run repeatedly and unsuccessfully as a candidate of both parties to represent New York’s 26th District in the US House of Representatives, has complained in a lawsuit that the so-called “millionaire’s amendment” is unconstitutional. Davis wants to be able to pour his money into the race without his opponents being able to spend more money to counter his donations, as the law enables them to do. The lower courts found against Davis, and under McCain-Feingold the case was expedited directly to the Supreme Court. The Court finds 5-4 in favor of Davis, ruling that the contribution limits unduly restrict Davis’s freedom of speech. Justice Samuel Alito writes the majority opinion, joined by his fellow Court conservatives. Justice John Paul Stevens writes the dissent for the four Court liberals, though Stevens and the others do agree with some aspects of Alito’s majority opinion. Alito’s decision flows directly from an earlier Court precedent (see January 30, 1976). [Oyez (.org), 2011; Moneyocracy, 2/2012]

Entity Tags: John (“Jack”) Davis, Federal Election Commission, Samuel Alito, US Supreme Court, John Paul Stevens

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The US Supreme Court hears the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, in which the Federal Election Commission (FEC) refused to let the conservative lobbying organization Citizens United (CU) air a film entitled Hillary: The Movie during the 2008 presidential primary season (see January 10-16, 2008). The FEC ruled that H:TM, as some have shortened the name, was not a film, but a 90-minute campaign ad with no other purpose than to smear and attack Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as being unfit to hold office. A panel of appeals judges agreed with the FEC’s ruling, which found the film was “susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her.” As a campaign ad, the film’s airing on national network television came under campaign finance laws, particularly since the film was financed by corporate political donations. CU was allowed to air the film in theaters and sell it in DVD and other formats, but CU wanted to pay $1.2 million to have the movie aired on broadcast cable channels and video-on-demand (pay per view) services, and to advertise its broadcast. CU president David Bossie (see May 1998) hired former Bush Solicitor General Theodore Olson after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Bossie denies that he chose Olson because of their shared loathing of the Clintons—they worked together to foment the “Arkansas Project,” a Clinton smear effort that resulted in Congress unsuccessfully impeaching President Clinton—but because Olson gave “us the best chance to win.” Bossie dedicated the Clinton film to Barbara Olson, Olson’s late wife, who died in the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/15/2009; Christian Science Monitor, 3/23/2009] “I just don’t see how the Federal Election Commission has the authority to use campaign-finance rules to regulate advertising that is not related to campaigns,” Bossie told reporters last year. [Christian Science Monitor, 2/1/2008]
Uphold or Cut Back McCain-Feingold? - Observers, unaware of the behind-the-scenes machinations, believe the case gives the Court the opportunity to either uphold or cut back the body of law stemming from the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA, or McCain-Feingold) campaign finance law (see March 27, 2002), which limits the ability of corporations and labor unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on political advertising before elections. CU is arguing that the BCRA is unconstitutional, having argued before a previous court that the the BCRA law was unconstitutional in the way it was being enforced by the FEC against its film. In its brief to the Court, CU denies the film is any sort of “electioneering,” claiming: “Citizens United’s documentary engages in precisely the political debate the First Amendment was written to protect… The government’s position is so far-reaching that it would logically extend to corporate or union use of a microphone, printing press, or the Internet to express opinions—or articulate facts—pertinent to a presidential candidate’s fitness for office.” The Justice Department, siding with the FEC, calls the film an “unmistakable” political appeal, stating, “Every element of the film, including the narration, the visual images and audio track, and the selection of clips, advances the clear message that Senator Clinton lacked both the integrity and the qualifications to be president of the United States.” The film is closer to a political “infomercial” than a legitimate documentary, the Justice Department argues. The film’s “unmistakable message is that Senator Clinton’s character, beliefs, qualifications, and personal history make her unsuited to the office of the President of the United States,” according to a Justice Department lawyer, Edwin Kneedler, who filed a brief on behalf of the FEC. The Justice Department wants the Court to uphold FEC disclosure requirements triggered by promotional ads, while Olson and CU want the Court to strike down the requirements. Olson says financial backers of films such as H:TM may be reluctant to back a film if their support becomes publicly known. Kneedler, however, writes that such disclosure is in the public interest. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) is joining CU in its court fight, stating in a brief, “By criminalizing the distribution of a long-form documentary film as if it were nothing more than a very long advertisement, the district court has created uncertainty about where the line between traditional news commentary and felonious advocacy lies.” Scott Nelson of the Public Citizen Litigation Group, which supports the BCRA, disagrees with RCFP’s stance, saying, “The idea that [the law] threatens legitimate journalism and people who are out creating documentaries, I think, is a stretch.” [Washington Post, 3/15/2009; Christian Science Monitor, 3/23/2009] The RCFP has said that the movie “does not differ, in any relevant respect, from the critiques of presidential candidates produced throughout the entirety of American history.” And a lawyer with the RCFP, Gregg P. Leslie, asked, “Who is the FEC to decide what is news and what kind of format news is properly presented in?” [New York Times, 3/5/2009]
Filled with False Information - The movie was relentlessly panned by critics, who found much of its “information” either misrepresentative of Clinton or outright false. CU made several other films along with the Clinton documentary, which included attacks on filmmaker Michael Moore, the American Civil Liberties Union, illegal immigrants, and Clinton’s fellow presidential contender Barack Obama (D-IL—see October 28-30, 2008). [Washington Post, 3/15/2009; Christian Science Monitor, 3/23/2009]
Arguments Presented - Olson and his opponent, Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart, present arguments in the case to the assembled Court. Traditionally, lawyers with the Solicitor General (SG)‘s office are far more straightforward with the Court than is usual in advocacy-driven cases. New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Toobin later writes: “The solicitor general’s lawyers press their arguments in a way that hews strictly to existing precedent. They don’t hide unfavorable facts from the justices. They are straight shooters.” Stewart, who clerked for former Justice Harry Blackmun and is a veteran of the SG office since 1993, is well aware of the requirements of Court arguments. Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative justice with a penchant for asking tough questions that often hide their true intentions behind carefully neutral wording, is interested in seeing how far he can push Stewart’s argument. Does the BCRA apply only to television commercials, he asks, or might it regulate other means of communication during a federal campaign? “Do you think the Constitution required Congress to draw the line where it did, limiting this to broadcast and cable and so forth?” Could the law limit a corporation from “providing the same thing in a book? Would the Constitution permit the restriction of all those as well?” Stewart says that the BCRA indeed imposes such restrictions, stating, “Those could have been applied to additional media as well.” Could the government regulate the content of a book? Alito asks. “That’s pretty incredible. You think that if a book was published, a campaign biography that was the functional equivalent of express advocacy, that could be banned?” Stewart, who tardily realizes where Alito was going, attempts to recover. “I’m not saying it could be banned,” he responds. “I’m saying that Congress could prohibit the use of corporate treasury funds and could require a corporation to publish it using its—” Justice Anthony Kennedy, considered a “swing” justice in some areas but a reliable conservative vote in campaign-spending cases, interrupts Stewart. “Well, suppose it were an advocacy organization that had a book,” Kennedy says. “Your position is that, under the Constitution, the advertising for this book or the sale for the book itself could be prohibited within the 60- and 30-day periods?” Stewart gives what Toobin later calls “a reluctant, qualified yes.” At this point, Roberts speaks up. According to Toobin, Roberts intends to paint Stewart into something of a corner. “If it has one name, one use of the candidate’s name, it would be covered, correct?” Roberts asks. Stewart responds, “That’s correct.” Roberts then asks, “If it’s a 500-page book, and at the end it says, ‘And so vote for X,’ the government could ban that?” Stewart responds, “Well, if it says ‘vote for X,’ it would be express advocacy and it would be covered by the preexisting Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA—see February 7, 1972, 1974, May 11, 1976, and January 8, 1980) provisions.” Toobin later writes that with their “artful questioning, Alito, Kennedy, and Roberts ha[ve] turned a fairly obscure case about campaign-finance reform into a battle over government censorship.” Unwittingly, Stewart has argued that the government has the right to censor books because of a single line. Toobin later writes that Stewart is incorrect, that the government could not ban or censor books because of McCain-Feingold. The law applies to television advertisements, and stems from, as Toobin will write, “the pervasive influence of television advertising on electoral politics, the idea that commercials are somehow unavoidable in contemporary American life. The influence of books operates in a completely different way. Individuals have to make an affirmative choice to acquire and read a book. Congress would have no reason, and no justification, to ban a book under the First Amendment.” Legal scholars and pundits will later argue about Stewart’s answers to the three justices’ questions, but, as Toobin will later write, “the damage to the government’s case had been profound.” [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Behind the Scenes - Unbeknownst to the lawyers and the media, the Court initially renders a 5-4 verdict in favor of CU, and strikes down decades of campaign finance law, before withdrawing its verdict and agreeing to hear rearguments in the fall (see June 29, 2009). Toobin will write that the entire case is orchestrated behind the scenes, by Roberts and his fellow majority conservatives. Toobin will write of “a lengthy and bitter behind-the-scenes struggle among the justices that produced both secret unpublished opinions and a rare reargument of a case” that “reflects the aggressive conservative judicial activism of the Roberts Court.” Toobin will write that although the five conservatives are involved in broadening the scope of the case, and Kennedy actually writes the majority decision, “the result represented a triumph for Chief Justice Roberts. Even without writing the opinion, Roberts, more than anyone, shaped what the Court did. As American politics assumes its new form in the post-Citizens United era, the credit or the blame goes mostly to him.” The initial vote on the case is 5-4, with the five conservative justices—Alito, Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, and Clarence Thomas—taking the majority.
Expansive Concurrence Becomes the Majority Opinion - At the outset, the case is decided on the basis of Olson’s narrow arguments, regarding the issue of a documentary being made available on demand by a nonprofit organization (CU). Roberts takes the majority opinion onto himself. The four liberals in the minority are confident Roberts’s opinion would be as narrow as Olson’s arguments. Roberts’s draft opinion is indeed that narrow. Kennedy writes a concurrence opining that the Court should go further and overturn McCain-Feingold, the 1990 Austin decision (see March 27, 1990), and end the ban on corporate donations to campaigns (see 1907). When the draft opinions circulates, the other three conservatives begin rallying towards Kennedy’s more expansive concurrence. Roberts then withdraws his draft and lets Kennedy write the majority opinion in line with his concurrence. Toobin later writes: “The new majority opinion transformed Citizens United into a vehicle for rewriting decades of constitutional law in a case where the lawyer had not even raised those issues. Roberts’s approach to Citizens United conflicted with the position he had taken earlier in the term.” During arguments in a different case, Roberts had “berated at length” a lawyer “for his temerity in raising an issue that had not been addressed in the petition. Now Roberts was doing nearly the same thing to upset decades of settled expectations.”
Dissent - The senior Justice in the minority, John Paul Stevens, initially assigns the main dissent to Justice David Souter. Souter, who is in the process of retiring from the Court, writes a stinging dissent that documents some of the behind-the-scenes machinations in the case, including an accusation that Roberts violated the Court’s procedures to get the outcome he wanted. Toobin will call Souter’s planned dissent “an extraordinary, bridge-burning farewell to the Court” that Roberts feels “could damage the Court’s credibility.” Roberts offers a compromise: Souter will withdraw his dissent if the Court schedules a reargument of the case in the fall of 2009 (see June 29, 2009). The second argument would feature different “Questions Presented,” and the stakes of the case would be far clearer. The four minority justices find themselves in something of a conundrum. They feel that to offer the Kennedy opinion as it stands would be to “sandbag” them and the entire case, while a reargument would at least present the issues that the opinion was written to reflect. And there is already a 5-4 majority in favor of Kennedy’s expansive opinion. The liberals, with little hope of actually winning the case, agree to the reargument. The June 29, 2009 announcement will inform the parties that the Court is considering overturning two key decisions regarding campaign finance restrictions, including a decision rendered by the Roberts court (see March 27, 1990 and December 10, 2003) and allow essentially unlimited corporate spending in federal elections. Court observers will understand that the Court is not in the habit of publicly asking whether a previous Court decision should be overruled unless a majority is already prepared to do just that. Toobin will call Roberts and his four colleagues “impatient” to make the decision, in part because an early decision would allow the ruling to impact the 2010 midterm elections. [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Created to Give Courts Shot at McCain-Feingold - Critics, as yet unaware of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering, will later say that CU created the movie in order for it to fall afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and give the conservatives on the Court the opportunity to reverse or narrow the law. Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign will say: “The movie was created with the idea of establishing a vehicle to chip away at the decision. It was part of a very clear strategy to undo McCain-Feingold.” Bossie himself will later confirm that contention, saying: “We have been trying to defend our First Amendment rights for many, many years. We brought the case hoping that this would happen… to defeat McCain-Feingold.” [Washington Post, 1/22/2010] CU’s original lawyer on the case, James Bopp, will later verify that the case was brought specifically to give the Court a chance to cut back or overturn campaign finance law (see January 25, 2010). The Court will indeed overturn McCain-Feingold in the CU decision (see January 21, 2010).

Entity Tags: Clarence Thomas, US Department of Justice, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Scott Nelson, US Supreme Court, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Citizens United, Barbara Olson, American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Kennedy, Barack Obama, Samuel Alito, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Michael Moore, Hillary Clinton, Gregg P. Leslie, Nick Nyhart, Edwin Kneedler, David Souter, Federal Election Commission, James Bopp, Jr, John Paul Stevens, David Bossie, John G. Roberts, Jr, Jeffrey Toobin, Malcolm Stewart

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The US Supreme Court says it will schedule a hearing on the controversial “Citizens United” case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (see March 15, 2009), for September 2009, in an unusual second presentation before the Court (see September 9, 2009). According to the justices, the lawyers for both Citizens United (CU) and the federal government should argue whether previous Court rulings upholding federal election law should be overturned based on First Amendment grounds. Both sides are asked to argue whether the Court should overrule the 1990 Austin decision (see March 27, 1990), which upheld restrictions on corporate spending on political campaigns, and/or the 2003 McConnell decision (see December 10, 2003), which upheld the bulk of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA—see March 27, 2002). Law professor Nathaniel Persily says of the directive: “The Court is poised to reverse longstanding precedents concerning the rights of corporations to participate in politics. The only reason to ask for reargument on this is if they’re going to overturn Austin and McConnell.” The New York Times observes, “The Roberts court [referring to the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts] has struck down every campaign finance regulation to reach it, and it seems to have a majority prepared to do more.” Previous lower court rulings have found that CU’s attempt to air a film attacking presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) was an attempt to engage in “electioneering,” and thus came under the restrictions of the McCain-Feingold campaign law (see March 27, 2002). The film was financed in part by donations from corporations and individuals whom CU has refused to identify. [United Press International, 6/29/2009; New York Times, 6/29/2009] CU previously attempted to have its case heard by the Court, but the Court sent the case back to a federal appeals court, which ruled in favor of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and against CU (see March 24, 2008). Law professor Richard Hasen agrees with Persily and the Times that the decision to reargue the case a second time indicates that the Court’s conservative majority is prepared to overturn both Austin and McConnell, and allow essentially unlimited corporate spending in federal elections. Hasen writes that if the Court does indeed rule in favor of unlimited corporate spending, it will be in response to the fundraising advantage currently enjoyed by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL) over his Republican counterpart, John McCain (R-AZ). [Slate, 6/29/2009] The decision will indeed overturn both Austin and McConnell, and gut most of the BCRA (see January 21, 2010).

Entity Tags: Hillary Clinton, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Barack Obama, Federal Election Commission, US Supreme Court, New York Times, John G. Roberts, Jr, Richard L. Hasen, Nathaniel Persily, John McCain, Citizens United

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The second round of arguments in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case (see January 10-16, 2008, March 24, 2008, March 15, 2009, and June 29, 2009) is heard by the US Supreme Court. The first round of arguments, which unexpectedly focused on an unplanned examination of government censorship, ended in a 5-4 split, with the majority of conservative justices readying a decision to essentially gut the entire body of federal campaign finance law in the name of the First Amendment (see March 27, 1990, March 27, 2002, and December 10, 2003), but an angry dissent by Justice David Souter that accused Chief Justice John Roberts of failing to follow the procedures of the Court in rendering the opinion prompted Roberts to temporarily withdraw the opinion and offer a rare second argument (see May 14, 2012). Newly appointed Solicitor General Elena Kagan argues her first case before the Court. Citizens United, the plaintiff, is represented by former Bush administration Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Olson, a veteran of Court arguments, quickly discerns from the new round of “Questions Presented” that the Court is prepared to not only find in the plaintiff’s favor, but to use the case to render a broad verdict against campaign finance law as a whole. Olson argues cautiously, not wanting to extend the case farther than the Court may desire. The four minority liberal justices, knowing the case is lost, try their best in their questioning to raise awareness in the public once news reports of the arguments are made public. One of those justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, asks: “Mr. Olson, are you taking the position that there is no difference” between the First Amendment rights of a corporation and those of an individual? “A corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights. So is there any distinction that Congress could draw between corporations and natural human beings for purposes of campaign finance?” Olson replies, “What the Court has said in the First Amendment context… over and over again is that corporations are persons entitled to protection under the First Amendment” (see January 30, 1976, April 26, 1978, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). Ginsburg follows up by asking, “Would that include today’s mega-corporations, where many of the investors may be foreign individuals or entities?” Olson replies, “The Court in the past has made no distinction based upon the nature of the entity that might own a share of a corporation.” Kagan then takes her turn, and begins: “Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, I have three very quick points to make about the government position. The first is that this issue has a long history. For over a hundred years, Congress has made a judgment that corporations must be subject to special rules when they participate in elections, and this Court has never questioned that judgment.” She begins to make her second point before Justice Antonin Scalia, one of the conservative majority, interrupts her. In 2012, author and reporter Jeffrey Toobin will write that Kagan almost certainly knows hers is a legal “suicide mission,” and can only hope that her arguments may sway the Court to narrow its decision and leave some of the existing body of campaign finance law intact. She tells Roberts later in the questioning period, “Mr. Chief Justice, as to whether the government has a preference as to the way in which it loses, if it has to lose, the answer is yes.” Justice John Paul Stevens, the most senior of the liberal minority, attempts to assist Kagan in making her argument, suggesting that the Court should content itself with a narrow ruling, perhaps creating an exception in the McCain-Feingold law (see March 27, 2002) for the plaintiff’s documentary (see January 10-16, 2008) or for “ads that are financed exclusively by individuals even though they are sponsored by a corporation.” Kagan agrees with Stevens’s proposal. Stevens then says: “Nobody has explained why that wouldn’t be a proper solution, not nearly as drastic. Why is that not the wisest narrow solution of the problem before us?” Kagan, with help from Ginsburg, undoes some of the damage done by Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart during the first argument, where he inadvertently gave the conservative justices the “censorship” argument by which they could justify a broader verdict. Ginsburg asks: “May I ask you one question that was highlighted in the prior argument, and that was if Congress could say no TV and radio ads, could it also say no newspaper ads, no campaign biographies? Last time, the answer was yes, Congress could, but it didn’t. Is that still the government’s answer?” Kagan replies: “The government’s answer has changed, Justice Ginsburg. We took the Court’s own reaction to some of those other hypotheticals very seriously. We went back, we considered the matter carefully.” Unlike Stewart, Kagan specifically says that the government cannot ban books. But the censorship argument remains. After the arguments, the justices render the same verdict: a 5-4 split favoring Citizens United. Roberts, Scalia, and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Clarence Thomas vote in the majority, while Ginsburg, Stevens, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor vote in the minority. The second round of questioning, with its much broader scope, gives Roberts and his conservative colleagues the justification they need to render a broad verdict that would gut existing campaign finance law (see January 21, 2010). [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]

Entity Tags: Elena Kagan, US Supreme Court, Citizens United, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, David Souter, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, John G. Roberts, Jr, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, Sonia Sotomayor, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Malcolm Stewart, Clarence Thomas

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, political activist Virginia Thomas.Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, political activist Virginia Thomas. [Source: Associated Press]In November 2009, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, a former Republican campaign operative and the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, establishes a new “tea party” organization she calls Liberty Central. (Some media sources claim that Liberty Central begins operations in January 2010.) She describes the group as intended to bridge the gap between the conservative Republican establishment and the anti-government tea party movement. “I am an ordinary citizen from Omaha, Nebraska, who just may have the chance to preserve liberty along with you and other people like you,” she says at a Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) discussion with tea party leaders in Washington. “I adore all the new citizen patriots who are rising up across this country. I have felt called to the front lines with you, with my fellow citizens, to preserve what made America great.” She also says she started the group because of her reaction to what she calls President Obama’s “hard-left agenda.” The group also intends to work to elect Republicans and defeat Democrats, and provide political strategies and “talking points” for conservative candidates. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Commission, 7/1/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011] In May 2010, the organization officially declares itself open for business, launching a $27,000 Web site, and touting partnerships with a number of prominent conservative groups and the backing of prominent conservatives such as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Federalist Society executive Leonard Leo, whom Justice Thomas has called “my good friend.” [Politico, 7/6/2010]
Questions of Conflict of Interest, Ethics - Almost immediately, legal ethicists assert that Virginia Thomas’s role as the head of a partisan, openly political advocacy organization could taint her husband’s impartiality, especially in light of the Citizens United Court decision, in which her husband sided with the 5-4 majority (see January 21, 2010), that allows her group to accept donations and spend them without publicly disclosing information about them. The group could have benefited from the Court’s decision, and Justice Thomas’s decision could be seen as being influenced by his wife’s decision to start the group. Law school professor Lucas A. “Scot” Powe, a Court historian, says, “I think the American public expects the justices to be out of politics.” The expectations for spouses are not so clear, he adds, saying, “I really don’t know because we’ve never seen it.” Legal ethicist Stephen Gillers, another law professor, says, “We expect the justice to make decisions uninfluenced by the political or legal preferences of his or her spouse.” Moreover, the press learns that while the Court was deliberating the Citizens United case, Liberty Central received an anonymous $550,000 donation. Government watchdog organization Common Cause wrote a letter to the Justice Department asking if Justice Thomas should recuse himself from the case, and wrote that “the complete lack of transparency of Liberty Central’s finances makes it difficult to assess the full scope of the ethics issues raised by Ms. Thomas’s role in founding and leading the group.” (The media later learns that $500,000 of the anonymous $550,000 donation for the organization comes from Dallas real estate investor Harlan Crow, who also hosts a fundraising event for the organization at his home. Crow once gave Justice Thomas a $19,000 “Frederick Douglass Bible” as a gift, and donated $150,000 to build a new wing named for Justice Thomas on a Savannah, Georgia, library that he visited frequently in his youth.) Common Cause also notes that Justice Thomas had failed to report on his financial disclosure filings his wife’s income over the last 13 years, prompting him to file amendments to the filings that indicated the sources, but not the amounts, of his wife’s income. Justice Thomas refuses to recuse himself from the case.
Period of Success - Liberty Central flourishes for a brief time, with Virginia Thomas assembling a veteran staff and forging relationships with conservative donors, with most of whom she and her husband had long, close relationships. Carl Graham of the Montana Policy Institute, one of the over 30 state and national tea party groups that are listed as partners in Liberty Central’s affiliate network, says, “Her association with Justice Thomas clearly provides a level of credibility that others wouldn’t be able to have, just because of the beliefs that he has and the stands that he has on the different positions that align with our own.” Liberty Central’s connection with Justice Thomas, Graham says, “gets you to open the email, if nothing else, as opposed to some other one that you may not even open.” Liberty Central hires the services of CRC Public Relations, a prominent Washington communications firm that has garnered some $15 million in fees from a number of clients, including top Republican Party committees and the presidential campaigns or political committees of George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain, among others. Matt Kibbe of FreedomWorks, a tea party lobbying organization also partnered with Liberty Central (see April 14, 2009 and April 15, 2009), says, “Ginni was able to raise the seed capital to have a real launch” because of her connections in small-government conservative circles. Kibbe says most people are unaware that she is the wife of a Supreme Court justice. Tea Party Patriots leader Jenny Beth Martin calls Thomas a “mentor” for many tea party organizations, and says she helps these organizations “to navigate some of the waters in DC.… She’s been kind of a mentor, and when we had questions about things that we were doing, we bounced a few of the ideas off of her and also off of a few other people in DC just to make sure that what we were doing made sense.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]
Media Attention - In a June 2010 interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Thomas says she is sure “liberals” will “persecute” her just as she says they did when her husband was undergoing confirmation for the Supreme Court. “They’re after me now sometimes,” she says. “And so, we’re not going to be dissuaded. We are in the fight for our country’s life.” She and Hannity engage in a lively conversation about the “tyranny” of the Obama administration. She also promises to “watch for conflicts” between herself and her husband. In October 2010, the media reports that Virginia Thomas leaves a voice mail for former college professor Anita Hill, who accused her husband of sexual harassment during his confirmation hearings for the Court (see October 8, 1991, October 8-12, 1991, and October 11-12, 1991), demanding that Hill issue an apology to her husband. The voice mail says: “Good morning, Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I just want to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometimes and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. Okay, have a good day.” The attention from the voice mail prompts more negative media attention, and some donors begin distancing themselves from the organization. (Virginia Thomas later admits that her voice mail message for Hill was “probably a mistake,” though she will call the media’s response to it “laughable.” She will call the message “an olive branch” she extends to Hill. For her part, Hill says: “I don’t apologize. I have no intention of apologizing and I stand by my testimony in 1991.”) [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2010; Fox News, 6/8/2010; Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 10/19/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010]
Thomas Steps Down, Group Merges with Another Organization - In November 2010, Virginia Thomas steps down from her leadership post at Liberty Central. The group then merges with another, similar group called the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, an organization founded by ex-CIA agent Gary Aldrich, who wrote a largely discredited book “exposing” the “secrets” of the Clinton administration. Sources later tell reporters that Virginia Thomas sells off Liberty Central because it cannot raise the funds needed to support its large staff and high overhead. According to CRC spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll, Thomas will “take a back seat so that Liberty Central can continue with its mission without any of the distractions. After discussing it with the board, Mrs. Thomas determined that it was best for the organization.” However, Sarah E. Field, general counsel of Liberty Central, disagrees, saying: “There are many opportunities being presented to Liberty Central, but there is no agreement at this time.… The sources of this story appear to be people without full understanding of the facts.” Keith Appell of CRC tells a reporter that the Washington Post’s Amy Gardner “breached confidentiality” by reporting her conversation with Carroll. Gardner responds, “Everything I attributed to Caitlin Carroll comes from an on-the-record conversation we had by telephone this morning.” Within hours, Thomas files incorporation papers for a new political lobbying and consulting firm, Liberty Consulting (see February 4, 2011). [Politico, 7/6/2010; Politico, 11/15/2010; Washington Post, 11/15/2010; Politico, 2/4/2011]

Entity Tags: Lucas A. (“Scot”) Powe, Liberty Central, US Department of Justice, Matt Kibbe, Leonard Leo, Obama administration, US Supreme Court, Sean Hannity, Virginia (“Ginni”) Thomas, Keith Appell, Stephen Gillers, Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty, Jenny Beth Martin, Sarah E. Field, Gary Aldrich, Barack Obama, Anita Hill, Amy Gardner, CRC Public Relations, Caitlin Carroll, Harlan Crow, Clarence Thomas, FreedomWorks, Carl Graham, Donald Rumsfeld, Common Cause, Conservative Political Action Conference

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Three of the Supreme Court justices in the majority decision: Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Anthony Kennedy.Three of the Supreme Court justices in the majority decision: Antonin Scalia, John Roberts, and Anthony Kennedy. [Source: Associated Press / Politico]The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that corporate spending in political elections may not be banned by the federal government. The case is Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08-205. The Court is divided among ideological lines, with the five conservatives voting against the four moderates and liberals on the bench. The decision overrules two precedents about the First Amendment rights of corporations, and rules that corporate financial support for a party or candidate qualifies as “freedom of speech” (see March 11, 1957, January 30, 1976, May 11, 1976, April 26, 1978, January 8, 1980, November 28, 1984, December 15, 1986, June 26, 1996, June 25, 2007, and June 26, 2008). The majority rules that the government may not regulate “political speech,” while the dissenters hold that allowing corporate money to, in the New York Times’s words, “flood the political marketplace,” would corrupt the democratic process. The ramifications of the decision will be vast, say election specialists. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 pdf file; New York Times, 1/21/2010] In essence, the ruling overturns much of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, commonly known as the McCain-Feingold law (BCRA—see March 27, 2002). The ruling leaves the 1907 ban on direct corporate contributions to federal candidates and national party committees intact (see 1907). The ban on corporate and union donors coordinating their efforts directly with political parties or candidates’ campaigns remains in place; they must maintain “independence.” Any corporation spending more than $10,000 a year on electioneering efforts must publicly disclose the names of individual contributors. And the ruling retains some disclosure and disclaimer requirements, particularly for ads airing within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. The Los Angeles Times writes: “The decision is probably the most sweeping and consequential handed down under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. And the outcome may well have an immediate impact on this year’s mid-term elections to Congress.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; OMB Watch, 1/27/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010; National Public Radio, 2012]
Unregulated Money Impacts Midterm Elections - The decision’s effects will be felt first on a national level in the 2010 midterm elections, when unregulated corporate spending will funnel millions of dollars from corporate donors into Congressional and other races. President Obama calls the decision “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies, and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.” Evan Tracey of the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political advertising, says the Court “took what had been a revolving door and took the door away altogether. There was something there that slowed the money down. Now it’s gone.” [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 pdf file; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010]
Broadening in Scope - According to reporter and author Jeffrey Toobin, CU lawyer Theodore Olson had originally wanted to present the case as narrowly as possible, to ensure a relatively painless victory that would not ask the Court to drastically revise campaign finance law. But according to Toobin, the conservative justices, and particularly Chief Justice Roberts, want to use the case as a means of overturning much if not all of McCain-Feingold (see May 14, 2012). In the original argument of the case in March 2009 (see March 15, 2009), Deputy Solicitor General Malcolm Stewart unwittingly changed the scope of the case in favor of a broader interpretation, and gave Roberts and the other conservative justices the opportunity they may have been seeking. [New Yorker, 5/21/2012]
Majority Opinion Grants Corporations Rights of Citizens - The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, reads in part: “If the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging in political speech.… The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.” In essence, Kennedy’s ruling finds, corporations are citizens. The ruling overturns two precedents: 1990’s Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates (see March 27, 1990) in its entirety, and large portions of 2003’s McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (see December 10, 2003), which upheld a portion of the BCRA that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions. Before today’s ruling, the BCRA banned the broadcast, cable, or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections. The law was restricted in 2007 by a Court decision to apply only to communications “susceptible to no reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate” (see June 25, 2007).
Encroachment on Protected Free Speech - Eight of the nine justices agree that Congress can require corporations to disclose their spending and to run disclaimers with their advertisements; Justice Clarence Thomas is the only dissenter on this point. Kennedy writes, “Disclosure permits citizens and shareholders to react to the speech of corporate entities in a proper way.” Kennedy’s opinion states that if the restrictions remain in place, Congress could construe them to suppress political speech in newspapers, on television news programs, in books, and on the Internet. Kennedy writes: “When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought. This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves.”
Fiery Dissent - Justice John Paul Stevens, the oldest member of the court, submits a fiery 90-page dissent that is joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sonia Sotomayor. Kennedy is joined by Roberts and fellow Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Thomas, though Roberts and Alito submit a concurring opinion instead of signing on with Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas. “The difference between selling a vote and selling access is a matter of degree, not kind,” Stevens writes in his dissent. “And selling access is not qualitatively different from giving special preference to those who spent money on one’s behalf.” Stevens writes that the Court has long recognized the First Amendment rights of corporations, but the restrictions struck down by the decision are moderate and fair. “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.” Speaking from the bench, Stevens calls the ruling “a radical change in the law… that dramatically enhances the role of corporations and unions—and the narrow interests they represent—in determining who will hold public office.… Corporations are not human beings. They can’t vote and can’t run for office,” and should be restricted under election law. “Essentially, five justices were unhappy with the limited nature of the case before us, so they changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.”
Case Originated with 2008 Political Documentary - The case originated in a 2008 documentary by the right-wing advocacy group Citizens United (CU), called Hillary: The Movie (see January 10-16, 2008). The film, a caustic attack on then-Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Democrats in general, was released for public viewing during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries. When the Federal Election Commission (FEC) won a lawsuit against CU, based on the FEC’s contention that broadcasting the film violated McCain-Feingold, the group abandoned plans to release the film on a cable video-on-demand service and to broadcast television advertisements for it. CU appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and most observers believed the Court would decide the case on narrow grounds, not use the case to rewrite election law and First Amendment coverage. [Legal Information Institute, 2010; CITIZENS UNITED v. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION, 1/21/2010 pdf file; New York Times, 1/21/2010; Los Angeles Times, 1/21/2010; Think Progress, 1/21/2010; Associated Press, 1/21/2010; Christian Science Monitor, 2/2/2010]
Case Brought in Order to Attack Campaign Finance Law - Critics have said that CU created the movie in order for it to fall afoul of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, and give the conservatives on the Court the opportunity to reverse or narrow the law. Nick Nyhart of Public Campaign, an opponent of the decision, says: “The movie was created with the idea of establishing a vehicle to chip away at the decision. It was part of a very clear strategy to undo McCain-Feingold.” CU head David Bossie confirms this contention, saying after the decision: “We have been trying to defend our First Amendment rights for many, many years. We brought the case hoping that this would happen… to defeat McCain-Feingold.” [Washington Post, 1/22/2010]

Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, Citizens United, Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, Barack Obama, Samuel Alito, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, New York Times, Nick Nyhart, Evan Tracey, David Bossie, Hillary Clinton, Jeffrey Toobin, Federal Election Commission, John Paul Stevens, Malcolm Stewart, John G. Roberts, Jr, Los Angeles Times

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Wall Street Journal celebrates the Citizens United Supreme Court decision (see January 21, 2010) as a victory for “free speech” (see January 21, 2010). In an unsigned editorial, the Journal celebrates the decision by stating that the Court used the Constitution to “rescue” the political system from “marauding government” elements, particularly a “reckless Congress.” The Journal claims that the Citizens United case rested on the Federal Election Commission (FEC)‘s refusal to allow the airing of a 90-minute political attack documentary on presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) because the film was “less than complimentary” of her. In reality, the FEC considered the film “electioneering” by the organization that released the film, Citizens United, and prohibited it from being shown on pay-per-view cable access (see January 10-16, 2008). The Court rejected campaign finance law’s limitation on corporate spending, prompting the Journal to state, “Corporations are entitled to the same right that individuals have to spend money on political speech for or against a candidate.” Any other state of affairs, the Journal writes, constitutes censorship. The Journal criticizes President Obama for speaking out against the decision (see January 21, 2010), saying that Obama put “on his new populist facade to call it ‘a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies,’ and other ‘special interests.’ Mr. Obama didn’t mention his union friends as one of those interests, but their political spending will also be protected by the logic of this ruling. The reality is that free speech is no one’s special interest.” The Journal dismisses promises by Congressional Democrats to pass legislation or even bring forth a constitutional amendment limiting corporate donations by stating, “Liberalism’s bullying tendencies are never more on display than when its denizens are at war with the speech rights of its opponents.” The Journal concludes by advocating that the Court overturn its 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision (see January 30, 1976) that placed modest limits on corporate spending, in essence advocating the complete deregulation of campaign financing. “The Court did yesterday uphold disclosure rules, so a sensible step now would be for Congress to remove all campaign-finance limits subject only to immediate disclosure on the Internet,” the Journal states. “Citizens United is in any event a bracing declaration that Congress’s long and misbegotten campaign-finance crusade has reached a constitutional dead end.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/22/2010]

Entity Tags: Citizens United, Barack Obama, Wall Street Journal, US Supreme Court, Hillary Clinton, Federal Election Commission

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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