Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2003 / 11 Shevat, 5763

Jonathan Turley

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Public Payroll: a Family Affair; Nepotism in Washington poses a threat to institutional integrity | In Washington, the battle line is drawn between the forces of conservatism and liberalism. While patriotism is often cited as a shared value, there is only one "ism" that truly unites members of both parties in a common cause: nepotism. In the last two years, nepotism has flourished in Washington to a point that would make the most inbred potentate blush.

Just last week, former Sen. Frank Murkowski's handpicked successor was introduced to the nation. (Murkowski was elected governor of Alaska and, as such, was entitled to appoint his Senate replacement.) The new senator immediately assured the public that she "shared the same vision for [Alaska], the same values." She should: She also shares his DNA. Lisa Murkowski is the daughter of Frank Murkowski. It appears that the former Republican senator scoured the entire state of Alaska for a suitable replacement, only to find the best candidate in his own family. Imagine that. Frank Murkowski's extreme variation on "Bring your Daughter to Work Day" follows a long, dubious tradition of nepotism in Washington.

The current list of family appointments is too long to recount in its entirety. Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter was made a deputy assistant secretary of State. Cheney's son-in-law was given the plum position of chief counsel for the Office of Management and Budget. Secretary of State Colin Powell's son was made chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. The administration has not neglected key members of the Supreme Court in access to the public trough of appointments. Both Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia (who voted with the majority in favor of President Bush in the 2000 election challenge) have watched their children sworn in to high-ranking positions. After a contentious confirmation hearing, Scalia's son Eugene was made the top lawyer at the Department of Labor. He has since resigned.

Rehnquist's daughter, Janet, was made inspector general at the Health and Human Services Department. (President Bush's father had given her a job on his White House staff.) In her short tenure, Janet Rehnquist has triggered an array of scandals, ranging from her storing a gun -- without a trigger lock and not in a gun safe -- in her office to more serious allegations of intervening in departmental cases to assist personal and political friends.

She is under federal investigation and, most recently, was hit with allegations of shredding incriminating documents relevant to that investigation.

Congress has proved particularly eager to respond to Bush's call for greater family values in government. Elaine Chao, the wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), is secretary of Labor. (Chao can claim experience to justify the position.)

Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, was not willing to rely on experience alone in securing an appellate judgeship for his son, David. Rather than recuse himself, Bunning interviewed 11 finalists for the position and, with McConnell, reduced them to three. Amazingly, Bunning's son made his dad's cut. He didn't make the American Bar Assn.'s cut. It found young Bunning to be unqualified, due to his lack of experience and the "serious doubts by respected members of the bench and bar" as to his intellectual and professional abilities. Bunning's colleagues confirmed him anyway.

Former Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) was able to secure confirmation of his son, Strom Jr., as U.S. attorney in his home state, despite the fact that the 28-year-old Strom Jr. barely outranked a Justice Department intern in experience.

Of course, many politicians in Washington do not try to appoint sons and daughters to high positions: Many do not have eligible sons or daughters. The father of Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.) was nominated for an appellate judgeship and, after being denied confirmation by the committee, has just been renominated. Republican Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnesota is pushing his sister, Sheryl Ramstad Hvass, for a judgeship. The list goes on and on. Ultimately, the problem is less about individual qualifications (or the lack thereof) as it is institutional integrity. With branches of government swapping siblings, spouses and offspring, our constitutional checks and balances become mired in personal debts and alliances.

Perhaps the election of the son of a former president inspired the shift toward a more aristocratic system of government. It could be worse. In the year 40, the Emperor Caligula appointed his favorite horse, Incitatus, to the Roman Senate. Incitatus proved to be lacking in the temperament or tact for public service. Of course, Incitatus had one positive characteristic: He was a gelding who could neither produce nor appoint offspring.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jonathan Turley is a law professor at George Washington, Law School. . Comment by clicking here.

01/09/03: DARPA and democracy
12/24/02: The 13th juror
12/19/02: Back to the admissions morass
12/10/02: Pro-Choice at Expense of Free Speech; NOW case against abortion protester may backfire
12/02/02: A cruel bait and switch for vets
11/15/02: Junk justice
11/07/02: OUR second-class soldiers
10/30/02: 'Quirin' revisited: The dark history of a military tribunal
10/22/02: Un-American Arrests: Mass detainments of the innocent may be the ultimate form of crowd control, but the tactic is unconstitutional
10/16/02: Reverse pawn shops? Broke state officials across the country have been looking for businesses to buy their assets at a fraction of their worth to pay for budget shortfalls
10/08/02: A legal tattoo hullabaloo
10/02/02: Gagged justice sets dangerous precedent
09/25/02: The Great Salmon Rose Caper
09/17/02: Reparations: A Scam Cloaked in Racial Pain
09/12/02: This country's hidden strength
09/04/02: 1st Amendment protects even the ugliest among us
08/28/02: A secret court goes public
08/20/02: I defended Ashcroft during his nomination; he's become a constitutional menace
08/07/02: San Francisco embracing states-rights
07/31/02: Who needs Jenny Craig when you can have Johnnie Cochran?
07/22/02: The meaning of justice and the madness of Zacarias Moussauoi
07/16/02: The President vs. the Presidency
07/08/02: How one woman's whims dictates the rights of millions
07/02/02: Just say 'no' to extracurricular activities
06/24/02: Missing Ted Bundy
06/10/02: A comedy of eros06/14/02: 05/31/02: Beyond the 'reformed FBI' hype
05/23/02: Do we really need a Federal Marriage Amendment?
05/19/02: No "battlefield detainee" should leave home without a U.S. birth certificate
05/10/02: The perfect constitutional storm
04/26/02: 'Slave of Allah' wounds justice
04/12/02: The importance of being nameless
04/05/02: The adjusted value of justice
03/18/02: How Clinton got off: A law professor's take
03/11/02: Profiling and the terrorist lottery
03/05/02: Yes, Sharpton, there was a failure of justice
02/28/02: The Lay of the land
02/14/02: Living in constitutional denial
02/05/02: Legal Lesson for Afghanistan: War's Not a Slip-and-Fall Case
01/25/02: Sever "Jihad Johnny"'s ties to his homeland
01/21/02: "Out of sight, out of mind," but they're still prisoners
01/14/02: Your papers, please!
01/07/02: Prescription for disaster
12/18/01: Madison and the Mujahedeen
12/07/01: In the U.S., espionage crime is easy to understand but difficult to prove
11/19/01: What type of 'creature' would defend bin Laden?
11/19/01: Could bin Laden be acquitted in a trial?
10/28/01: The ultimate sign of the different times in which we are living
10/25/01: Al-Qaida produces killers, not thinkers
09/28/01: The Boxer rebellion and the war against terrorism
08/31/01: Bring back the silent Condit
08/27/01: Working out the body politic

© 2002, Jonathan Turley