Two Simple Questions

Is there any precedent for a Senator’s recusal from a Committee on the Judiciary Supreme Court confirmation hearing  based on conflict of interest?

Is there any precedent for a Supreme Court nominee being a longtime major campaign contributor to the President making the nomination?

The Cornyn Connection

Texas Senator John Cornyn is a member of the Committee on the Judiciary that will be deciding whether or not to recommend a Miers confirmation to the full Senate. Federal Election Commission records indicate that for the time period extending from 2001 through 2005 Cornyn was one of the top 3 beneficiaries of Miers’ former law firm’s PAC. In fact, Locke Liddell & Sapp LLP PAC was one of the top 5 committee donors to Senator Cornyn’s campaigns. The Senator also received significant additional campaign contributions directly from the firm’s employees.

It is reasonable to assume that Locke, Liddell & Sapp would derive considerable benefit from the prestige of having its former President and Managing Partner join the Supreme Court.  Members of the firm would be inclined to strongly disapprove of any Senator’s decision to vote against Miers’ confirmation. Senator Cornyn’s vote would be likely to have a direct impact on the continued flow of income from the law firm and its employees. Is there sufficient reason here for Cornyn to consider recusing himself from the vote?

Locke, Liddell & Sapp LLP PAC Contributions to Cornyn

09/24/2001 $5,000
11/05/2001 $1,000
01/09/2002 $4,000
07/21/2004 $1,000
02/08/2005 $4,000
03/10/2005 $1,000
Total         $16,000

Locke, Liddell & Sapp LLP Employee Contributions to Cornyn (Partial)*

2001    $15,000
2002    $12,000
2003    $ 4,000
2004    $ 4,000
2005    $ 2,792
Total    $37,792

*This amount is probably incomplete due to likely variations in spelling of the company name in FEC records.

Miers’ Contributions to Governor Bush

According to, Harriet Miers contributed a total of $20,000 to then Governor Bush in 1995 and 1997. In addition, between 1994 and 1997, Miers’ law firm’s PAC contributed $56,000 to Bush. Miers became president of Locke, Purnell, Rain & Harrell in March 1996. How much influence did Miers have over the decision making that determined the disposition of contributions by her firm’s political action committee?

Miers subsequently contributed an additional $4,000 to Bush’s presidential campaigns. The large sums contributed by the Supreme Court nominee to her nominator make the process seem tainted. Have any previous Supreme Court nominees been such major contributors?

Miers Contributions to Governor Bush
09/05/1995 $10,000
09/18/1997 $10,000
Total $20,000

Locke Purnell Rain Harrell PAC Contributions to Governor Bush
02/21/1994 $10,000
09/29/1994 $10,000
09/22/1995 $10,000
10/15/1996 $ 1,000
11/14/1996 $10,000
06/30/1997 $ 5,000
08/27/1997 $10,000
Total $56,000

Cross-posted at ePluribus Media and  Daily Kos.

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