Federal Judgeships and Campaign Contributions – Two Completely Unrelated Items?

Kudos to John Mulligan and the Providence Journal for shining some light on the nice chunk of change that proposed federal judge John McConnell has contributed to his political sponsors.

The McConnells [John and his wife Sara Shea] gave $8,800 to Reed’s reelection campaign. They gave $3,000 to reelect Rep. James R. Langevin and $4,600 to reelect Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, plus $5,000 more to the political action committee (PAC) that Kennedy operates to give money to fellow Democratic candidates. McConnell have $8,400 to Whitehouse’s 2006 election campaign and has since given $3,500 to his PAC fund.

Don’t forget his sponsors’ party.

Over the past two decades, the contributions to party coffers by McConnell and his wife, Sara Shea McConnell, have approached $700,000, according to compilations by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Though he has no direct say in the picking of federal judges, we would be remiss if we did not add to the list the $11,000 which the campaign of Attorney General Patrick Lynch has received from Mr. McConnell, an attorney at the firm Motley Rice, one of “the nation’s largest plaintiff’s litigation firms“, and his wife. Informed readers will recall that Motley Rice represented the state in the lead paint case by means of a contingency agreement. Well informed readers will recall that this potentially lucrative agreement was bestowed at the sole discretion of the Attorney General – Whitehouse, then Lynch.

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Thomas Schmeling
Thomas Schmeling
12 years ago

I’m a little torn here:
i want to compliment Monique on bringing this issue to light. Even though she’s just repeating the good investigative work of the ProJo reporter (John Mulligan), I’m glad to see this information get beyond the readers of the ProJo. All of us should be concerned about the implication that federal court seats are being bought.
On the other hand, I wonder if Monique would be equally concerned if we found that judicial nominees in other states, or nominees under Republican presidents, were equally affected by such contributions.
I suspect not.
I’d be really happy is AR presented an even-handed and objective analysis of the relation of campaign contributions to judicial appointments on BOTH sides of the aisle.
What are the chances?

Will
12 years ago

“On the other hand, I wonder if Monique would be equally concerned if we found that judicial nominees in other states, or nominees under Republican presidents, were equally affected by such contributions.” This blog primarily deals with issues that are relative to Rhode Island, not Idaho. They can’t be expected to cover everything, everywhere. Although I don’t know of any specific cases, I’d be more than willing to assume that it’s been an issue in Republican-dominated states. However, Rhode Island isn’t among them. Let’s focus on Rhode Island. Since the Democratic Party has controlled RI with an iron first since the 1930s, and people who want to influence government officials in return for favorable treatment have to write their checks to Democrats to get what they want, it doesn’t seem to be a big leap to question what at least on the surface appears to be a clear “quid pro quo.” This seems specially important, seeing that Sen. Whitehouse has tried to make a little bit of a name for himself trying to “expose” the influence that partisan politics may have had in the firing of US Attorneys. Are we supposed to believe that there are no partisan politics in play here? My concern isn’t so much the financial issue, as that’s pretty self-evident. Both are well off, and neither likely needs the money. Essentially, it’s a case of mutual backscratching. He’s giving a lifetime government job to someone who supported him financially and politically. Is this in dispute? Shouldn’t we question why Sen. Whitehouse would choose someone for a lifetime appointment with whom he is very friendly, who has clearly supported him in a multitude of ways, and to whom he has steered state work, viz-a-viz the lead paint case? My real problem with that specific appointment is that… Read more »

Tim
Tim
12 years ago

Jack McConnell is a long time pimp of the RI Democratic party. Him being rewarded with a judgeship is no surprise. If Al Franken can be a senator then Jack McConell can be a judge. Both examples speak to just how far the standards have fallen in this nation.
Thomas, what are the chances students at RIC have in getting an “even-handed” education? lol

brassband
brassband
12 years ago

well . . . you don’t have to look very far to find an example of a Republican appointee with similar connections . . .
Judge Selya (whom Judge Thompson would replace on the First Circuit) served on the U.S. District Court before he went to the Court of Appeals. He was, if I recall correctly, heavily involved in raising campaign funds for Sen. John Chafee immediately prior to his nomination to the federal bench.
And I believe that the late Chief Judge Frank Boyle served a similar role for the late Sen. Claiborne Pell prior to his nomination to the U.S. District Court.
Present U.S. District Judge Will Smith served as Chief of Staff to former Sen. Lincoln Chafee and probably contributed to the Senator as well prior to nomination to the U.S. District Court.
Let’s not kid ourselves here . . . these judgeships are often rewards for loyal political supporters.

John
John
12 years ago

On the one hand, these practices have been going on in the US for centuries.
On the other hand, when the legitimacy of the current system is increasingly questioned from many quarters, you’d think the people who most benefit from its machinations would throttle back on the most visible of its apparent abuses.
This is as true of Wall Street, auto CEOs in their jets, and public sector union practices as it is of the way federal judgeships (and RI magistrate positions) are awarded.
But that doesn’t seem to be happening, does it? I do not take that as a good omen for what lies ahead. This is the pursuit of self-interest gone mad.

John
John
12 years ago

Best damn job money can buy! Always has been, always will be. Period.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

At least Rogeriee Thompson is a merit selection.
It wouldn’t surprise me if her politics were more liberal than not,but I have no fear of her bringing it to work with her.McConnell seems to me like another Stephen Reinhardt.If you don’t know who that is,look him up.You will be enlightened on judicial activism.
I’m not aware of either Judge Selya or Judge Boyle having made any blatantly political decisions inconsistent with the law.
I appeared in Judge Boyle’s court many times and I never got a hint of his political leanings.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
12 years ago

“Judge Selya (whom Judge Thompson would replace on the First Circuit) served on the U.S. District Court before he went to the Court of Appeals. He was, if I recall correctly, heavily involved in raising campaign funds for Sen. John Chafee immediately prior to his nomination to the federal bench.
And I believe that the late Chief Judge Frank Boyle served a similar role for the late Sen. Claiborne Pell prior to his nomination to the U.S. District Court.
Present U.S. District Judge Will Smith served as Chief of Staff to former Sen. Lincoln Chafee and probably contributed to the Senator as well prior to nomination to the U.S. District Court.”
Well said, Brass. History lessons are often needed around here.

Tim
Tim
12 years ago

Speaking of history lessons Ms. Jerzyk what is your history with Pimpy Mac?
Oh do share with the audience. lol
Is interesting to note Madame J that unlike all the other examples cited your boy Pimpy Mac did not work for any one of the pols who nominated him.
He simply BOUGHT THEM and a whole lot of other local Dems.
History lessons are often needed around here.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
12 years ago

As the saying goes, when the law is not on your side, argue the facts and when the facts are not on your side, argue the law and when neither is on your side, attack your opponent.
I guess that means that neither the facts nor the law is on your side, Tim!
As for my affiliation with Attorney McConnell, I wrote on my blog – on every post related as such – that I interned at Motley Rice as a summer law clerk, when I was in law school.
Look it up.

Matt Jerzyk
Matt Jerzyk
12 years ago

A couple of points that I made above as well: 1. Kudos to Sens. Reed and Whitehouse for making in excellent choice in Attorney Jack McConnell. After taking a seminar with him at Roger Williams Law School and being incredibly impressed with his intellect and vast litigation experience, I followed him out the door and almost begged him to intern at his law office. Fortunately, I was given a chance to work at his office and I learned first-hand that McConnell has one of the finest legal minds that I have ever met. 2. McConnell has been incredibly active in the community and in politics. And, in doing so, this experience should be a ‘plus’ not a ‘minus’ on his record. He chaired the board of Trinity Rep. and Crossroads and led trainings for and gave money to women candidates across this great country. Real life experience is essential for a great trial judge and McConnell has just that. Just imagine the chilling effect if judicial candidates were punished for getting involved in the American democracy by giving to candidates or working on their campaigns. 3. The right wing conservatives complaining about McConnell’s contributions have always made the argument that contributions are “free speech” protected by the First Amendment. This was their argument against McCain-Feingold. In this case, why are you all attacking McConnell for exercising his right to support whatever candidates he so chooses? 4. Similarly, all we have heard out of conservative blogs for the last 8 years is that judicial candidates should be given an up or down vote on their experience and their record, not on their political affiliations or associations. Why the sudden change? 5. Few lawyers can match Attorney McConnell’s 25 years of experience in managing and winning complex litigation. He has consistently stood… Read more »

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Matt-I know that judgeships at every level throughout this country have been distributed as political plums for loyal supporters of politicians.Liberal,conservative,Dem,Repub,makes no matter.
I feel comfortable that Judge Thompson will execute her duties impartially,relying on the law.
I have no such confidence in Jack McConnell.I recently saw him on that ACLU show with Carl Krueger.it was about the Ng case,which seems to have legs.Even McConnell can be right sometimes.I was dealing with Carl Krueger twenty five years ago and he is a good competent immigration attorney.His presentation was generally fair on the show-maybe I differed with him on some issues,such as the Brazilian overdose case,where ICE acted immediately to secure medical help,even calling 911 a second time to hurry the response.However, Mr.Krueger doesn’t exagerrate as a rule.
Mr.McConnell was on a mission and seemed to be loose with the facts and busy with the histrionics.The Ng situation is bad enough-no need to add questionable allegations about ICE in general to make your case.
I think Mr.McConnell will try to use his judicial position to advance his political agenda.

Tim
Tim
12 years ago

Ms. Jerzyk is impressed with the “vast intellect” of Jack McConnell. lol
If you’ve ever seen Jack McConnell in action then you know he’s missing at least a couple of cards in the deck. This is the unstable nutjob who tried and failed to smear Don Carcieri with a murder wrap involving a Cookson company in South America during the ’02 gubernatorial campaign. Yes, Don Carcieri a murderer. ha ha ha ha ha This is also the intellectual whose “vast litigation experience” is to shake down corporations and take their earnings for his profit. Don’t doubt for a second that liberals find this guy to be an intellectual. It’s actually quite funny and very appropriate how they do.
Personally I could care less if McConnell gives $10 million to the RI Dem party. He has every right to do so as an American citizen. But when those contributions buy a judgeship from the very people and very party he’s been ‘funding’ all these years to the tune of 700K then we’re talking about a very different issue.
Madame J you can put all the lipstick you want on the McConnell pig but it’s still a pig and this one smells to the highest of heavens.

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