DATELINE TEXAS Cheryl, Monica, Ted, and Steve BY ROBERT BRYCE Six years agq Steve Smith, the Austin lawyer who most recently threatened to sue UTAustin in an attempt to eliminate all-female co-op housing, recruited several plaintiffs who were eager to sue the UT School of Law because they had not been admitted while minority students with equal or lesser test score, were One of those plaintiffs was named Cheryl Hopwood. In 1996, Hopwood’s case sent shock waves through the state when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the race-based admissions processes at U.T. and other state-supported schools had to be discarded. But the Hopwood case has nothing to do with Monica Lewinsky and Paula Jones. Right? On the surface, no. But if you follow the money trail from Richard Mellon Scaife’s bank account to Ted Olson’s pocket, the connections are rather interesting. Scaife, a reclusive billionaire and rightwing zealot, has funneled some $2.4 million into the “Arkansas Project,” an investigation backed by the American Spectator magazine, which has delved into Bill Clinton’s sexual history, the Whitewater land deal, and any other dirt that might be turned up on the President. It was the American Spectator that found Paula Jones and encouraged her to go public with allegations that Bill Clinton had attempted to pressure her into having sex with him. Olson, a Washington lawyer and former member of the Reagan Justice Department, is on the board of a foundation that oversees the American Spectator. Olson also represents David Hale, a former municipal judge from Little Rock who is one of Bill Clinton’s chief accusers. In 1994, Hale pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conspiring to defraud the Small Business Administration. \(Hale testified in the 1996 criminal trial of then-Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker and Jim and Susan McDougal. Tucker and the McDougals were partners with the Clintons in the infamous Whitewater land How Olson came to represent Hale has been the subject of a long investigation by reporters at Salon \(www.salon1999.com the Web ‘zine that broke the story of the Henry Hyde affair, and which has defended Clinton against the Starr investigation. The ties between Olson and Ken Starr are long and deep. The two were partners at the Washington law firm of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. They worked together in the Justice Department during the Reagan Administration \(Olson later acted as Reagan’s lawyer during the Iran-Contra scandal, which raised substantial constitutional issues and could have been grounds for imfriends. And Olson has been a defender of Starr’s investigation into the President’s peccadilloes, writing in an August 22 New York Times op-ed piece, “The President alone is responsible for injecting his sexual appetites into this investigation.” PERHAPS IT’S A COINCIDENCE THAT SCAIFE’S MONEY HAS BEEN CENTRAL TO TWO HIGH-PROFILE LEGAL BATTLES: OVER THE PRESIDENCY AND RACE-BASED ADMISSIONS. Okay, forget Monica, Paula, and Whitewater for a moment. Olson has also been a key operative for Scaife on another front, closer to home. Olson argued the Hopwood case before the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1996. And he may handle similar lawsuits pending in Washington and Michigan. Who brought Olson in to argue the Hopwood case? The Center for Individual Rights, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based public policy law firm. CIR gets the bulk of its funding $1.6 billion this year from the far right. And among its most important contributors is Richard Mellon Scaife. Two foundations controlled by Scaife, the Carthage and Scaife Family Foundations, gave CIR $150,000 this year. \(Among other beneficiaries of Scaife’s largesse are groups that have pushed for in vestigations into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster, in an attempt to prove that the first to give money to CIR when it was founded in 1988. In April, CIR President Michael McDonald told me, “We owe a debt of gratitude to the people at Scaife because they were one of the first people willing to take a chance on CIR’ s mission.” And, he added, “Contrary to the image that is put out by the media, they have a very good grasp of what’s going on in the public interest law world.” Olson doesn’t consider his work for CIR ideological or partisan. “Discrimination against an individual because of their , race is fundamentally wrong under our constitution,” he said in a phone interview in April. “Some people want to characterize that as a conservative position. I suppose people can put whatever label they want on it.” So what importance does all this have? Perhaps none. Perhaps it’s just a silly parlor game akin to “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Scaife’s money has been a central part of two high-profile legal battles, which involve the future of the presidency in America and the future of race-based admissions in America’s schools. Maybe there never was a right-wing conspiracy pursuing Bill Clinton. And maybe it was inevitable that race-based admissions would one day be challenged and overturned in federal court. Then again, maybe the connections between Cheryl and Monica prove that given enough right-wing cash and enough lawyers a motivated group of citizens can change the course of history. Robert Bryce is a contributing editor at the Austin Chronicle, where a version of this story first appeared. OCTOBER 23, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23
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