Hatch and Frist Fire Whistle-Blower; Senate Republicans Have Reneged on a Pledge to Expose Hard Evidence of Collusion between Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and Lobbyists for Special Interests

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Byline: John M. Powers, INSIGHT

Republican leaders have broken a promise they made to expose the shocking contents of memos exchanged among Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, says Manuel Miranda, the former GOP aide who is the whistle-blower at the center of the so-called Memogate scandal. Miranda tells Insight in an exclusive interview that both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) broke clearly stated promises to expose collusion between top Democrats and special-interest groups seeking to thwart President George W. Bush's nominees to federal courts.

"Sen. Hatch told me specifically, point blank, that if I resigned he could then talk about the substance of the memos," Miranda tells Insight. "I was told by the Frist office that, if I resigned, the Democrats would basically calm down" and the Republicans could make the memos public. Miranda said the same promises were made to conservative groups that assist the Republicans in gaining support for judicial nominees.

At the heart of the scandal, which many believe has been spiked or overlooked by the mainstream press, are thousands of Democratic memos that were viewed and subsequently downloaded from a computer server shared by both Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. These memos, which were not password protected, outlined Democratic talking points and strategies for blocking judicial nominees at the behest of special-interest groups.

In November some of the memos were leaked anonymously to the Washington Times and Wall Street Journal for publication. In the memos that were published, readers were exposed to behind-the-scenes dealings on Capitol Hill that included appeals by a special-interest lawyer to Senate Judiciary Democrats to delay the nomination of a particular judge long enough for the interest group to gain a favorable ruling, and threats to make funding disappear if certain judges ever reached the bench.

Promises to expose this weren't kept, but were they actually made? Kay Daly, president of the Coalition for a Fair Judiciary, works with Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans on the nomination process. Daly says she knows of the many meetings between Miranda and Hatch and Frist, and confirms that the understanding between Senate Republicans and grass-roots organizations such as hers was indeed that once Miranda resigned an investigation would ensue that would focus on the content of the memos.

Daly says she suspects Hatch gave in to Democratic demands that someone be held accountable for what they were spinning as theft and Kennedy was comparing with the Watergate break-in.

Another conservative strategist who works closely with Senate Republicans on the nominations process spoke with Insight on condition of anonymity. The strategist says that two choices were presented concerning Miranda. The first was to wait until an investigation was completed and then, if any wrongdoing was found, Miranda would be asked to step down. The second option came after a closed-door meeting among Senate Republicans. The message sent out to the conservative groups was that it had been decided Miranda would resign to allow Republicans to "turn back to the substance of the memos." The strategist insider tells Insight that Miranda in effect became a "scalp" Republicans offered Democrats to make the scandal disappear. "He's [Hatch] in his last year as chairman of the committee and he wants to enhance the New York Times ... write-up he'll get in history," says the conservative strategist.

Another take being kicked around Capitol Hill is that Frist and others saw Miranda's whistle-blowing as an inconvenience in an already-heated battle over the country's courts. As a result they chose to get rid of the squeaky wheel rather than than deal with the unpredictable consequences of such a scandal in an election year.

Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation and often spoken of as the conservative conscience of the GOP, tells Insight that Senate Judiciary Committee Republicans might fear revealing the outrageous Democratic memoranda lest their own memos come under scrutiny. …