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Politics

When 24 Republicans from the Nevada Senate and Assembly were looking to challenge the Nevada Supreme Court decision on taxes, they found a broad base of allies subscribing to various political beliefs to support the lawsuit. It would be hard, though, to find a farther-right ally than the one they found in the Claremont Institute, a conservative organization based in Claremont, Calif.

The Republicans contended that the Nevada Supreme Court violated citizen’s constitutional rights in its decision to temporarily throw out a two-thirds super majority vote requirement in order to balance the state budget and fund education.

Within a week of the July 10 decision, the Claremont Institute sent legal assistance. For more than a decade, the conservative group has sponsored legal cases ranging from attempts to impeach Bill Clinton to those that oppose abortion, affirmative action or gay rights.

Leading the charge in Nevada was attorney John Eastman, director of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence. Eastman, who represented 24 state legislators in the case against the Nevada Supreme Court decision, said he saw the court’s decision as a violation of rights guaranteed to citizens under the U.S. Constitution. After a panel of seven federal district judges in Nevada agreed they did not have jurisdiction in the case, a challenge went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Eastman said the case could eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Eastman sports ultra-conservative political views on many issues.

In 2000, Eastman wrote an article for the Los Angeles Daily Journal about abortion and homosexuality titled “The 20th Century’s Twin Relics of Barbarism.” In the article, Eastman states that abortion is barbaric because it “deprives some human beings of a right even more precious than liberty, the right to life itself,” while homosexuality is barbaric because it undermines “the institution of marriage and the civil society that rests on it.”

He said he does not see his controversial stances as a liability either in the court of law or in the eyes of the public.

“There’s an old adage that there is no such thing as bad press,” he said. “And saying that abortion is barbaric is hardly extreme. The fact of the matter is that I’m proud to stand by our organization and what it believes in. After all, we are the leading think tank in the country, and our organization is so bread-and-butter that we are completely mainstream America.”

Several members of Claremont Institute have been at the forefront of right-wing political causes. Claremont Vice President Larry P. Arnn is a member of the Council on National Policy, a network of Republicans that includes televangelist Pat Robertson and religious-right radio broadcaster James Dobson. The group frequently meets to plot political strategy. According to The Wall Street Journal, Arnn has called for a repeal of the 16th Amendment, which gives the federal government the power to levy income taxes.

Perhaps the most extreme member of the Claremont Institute is Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., who sits on Claremont’s board of directors. Ahmanson, a California multi-millionaire who inherited Home Savings of America from his father, also served for more than 20 years on the board of the Chalcedon Institute. That group’s vision statement, as posted on its Web site, proposes a return to “an explicitly Biblical system of thought and action as the exclusive basis for civilization.” Chalcedon’s president, Dr. Rousas J. Rushdoony, is considered to be the modern patriarch of Christian Reconstructionism, a group that believes that the nation’s legal system should be modeled on Biblical Old Testament law, where offenses such as blasphemy and adultery could be punished by death.

Ahmanson has also generously funded the movement to teach creationism along with evolutionary theory in schools.

“Howard is a great member of our organization,” said Eastman. “But I don’t think it’s fair to say that just because a certain member has a certain view that it reflects the organization’s view.”

Republican Lynn Hettrick, Nevada Assembly speaker and a party to the challenge to the Nevada Supreme Court decision, said that Claremont Institute’s conservative stances are irrelevant to the matter at hand in Nevada.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Hettrick said. “But the Claremont Institute is a highly respected organization that believes in separation of powers and appropriate actions by all branches of government. Now if their opinions were having some sort of impact on the case, that would be different. But their opinions are not having an impact, they’re arguing the case on its merits.”

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Posted inDennis Myers Memorial

Politics

Photo By Dennis Myers U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons made the national news this week—to his regret.

The politics of plagiarism
The Elko Daily Free Press, which produced the first report on U.S. Rep. James Gibbons’ dinner speech in this city, which turned out to be plagiarized, has not made any online additions to that first report to reflect or denote the plagiarism.

Newspapers frequently go back and add italicized corrections to archived stories on their Web pages when they discover they’ve made mistakes, but there is less standard protocol for instances when the subject of a news story wants to revise the record.

The story on the Free Press Web page is undated, but it was written after Gibbons’ speech to a Feb. 25 Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Elko. The story said Gibbons “passionately proclaimed his heartfelt support for troops waging the war on terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan and voiced blistering contempt for certain celebrities for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

It was later revealed by the Free Press that most of the incendiary remarks, in which Gibbons called for using critics of the Iraq war as human shields, were actually written by an Alabama woman and apparently lifted by Gibbons from an unsigned e-mail.

Gibbons apologized to the woman, Alabama’s state auditor, Beth Chapman, and she accepted his apology. Chapman originally delivered the speech herself in 2003 and then published it in a book.

The online publication Raw Deal went to Gibbons’ Web page to examine his previous speeches for plagiarism and discovered that all speeches have been removed from the page (www.house.gov/gibbons/ speeches.asp). However, Raw Deal was able to find caches and screen shots of previously posted speeches and posted them for its readers.

Some of them show Gibbons has a combative relationship with the English language—”The United Nations Must Pass a Resoltuion to Deal With Saddam Hussein” is the heading on a 2002 speech. A 2000 speech on an investigation of the Internal Revenue Service said the agency “does not know how much money its collecting” and used the phrase “if the IRS can not keep track its property.”

Meanwhile, online message boards and blogs were having a good deal of fun at Gibbons’ expense, including these ones from Raw Deal’s readers: “I’ll bet the speeches are gone because he routinely plagiarizes. Now it will be harder to check what he has delivered. All should know that this clown is the ‘favored’ candidate for next Nevada governor.”

“He went out to speak to a group in Elko, Nev., and read them something that had been sent to him over the wire, without checking it? This guy is a Congressman?”

At one blog (yin.typepad.com), Gibbons’ comments about human shields were compared to inflammatory remarks by liberal University of Colorado Professor Ward Churchill: “Ward Churchill condones the 9/11 attack. … Jim Gibbons wishes the U.S. military could have killed liberals in Iraq.”

The closest thing to a defense of Gibbons so far is a short message at Whizbangblog: “I’ve met Jim Gibbons. He’s a solid guy.”

Word of Gibbons’ troubles also made their way inside the Beltway, thanks to Washington Post columnist Al Kamen, who quoted the speech, then commented sardonically, “This was great fire-breathing stuff, surely one of Gibbons’s greatest, most thoughtful addresses.” He then described Gibbons’ plagiarism.

Finally on Monday, the final class assignments of students in the GEL 130 Geology class at the University of California at Davis were due. Several weeks ago, the instructor gave students a written description of the assignment. It told them to respond to a letter sent out by U.S. Rep. James Gibbons of Nevada to “mining stakeholders” seeking proposals for how to change the Mining Law of 1872. At the end of the assignment sheet, the instructor noted, “Plagiarism is a violation of the University Code of Ethics.”

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Dennis Myers

Dennis Myers was the news editor of the Reno News & Review. He was a journalist for more than four decades. In 1987-88 he was chief deputy secretary of state of Nevada. He was coauthor of Uniquely...