Federalist Society Shapes Key Bush Decisions, but Group Remains a Mystery to Public

New Report Profiles Society’s Leaders and Right-Wing Legal Philosophy

Most Americans know very little about — or haven’t even heard of — the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies. Since the Society has assumed a leading role in shaping the Bush administration’s legal policies and judicial nominees, this lack of knowledge about the Society is troubling. Fortunately, a new report released by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) provides much-needed information and insight on the organization that Washington Monthly magazine has called the "most effective legal network operating in this country."

The new PFAWF report, The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power, examines the Society’s origins, identifies its influential leaders, and reveals the radical right-wing philosophy that guides its leaders. The Federalist Society: From Obscurity to Power offers quotes from Society leaders, excerpts from the group’s recommended reading list and Web site, and other sources that document the Society’s positions on constitutional and legal issues.

"George W. Bush campaigned as a ‘compassionate’ conservative who wanted to bring people together," said Ralph G. Neas, president of PFAWF. "As a result, today many Americans are scratching their heads, confused as to why President Bush has taken such a sharp right turn on the environment, religious liberty, family planning and many other issues. In large measure, the answer lies in the individuals who hold key positions in the White House, the Justice Department and throughout the Bush administration. Many of these people are Federalist Society members."

"We do not question the right of Federalist Society members to influence Bush administration decisions and policies," explained Neas. "However, we do believe that it is important for the American people to know as much as possible about any group that wields this much power over policies and decisions that will affect their fundamental rights. It is in that spirit that this report has been produced."

Leading members of the Federalist Society have tried to downplay the influence they have both within and outside of the Bush administration. In a Washington Post column earlier this year, Society member Eugene Volokh insisted that the organization is devoid of ideology: "We have no articles of faith." Yet, as the PFAWF report illustrates in great detail, the Society’s leaders, publications, and other activities discredit this notion—spelling out a vision for our nation that includes turning back the clock on many of the constitutional and civil rights that most Americans take for granted.

Occupying key positions in the Bush administration—especially in the White House counsel’s office and in the Justice Department—lawyers affiliated with the Society are poised to seize the day by using the mechanisms of government, to fundamentally redefine federal powers and rewrite constitutional and civil rights through the courts. These mechanisms include the selection and screening of nominees to fill the more than 100 seats now vacant on the federal courts, as well as possible Supreme Court vacancies.

Click here to read the report.

Click here to download the report as a .pdf file.

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