Power Behind the Thrown Nominee: Activist With Score to Settle
          June  6, 1993, Sunday, Final Edition


LENGTH: 983 words

HEADLINE:  Power Behind  the Thrown Nominee: Activist With Score
to Settle

SERIES: Occasional

BYLINE: Michael Isikoff, Washington Post Staff Writer

    It was barely two months ago over a casual dinner at the
Jefferson Hotel that conservative activist Clint Bolick first got
the tip on Lani Guinier: An academic friend had heard that
President Clinton would nominate a "very radical" law professor
to head the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

   "Clint, you're going to love her," political theorist Abigail
Thernstrom recalled telling Bolick, who at that point had never
heard of the prospective nominee.

   Those words proved more prophetic than Bolick, 35, could have
imagined. A cheerful, ideologically committed former Reagan
administration official, Bolick  had been looking for the chance
to turn the tables on the organized civil rights lobby ever since
they roughed up his close friend Clarence Thomas two years ago
during his nomination to the Supreme Court.

   With Guinier, he smelled blood. As co-founder of the
"libertarian-oriented" Institute for Justice, Bolick immediately
started boning up on Guinier's law review articles, zeroing in on
controversial passages that had barely been noticed by the senior
White House staff. By the time Guinier's nomination was announced
on April 29, Bolick recalled last week, "We were ready to hit the
ground running."

   The result was a successful "idea-oriented" campaign
spearheaded by Bolick that, in the eyes of many participants,
made a significant contribution to Guinier's demise. Working out
of a small suite of offices across the street from the Justice
Department, Bolick and colleague Chip Mellor became what they
call "information central" for the Guinier battle, running up
thousands of dollars in photocopying bills as they distributed
more than 100 copies of her articles to key Senate staff aides,
journalists, editorial writers and other "opinion leaders."

  They also produced a drumbeat of press releases, reports and op-
ed articles that portrayed the University of Pennsylvania law
professor as a pro-quota, left-wing "extremist" bent on
undermining democratic principles -- labels that stuck and helped
frame the debate over the Guinier nomination in terms that made
it difficult for her allies to recover.

   While not even Bolick contends he won over moderate and
liberal Democrats, who also expressed qualms about some of
Guinier's views, his efforts "sent out an early warning light to
some of the most troublesome aspects of Guinier's writings," said
Stuart Taylor Jr., a columnist for the Legal Times who also
editorialized against the nominee and received material from
Bolick. While emphasizing that he did not share much of Bolick's
conservative critique, Taylor said that Bolick "kept the ball
rolling and kept the pressure on. . . . I think  he had some

   In recent days, liberal interest groups, reeling from their
defeat, have blasted Bolick, describing him as a right-wing
zealot who distorted Guinier's views beyond recognition.

   But as he returned to his office the morning after the White
House announced  Guinier's withdrawal, a broadly smiling Bolick
could scarcely believe his good fortune. It hadn't been Senate
Minority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) or his old boss in the
Reagan administration, former civil rights chief William Bradford
Reynolds, who had described Guinier's writings as "anti-
democratic" and "difficult to defend." It was President Clinton.

   "It obviously feels really good because our views have been
vindicated," said Bolick.

   While few Democrats in Congress would share that analysis,
Bolick's campaign  and the fight over the Guinier nomination
graphically illustrate that the bloody ideologicial wars which
marked judicial and some Justice Department nominations  during
the Reagan and Bush administrations are almost certain to

   At the same time that Bolick was leading the charge against
Guinier, for example, other conservative activists at Paul
Weyrich's Coalitions for America also had taken up the cudgel,
tapping into a vast grass-roots network in an effort to drum up
opposition to the nominee. Phyllis Berry Myers, another veteran
of the Thomas fight who now serves as a policy analyst for the
Free Congress Foundation, said her group did "a lot of phoning
and telefaxing" about  Guinier and featured the case against her
on National Empowerment Television, a  recently formed satellite
television network headed by William J. Bennett that promotes
conservative causes.

  But Bolick, who worked loosely with the Weyrich group in
plotting strategy, says such efforts are nothing new. It was the
liberal interest groups that pioneered such lobbying during the
defeat of the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork and
unsuccessfully during the Thomas confirmation process.

   "There's no question that in terms of tactics, the playbook
was written by the left and we're playing by the rules of the
game established over the last 12 years," he said. "And that is
focusing on crucial philosophical issues and moving swiftly to
frame the debate."

   A 1982 graduate of the University of California at Davis,
Bolick came to Washington as an assistant at the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and forged a close friendship with then-
chairman Thomas, who is the godfather to his youngest son. "He's
one of my mentors," he said.

   After a stint in the Reagan Justice Department, Bolick said he
has devoted most of his energies to "economic liberty" causes
that transcend ideological lines. His Institute for Justice, for
example, has attacked local economic regulations, such as taxicab
monopolies, that it believes hinder minorities. In  1989, Bolick
won a landmark lawsuit on behalf of a black entrepreneur in the
District, overturning a law that banned outdoor shoeshine stands.

  Bolick does not easily fit the right-wing pigeonhole in which
his adversaries have placed him. "We work very hard to establish
nontraditional alliances," he said. "We're not your typical
conservative interest group."