News & Politics

The Roberts file


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Here is a dossier on Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.:

AGE: 50

BORN: Buffalo, New York

MARRIED TO: Jane Sullivan Roberts, attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

RACE: White

RELIGION: Catholic (Church of the Little Flower, Bethesda, Maryland, whose members include L. Paul Bremer III)

PROTÉGÉ OF: Chief Justice William Rehnquist

NET WORTH: $3,782,275

SCOTUS RECORD: Argued 39 cases; won 25

SHERPA: Fred Thompson, former Tennessee senator and current Law and Order star, will guide Roberts through the congressional maze.

LEGAL GROUPS: Republican National Lawyers Association, National Legal Center for the Public Interest’s Legal Advisory Council, which includes Ken Starr and C. Boyden Gray (Roberts was a member until 2003).

He is a favorite of Federalist Society lawyers. (Roberts denies that he was ever a Federalist Society member.)

ELECTORAL-POLITICS ACTIVITIES: Executive committee of D.C. Lawyers for Bush-Quayle ’88; member of Lawyers for Bush-Cheney

TOUGH LOVE: “No one is very happy about the events that led to this litigation,” he wrote in an opinion upholding the arrest of a 12-year-old girl caught eating on a D.C. subway. “Her shoelaces were removed, and she was transported in the windowless rear compartment of a police vehicle to a juvenile processing center, where she was booked, fingerprinted, and detained until released to her mother some three hours later—all for eating a single french fry.”

Roberts added, “The question before us, however, is not whether these policies were a bad idea, but whether they violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution. Like the District Court, we conclude that they did not, and accordingly we affirm.”

POSSIBLE CONFLICTS INVOLVING WIFE’S WORK: Cases involving Jane Sullivan Roberts’s clients and firm. She gave $250 to Illinois Senate candidate Peter Fitzgerald in 1998, but her contributions to her firm’s PAC have totaled $3,772, and the firm’s clients include American Express, Chevron, Deutsche Bank, GE, JPMorgan Chase Bank, SBC, and Stanford University.

She is currently legal counsel to the anti-abortion group Feminists for Life of America (FFLA).


  • Roberts, while at Hogan & Hartson, played a behind-the-scenes role in George Bush’s election court battle in Florida in 2000.
  • Roberts’s campaign contributions in 2000 included $1,000 to George Bush and $500 to Indiana GOP senator Richard Lugar. In the ’98 cycle, he gave $1,235 to Illinois GOP Senate candidate Peter Fitzgerald, who went on to defeat Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and $1,000 to Indiana Senate candidate Peter Rusthoven, who lost in the GOP primary. Fitzgerald’s campaign was heavily bankrolled by right-to-life groups.
  • Roberts’s other political contributions were through Hogan & Hartson’s PAC, totaling $7,450 over the years. In all, Roberts’s contributions to federal candidates, PACs, and parties have totaled $11,185.ROBERTS’S HISTORY WITH HOGAN & HARTSON: He was a partner for 10 years. Since 1989, the D.C. law firm and its members have given $2.3 million in campaign contributions.

    Hogan & Hartson, with 451 lawyers in the capital and 1,000 overall, had been No. 1 in D.C. in billable hours in recent times—until last year, when it fell to second. Average yearly profit for partners is $905,000, according to Legal Times. Major recent work by the firm has included moving Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. operation from Australia to the U.S., and the News Corp. acquisition of General Motors’ stake in Hughes Electronics.

    Since Roberts’s 2000 election work in Florida, ties between the law firm and Florida governor Jeb Bush’s administration have grown, reports Knight Ridder. Jeb Bush’s former counsel Carol Licko joined Hogan & Hartson as a partner after it bought her Miami firm. Hogan & Hartson is developing its Latin American activities, using Miami as a springboard. The firm, which first opened offices in Florida in 2000, has represented the state in water rights disputes with Georgia and Alabama and against Coastal Petroleum over Gulf of Mexico leases, according to Knight Ridder.

    ROBERTS’S CLIENTS AT HOGAN & HARTSON: Included Litton Industries (merged with Northrop Grumman), Pulte Corp. (major home builder in U.S. and Mexico), National Credit Union Association, and Intergraph Corporation.

    ROBERTS’S LOBBYING ACTIVITIES AT HOGAN & HARTSON: Western Peanut Growers Association in 1996, for which he was paid $20,000, and Panhandle Peanut Growers Association in 1997 ($10,000), lobbying the Department of Agriculture, Justice Department, and U.S. House on warehouse-storage loan program and peanut price supports.


  • Supporting Roberts (partial list): Concerned Women for America, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Southern Baptist Convention, Christian Coalition, Heritage Foundation, American Center for Law and Justice, Progress for America.
  • Opposing Roberts (partial list): Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Organization for Women,, NARAL.
  • Leaning toward opposing, but not yet decided: People for the American Way (“serious concerns, questions”), Alliance for Justice (“initial review has led to serious concerns”), American Civil Liberties Union (“deep concern”), Feminist Majority.

    New Saudi envoy to U.S. is Prince Turki, bin Laden’s ex-handler

    George W. Bush has been much criticized for covering up for the retiring Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar, a longtime Bush family confidant. But the new Saudi ambassador, former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal, is if anything a more dubious envoy.

    “Yes, he knew members of Al Qaeda,” The New York Times quoted a U.S. official as saying of Turki. “Yes, he talked to the Taliban. At times he delivered messages to us and from us regarding Osama bin Laden and others. Yes, he had links that in this day and age would be considered problematic, but at the time we used those links.”

    Richard Clarke, in Against All Enemies, notes that in the ’80s, “the Saudis took the lead in assembling the group of volunteers” to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Clarke writes: “The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki, relied upon a man from a wealthy construction family that was close to the Saudi royal family. Turki empowered a son of that family, one Usama bin Laden, to recruit, move, train, and indoctrinate the Arab volunteers in Afghanistan. Many of those recruited were misfits in their own societies. Many had connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, a longtime fundamentalist group that had threatened Egypt and Syria. Many of these volunteers later became the Al Qaeda network of affiliated terrorist groups.”

    When the Afghan war was over and bin Laden went back to Saudi Arabia, “Prince Turki,” Clarke wrote, “had reportedly asked him to organize a fundamentalist-religion-based resistance to the Communist-styled regime in South Yemen. (The contacts that bin Laden made then in Yemen proved valuable to Al Qaeda later).”

    In the wake of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa, the U.S. got the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to break diplomatic contact with the Taliban.

    “Both also sent their own emissaries to reason with the Taliban,” recalls Clarke. “The Saudi emissary was Intelligence Minister Prince Turki. Press reports suggested that he offered to increase aid to the Taliban if they would give up bin Laden.”

    That’s not necessarily the way it happened: Laili Helms, the unofficial Taliban PR person in the U.S. before 9-11, told the Voice in a 2001 interview that she got a message in 1999 from the Taliban leadership that they were willing to turn over all of bin Laden’s communications equipment, which they had seized, to the U.S.

    When she called the State Department with this offer, officials were at first interested, but later said, “No. We want him.” In the same year, Prince Turki reportedly came up with a scheme to capture bin Laden on his own; after consulting with the Taliban he flew his private plane to Kabul and drove out to see Mullah Omar at his headquarters. The two men sat down, as Helms recounts the story, and the Saudi said, “There’s just one little thing. Will you kill bin Laden before you put him on the plane?” Mullah Omar called for a bucket of cold water. As the Saudi delegation fidgeted, he took off his turban, splashed water on his head, and then washed his hands before sitting back down. “You know why I asked for the cold water?” he asked Turki. “What you just said made my blood boil.” Bin Laden was a guest of the Afghanis and there was no way they were going to kill him, though they might turn him over for a trial. At that the deal collapsed, according to Helms, and Turki flew home empty-handed.

    Additional reporting: Halley Bondy and Natalie Wittlin

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