ESR's Conservative of the Year: Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch

web posted December 27, 1999

He has suffered for his sins and judging by the mainstream media, U.S. President Bill Clinton is forgiven and now in the clear, able to serve out the rest of his term with his eye only on what he will leave as his legacy.

Or will he?

To many people, the Monica Lewinsky scandal comprised the bulk of the accusations against Clinton, a scandal which -- while sordid -- had little to do with the functioning of the government. A scandal which can now be forgotten after the impeachment drive failed thanks to the cowardice of America's politicians. That scandal may be history now, but one man in Washington, D.C. isn't letting up the fight. Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch in 1994, is continuing what must seem like a lonely fight,

Judicial Watch was largely an obscure foundation until 1996, when Klayman -- a former Department of Justice lawyer who moved into private practice -- took a deposition from a then unknown Democratic fundraiser named John Huang. It was a fortuitous move because at the same time, the fundraising scandals of the Democrats was just hitting the news.

From then on, Klayman and Judicial Watch have often been in the forefront of the investigations surrounding the Clinton administration. With a total of 31 cases currently filed against various branches of government, Klayman is working to uncover misconduct and violations of the public trust.

Those cases include Justice Department cover-ups over Ruby Ridge, Waco and Richard Jewell, an investigation into Vincent Foster's death, a politically motivated IRS audit of the Western Journalism Center -- publisher of the popular and conservative WorldNetDaily, a Freedom of Information request for information relating to the timing of the commencement of the Kosovo war and whether that timing was influenced by political considerations, and how Hillary Clinton's travel to New York is being financed -- or more simply put, whether you are paying for her Senate candidacy.

"...the only man attempting to hold the Clinton's accountable" -- from a vote for Larry Klayman

Criticism has abounded that Klayman, who has been described by the Washington Post as a "permanent, privately funded independent counsel," is abusing that which he pioneered: the use of civil lawsuits against government officials and agencies. Klayman answers those charges by citing his experience as a litigator. That experience has shown him that influence is now the dominant factor in the application of laws, something that just wouldn't allow the average person a real voice.

That's why Judicial Watch was formed, to give that average person -- which the organization has represented on several occasions -- a voice in correcting "unfair bias and misconduct." That mission can sometimes be confused with zealousness, especially since Klayman -- who is Jewish -- describes himself as "very religious" and desires a return to Judeo-Christian "universal" values.

Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way Foundation said in 1998 that Klayman abuses the legal system to harass people in a fishing expedition that has produced little of substance. "If you shoot enough bullets, eventually one may strike a mark somewhere. On balance, very little has been useful," says Mincberg.

Mincberg is clearly wrong. Besides Huang, work on the Paula Jones case, Judicial Watch has also seen success with exposing exposed the Pentagon's illegal release of information from the personnel file of Linda Tripp, and the securing of an affidavit from an associate of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, stating that he reserved trips on trade missions for generous donors to the Democratic Party. With the civil suits currently underway, there is no telling what Klayman will turn up in 2000.

Klayman and his Judicial Watch isn't stopping with keeping politicians and public officials on their toes. The group is also involved in judicial reform and has also launched a project to monitor judges, something that could keep them busy for decades with today's activist judicial branch of government.

Monica Lewinsky may be history now, but there is still enough to keep Larry Klayman in his office for 70 to 80 hours a week. Investigating an administration over technology transfers to China, fundraising scandals, FBI databases on pro-life and religious leaders, Hillary Clinton, Kosovo, and audits during 1999, one can only wonder what he will turn up in 2000.

Honourable mentions

Jim Robinson, Free Republic web master

Two years in a row as an honourable mention? That's hardly a slight. If 1998 marked Free Republic's coming out party as the premier conservative web site, 1999 was the year that firmly cemented the web site's status as the go-to place for those calling themselves conservatives to get the latest information, commentary and news. Free Republic has managed what few other web sites have achieved. It is a community where people know each other's names.

Visit a few times and you'll begin to learn the names of the more active members of the community -- which numbers over 500 logged-in people at any given moment during some parts of the day. Soon you'll be debating with them and perhaps even becoming friends, meeting them at the next anti-Clinton protest. Some web sites have spent tens of millions attempting to do the same while Free Republic simply grew organically to become that. And with a man known affectionately as JimRob shepherding the way.

Preston Manning, leader of Canada's Reform Party

At least he tried. The first half of 1999 saw Preston Manning, leader of Canada's populist and conservative Reform Party, attempt to unite the right wing. With the right wing vote fractured among Reform and the Progressive Conservatives, many believe that the governing Liberal Party has a firm grasp on power well into the near future. That dim vision for Canada prompted Manning in hoping that an alliance of right wing votes could break that hold.

Manning's drive to form a "United Alternative" peaked earlier this year in June when his own party apathetically voted for pursuing the idea (60 per cent) with only 30 per cent bothering to vote. It's doom was largely sealed when Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark rejected any merger between the two parties.

Was it doomed with failure before it ever began? Probably, considering the Progressive Conservatives are largely conservative in name only, but at least one national political leader had the vision to attempt something grand.

1998

Matt Drudge

Honourable mentions: Canadian media magnate Conrad Black, Free Republic web master Jim Robinson

1997 Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Preston Manning (Reform Party Leader - Canada)
1996 Mike Harris, Premier of Ontario (Canada)

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