Bush has promised to "consult" with Congress over his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. And true to his word, he's meeting with the party leaders and ranking members of the Judiciary Committee from each party. But. That's just a meeting and while I'm glad it's happening, I'm not sure his consultation with them will have as much heft as the non-governmental groups advising him.
Apparently, according to the Washington Post, Bush has outsourced much of the planning for the nomination to leaders of these outside groups - the Committee for Justice, the American Center for Law and Justice, and the Federalist Society. These aren't mainstream groups - they're very conservative.
The plan is for the Federalist Society to do the research on the nominee and for a fourth group, Progress for America, to spend as much as $18 million promoting the nominee. The Judicial Confirmation Network will organize grassroots support in six states, where key Senators in the confirmation process reside. Apparently, each group has it's own role to play.
These groups could certainly work together, independent of the government, to support the President's nominee. What bothers me isn't that they're working with each other - it's that they're working with the White House. It's the merging of private groups with government.
Unlike Bush, who at least gives lip service to the idea that he's everyone's president, these groups have no intention of representing every Americans; they only represent those who agree with their extreme conservative ideology. They're goal is to impose their worldview on the rest of us, to pressure the President to hew to a hard line conservative position. They aren't serving at the pleasure of the President - they're serving at their own pleasure with their own agenda and their own constituents.
The line between public and private institutions is so blurred as to be virtually indistinguishable. And the real problem here is that these private groups are not accountable to the public despite their quasi-governmental role. We didn't elect C. Boyden Gray and his co-horts. They aren't subject to federal background checks or campaign finance laws or disclosure laws or any real transparency. They are private groups. They're working hand-in-glove with the administration to sway pubic opinion. We should start treating them as extensions of the administration, holding them to the same standards we use with public officials. If they are doing the President's business, then they're doing our business. Even though they weren't elected.