WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary today voted 14-5 to send David Ogden's nomination as Deputy Attorney General to the full Senate for confirmation. The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination early next week.
As expected, the five most conservative committee members - Tom Coburn (Okla.), Orrin Hatch (Utah), Jeff Sessions (Ala.), John Cornyn (Texas) and Charles Grassley (Iowa) - voted against Ogden's confirmation, with Hatch having commented, "Mr. Ogden has consistently taken very liberal positions over a long period of time on issues that are very important to me... The pattern here is so consistent and the record is so long that it does give me pause."
Sen. Hatch was at least referring to the Child Protection and Obscenity Enforcement Act of 1988, co-authored by Hatch, which forms the basis for the federal recordkeeping and labeling law, 18 U.S.C. §2257.
Hatch is well-known for questioning Justice Department nominees regarding their stances on sexual speech, having extracted promises from John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales that they would vigorously enforce federal obscenity laws. At Ogden's confirmation hearing earlier this month, both he and Sen. Coburn asked the candidate about his views on 2257 and sexual material on the Internet.
Similarly, Sen. Sessions once challenged Ogden on his views regarding Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court case targeting private homosexual conduct that was later overturned by Lawrence v. Texas, noting that Ogden had written, "Constitutional interpretation cannot be limited to ascertain the way a particular law would have been viewed by the Framers. While constitutional principles do not change, the society and individuals in whom they are applied do, and our knowledge about that society and those individuals improves with time." Such ideas run contrary to the approved conservative stance that the Constitution should never be interpreted in the light of changing societal mores.
"He's everything the pro-family movement has fought against," said Patrick Trueman, former prosecutor with the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, "yet as deputy attorney general, he will be the chief executive officer of the U.S. Department of Justice. Certainly, he reflects President Obama on Obama's positions on pornography, homosexuality and abortion. We can see this from the nomination. And I believe David Ogden is being groomed for a position on the United States Supreme Court, with this appointment to a high office."
"A person's views on pornography are a window to a person's worldview," said Richard Land, president of the conservative Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, "and this window shows a worldview that is inconsistent with what I want the American Justice Department to be."
One particular bugaboo for conservatives has been Ogden's amicus brief, filed for the ACLU, in support of accused child pornographer Stephen Knox, where Knox was arrested for having shot video and been in possession of video featuring clothed young children, but with the camera focused on their genital areas. His eventual conviction took the definition of child pornography to a new level of vagueness.
"David Ogden represents an extreme liberal agenda," wrote Tony Perkins, former congressman from Louisiana and now president of Family Research Council, in response to the Judiciary Committee's recommendation. "He has a long career of advocating for the 'right' of individuals including pedophiles to purchase and possess child pornography. Mr. Ogden's record makes him unfit to serve in the Justice Department which is charged with prosecuting adult and child pornography violations. All senators still have an opportunity to stand up for children and the enforcement of our pornography laws by voting no on this extreme choice by President Obama. I urge each senator, regardless of party, to take a closer look at Ogden's radical record. We also urge President Obama to withdraw this nomination and consider a replacement whom the American people can trust to administer justice and vigorously prosecute those who violate our pornography laws."
FRC has compiled a dossier on Ogden's professional "transgressions," which is posted on their website. Among Ogden's clients which FRC found significant have been P.H.E. (Adam & Eve), Playboy Enterprises, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National education Assn., American Civil Liberties Union, the American Psychological Assn., People for the American Way, the National Organization for Women and the American Library Assn.
Though unable to stop the vote on Ogden, the committee's republican minority has managed to delay for one week confirmation votes on Solicitor General nominee Elena Kagan and Associate Attorney General nominee Thomas Perrelli, both of whom have angered conservatives and fundamentalists for their liberal views.