Starr Constellation

The potential conflicts between Kenneth Starr's role as special counsel and his activities as a private attorney go well beyond the R.T.C.'s lawsuit against his firm. Last summer, Starr and his Kirkland & Ellis law partner Jay Lefkowitz were retained by the conservative Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation to provide legal advice about the "school choice" issue and other matters as well. Later, the State of Wisconsin hired Starr and Kirkland & Ellis to defend the constitutionality of its school voucher program, which allows the public funding of religious schools. The Bradley Foundation, in turn, is reimbursing the State of Wisconsin for the services of Starr and Kirkland & Ellis.

Critics noted with dismay that the foundation, which distributes some $15 million in annual grants, has funded an array of right-wing periodicals and media that have been instrumental in promoting the most sinister theories about Whitewater. Among the recipients of Bradley largesse is the Landmark Legal Foundation, a litigious conservative nonprofit that has provided free legal representation to L. Jean Lewis, the R.T.C. official who brought Whitewater to light. (Landmark has represented Lewis in her extensive dealings with Starr and the independent counsel's office.) Landmark is also involved in the Wisconsin school voucher case, on the same side as Starr and the Bradley Foundation. Currently, the voucher case is being considered by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On February 27, Starr, representing the state, and Landmark general counsel Mark Bredemeier, representing private parties, made oral arguments before the court. Bredemeier says that he routinely consulted with Starr and other Kirkland & Ellis attorneys, though never during his discussions have he and the independent counsel "ever discussed Whitewater or Jean Lewis."

Starr's law partner Lefkowitz said in an interview that billing records show both he and Starr provided legal advice to the Bradley Foundation, but that their firm stopped representing Bradley after the foundation began reimbursing Wisconsin for Starr's work on the school voucher case.

Among the half-dozen conservative organizations and media that have promoted the Whitewater issue under Bradley support is The American Spectator ($340,000 in grants, according to tax records). Bradley has provided $3.2 million in grants to the Free Congress Foundation, which in turn pays the bills for National Empowerment Television, a right-wing cable network that is provided free to all cable companies in America. NET claims -- whether true or not -- that its drumbeat of Whitewater coverage caused the appointment of a special counsel. And Bradley has made at least $700,000 in grants to the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank, which paid a former Bush Administration official to publish a study of the ethics of the Clintons (and who concluded, not surprisingly, that "Whitewater is metamorphosing into another Watergate").


Joe Conason is a columnist and executive editor of The New York Observer. Murray Waas is a Washington reporter. Research assistance for this story was provided by Chris Weeks. Research support provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

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