Hillary Clinton was never invited to 'join' the Federalist Society...
By Ernest A. Canning on 4/3/2024, 10:05am PT  

Politico's Josh Gerstein owes his readers a retraction.

Late last week, reporting on a deep dive into years-old White House records, Gerstein tweeted:

A FIND IN THE ARCHIVES: An invitation to Hillary Clinton to speak to & join (!) the conservative Federalist Society back in 1997. The inviter? None other than Leonard Leo, now viewed as an arch-villain by many on left.

But, based on the documents cited by Gerstein, his assertion is only half true...

In the Tweet, Gerstein includes links to a Politico newsletter highlighting his find and to the archival documents in question. But his claims, based on the evidence supplied, appear to be just partially true. In a May 23, 1997 letter, Leo invited then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, an accomplished lawyer, to speak at a Federalist Society conference about "The Lawyer's Role in the American Republic" in order to provide "a variety of perspectives."

But Leo did NOT invite Mrs. Clinton to "join" the Federalist Society!

In the Politico piece --- and in his response to my query on Twitter --- Gerstein referenced a blank Federalist Society "Membership Application" form, apparently enclosed with Leo's invitation to speak. It appears to be a standard plea to donors at the time. A brochure describing the group's work was included as well. But neither that blank form nor an "invitation to join" the group were mentioned in Leo's letter seeking the First Lady's "participation in this important program."

There's no way to know whether the blank form is something the Federalist Society would routinely include with this type of correspondence. The link to the archival material, obtained via Freedom of Information Act requests, includes a July 7, 1997 response to Leo from Patti Solis Davis, Special Assistant to the President. Citing scheduling issues, Davis politely declined the "invitation to speak" at the Federalist Society function on Clinton's behalf. Davis' letter also made no mention of an "invitation to join" the Federalist Society.

There's a vast difference between asking someone to speak at a FedSoc function and asking an attorney to become a member of the far-right organization.

By falsely suggesting that Leo wanted Clinton to join the group, Gerstein obscured issues of corruption arising from the sordid associations between Leo, the Federalist Society, the wealth of right-wing billionaires, and ethically compromised right-wing FedSoc ideologues now serving as Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court. He also seems to imply that Hillary Clinton was, somehow, of a similar mind with the so-called "conservative" legal collective. Gerstein should retract and/or delete his misleading Tweet.

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Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, and Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). He previously served as a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. Canning has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing

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