Elena Kagan's Goldman Sachs "Connection"

Solicitor General Elena Kagan
AP
Paul Campos may be right to worry that Elena Kagan's track record doesn't suggest much about her judicial philosophy. And Senate inquisitors may unearth issues that some find will troubling during Kagan's upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings. But we're not even there yet and already the knives are coming out - but not from the right. It's the left that's going after the White House's nominee.

Serving as a very capable kvetcher-in-chief, Salon's Glenn Greenwald, has assembled a bill of particulars that sum up the some of the doubts heard from the left about Kagan's suitability to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. (Greenwald has a more in-depth critique of Kagan here.

I don't have any personal passion for or against Kagan's nomination, but frankly, some of the complaints are, at best, borderline.

Let's focus on the most explosive and, I think, the most ludicrous: Her supposed "connection" to Goldman Sachs. Greenwald links to Digby, who links to USA Today -gotta love those links - which notes that Kagan received $10,000 in 2008 for serving as a member of the Research Advisory Council of the Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute. Well, as the noted constitutional scholar and former New Jersey Nets forward Derrick Coleman was wont to exclaim on occasion, whoop-de-damn-do. Fact is that the "Digby" post offers nothing in the way of evidence that points to a nefarious connection. Read a little further, though, and you'll find the author's real point: "I think Supreme Court confirmation battles are ideologically instructive for the nation and are one of the few times when it's possible for people to speak at length about their philosophical worldview. Liberals have to stop running from this. Allowing the other side to define us is killing us."

There you have it. This is really about politics and dissatisfaction with the Obama administration. Some on the lib-left would like the White House to tack far harder in their direction and they are not pleased at his political instinct to move toward the middle. That's an argument they can have, though now it looks as if Kagan will get caught in the cross-fire.

Back to Greenwald. He also cites Sam Stein of Huffington Post. But Stein similarly brings nothing of real linterest to the table. The two reports that the HuffPo includes of the advisory council from 2005 and 2008 don't advance the conspiracy case one inch. The entire exercise is basically a setup for an anonymous quote from someone identified as "a prominent progressive."

"I just don't understand why the Administration would want to makes themselves and their nominee vulnerable to the opposition at a time when American skepticism of Wall Street is at an all time high...this is like handing the Republicans the mantle of populism just for trying to oppose Kagen's (sic) confirmation."

Is it really?

Like Greenwald, Stein's post makes much of the USA Today piece. But that article similarly fails to clinch the argument that Kagan crossed an ethical line. In this instance, though, the author did manage to get someone on the record-judicial nominations specialist Lee Epstein of Northwestern University Lee Epstein-opining that the Goldman Sachs word may "make things more complicated for her."

And so it may. Goldman Sachs is radioactive for obvious reasons these days. But Kagan's limited gig as an advisor to the now-tarnished investment house had nothing to do with creating phony CDOs or engaging in market manipulation. It was a freelance gig to supplement her day job. If anybody's got evidence to suggest otherwise, they ought to get it into the public record.

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    Charles Cooper is an executive editor at CNET News. He has covered technology and business for more than 25 years, working at CBSNews.com, the Associated Press, Computer & Software News, Computer Shopper, PC Week, and ZDNet. E-mail Charlie.

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