Graham’s Behind-the-Scenes Coaching of Alito Could Violate Senate Ethics Rules

In his opening statement today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he’s already made up his mind on Alito before hearing his answers:

I don’t know what kind of vote you’re going to get, but you’ll make it through. It’s possible you could talk me out of voting for you, but I doubt it. So I won’t even try to challenge you along those lines.

It should come as no surprise that Graham has made up his mind – behind the scenes, he’s been helping Alito prepare for his question and answer session. Here’s what the WSJ Washington Wire reported this morning:

On Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the “gang of 14” who sits on Judiciary, joined a so-called moot court session at the White House.

Coaching a judicial nominee behind-the-scenes is not the proper role for a Judiciary Committee member who must subsequently sit in judgment on that nominee. Indeed, it could be a violation of the ethical duties of a senator. Here’s what Senate Rule 37 (Conflicts of Interest) in the Senate Ethics Manual says:

“No Member, officer, or employee shall engage in any outside business or professional activity or employment for compensation which is inconsistent or in conflict with the conscientious performance of official duties.” … The Committee has interpreted this paragraph to prohibit compensated employment or uncompensated positions on boards, commissions, or advisory councils where such service could create a conflict with an individual’s Senate duties due to appropriation, oversight, authorization, or legislative jurisdiction as a result of Senate duties.

Having sat in on a “moot court session at the White House,” it has created at least the appearance that Graham is a partisan advocate — not an impartial evaluator — of an issue within his legislative jurisdiction.

UPDATE: The Village Voice has written an article referencing this post.

UPDATE (2): Drudge has linked to the Village Voice article. See the third headline down from the top.