Connecting the dots on Rudolph Giuliani's list of legal policy advisers requires little imagination.
We start with the candidate -- who served as the Reagan administration's No. 3 official at the Justice Department, before decamping to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York -- and then arc the pen to Theodore Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
Olson, who met Giuliani in the 1980s while serving in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was named chairman of Giuliani's justice advisory committee July 17 -- one day before Giuliani whirled through western Iowa, assuring Republicans there that he would appoint strict constitutional judges to the bench if he is elected president.
From Olson, also a former solicitor general in the Bush administration and chief advocate for the Bush campaign in Bush v. Gore, the pen stroke splinters to Gibson partners Miguel Estrada, Douglas Cox and Randy Mastro -- respectively, former assistant to the solicitor general during the Clinton administration; a justice official in both the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations; and Giuliani's former deputy mayor for operations.
The list tumbles on -- there are 20 names in all -- to include former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson (currently senior vice president and general counsel for PepsiCo), former Reagan administration Deputy Attorney General Carol Dinkins, former George H.W. Bush administration Deputy Solicitor General Maureen Mahoney, and Steven Calabresi, co-founder of the Federalist Society.
On its face, the list is a promise fulfilled to conservatives who have been openly queasy about Giuliani's support of abortion rights and his more liberal stances on gun control and other issues. But the committee, saturated with Federalist Society leaders and Reagan appointees, is more than a shove in a Republican race to see who's more conservative: the committee's influence could have real implications for the Justice Department and the U.S. Supreme Court, if events play out in Giuliani's favor.
WilmerHale partner Jamie Gorelick, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, says the list serves two purposes.
"First, it's to assure the conservative base of the Republican Party that [Giuliani] is conservative and would run the Department of Justice accordingly," she says. "Second, I'm sure he's trying to convey that he and those who are advising him respect the traditions of the DOJ."
SHAPING THE MESSAGE
On July 18, Giuliani swung through western Iowa, grabbing headlines after telling reporters that a judicial nominee's position on Roe v. Wade would not be a litmus test for federal judgeships under his watch, his position on the issue notwithstanding.
He was matter-of-fact, as he has always been, about the kind of person he would tap for the Supreme Court (someone like Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. or Justice Samuel Alito Jr.), and shoehorned Reagan's name into the discussion at least six times, according to The Associated Press.
Advisers say many of Giuliani's positions on legal issues are cemented. The committee has been tasked with fashioning talking points.
"We helped to shape the message that Mayor Giuliani would appoint constitutionalist judges and press for civil litigation reform," says Calabresi, who contacted Olson months ago expressing interest in working on the campaign.
Tort reform guru Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, has also signed on to the committee, along with Yale law and economics professor George Priest, and former Reagan administration Solicitor General Charles Fried.
Calabresi had been weighing which candidate to support, but Giuliani's résumé won him over. "[Giuliani] was a lawyer and No. 3 official in Reagan's Justice Department. He participated in picking the judges, and I think the Reagan judges, overall, were a terrific group," he says. (While Calabresi mentions Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Anthony Kennedy's name never arises.)
The Reagan associations abound in conversation with committee members -- signs, perhaps, of a mounting tug of war between Giuliani and yet-to-announce former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson over Reagan's legacy.
Thompson's (unofficial) campaign spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment about the "Law & Order" star's legal advisers.
Giuliani's other primary competition, Republican Mitt Romney, assembled his legal team in June. So far, it's considerably smaller -- except in name -- than Giuliani's, though a Romney campaign spokesman insists it's growing. Romney's committee on the Constitution and the courts is co-chaired by Mary Ann Glendon, a Harvard University law professor who served on President George W. Bush's bioethics committee, and Douglas Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University, who served Reagan and the first President Bush as an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.
Patton Boggs partner Benjamin Ginsberg and former Justice Department spokeswoman Barbara Comstock, of Corallo Comstock Inc., are also close advisers. (Mark Corallo, the other half of Corallo Comstock, is working on Thompson's campaign.)
Sen. John McCain's troubled campaign did not return calls for comment about his legal policy advisers.
Such a group can be as useful as a candidate allows them to be, but in presidential campaigns, where generalities are the preferred verbal instrument, they can have limited effect.
Stuart Gerson of Epstein, Becker & Green, former acting attorney general at the beginning of the Clinton administration, says most campaign issues are too broad to take full advantage of a 20-person roster of legal advisers.
"The question is, how much effect do folks like this have on the campaign," he says. "The issues tend to be very broad-based issues, and the level of sophistication is generally not high."
Giuliani's justice advisory committee is clearly a part of his reaching-out mechanism. It's difficult to explain why else a man with as much legal expertise as Giuliani would solicit all that advice.
Olson, the committee's chairman, says it's a sign of strength "that a man who is as knowledgeable as [Giuliani] decides to surround himself with these talented people."
Olson has been cobbling the group together for three months. He says his aim is to attract "legal professionals that are not only talented and experienced but also accomplished" to pad Giuliani's already substantial legal know-how and lift the former New York mayor's profile both inside and outside the legal community. The committee's role also hints at the type of people Giuliani might want on his transition team, Olson says.
"It shows the kind of people he would select -- he could select these people for leadership positions in an administration," he says.
The range of talent, members hope, will impress conservatives who are suspicious of Giuliani.
"[Giuliani] is a proven leader who can win the presidency and who would, as president, continue the types of quality appointments that we have seen from President Bush," says Estrada, whose 2001 nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit was blocked by Democrats. "Any conservative who is worrying about 'orthodoxy' on policy questions -- whatever that may mean -- ought to ask himself whether he would rather have [Giuliani] appointing more Alitos ... or [Sen. Hillary Clinton] appointing, well, the judges that we all know she would appoint."