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School Textbook Debate: Just the Facts or Rewriting History
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School Textbook Debate: Just the Facts or Rewriting History

BY Terrence Stotz

AUSTIN - Their line-by-line review is done, and textbook critics say they want these "facts" added to proposed history books for Texas students: *Indian tribes were as much to blame as fur traders and tourists for wiping out the great buffalo herds of the Plains by shooting the animals for sport. *John and Robert Kennedy did very little to help the cause of civil rights in the early 1960s - and actually took actions that undermined the movement. *All prayer in public schools was not really banned by the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago. Students still can pray in school. Those and hundreds of other changes should be made to new social studies books that will be used in Texas schools over the next six years, say conservative textbook reviewers who will press their arguments at a public hearing Wednesday. Their opponents are marshaling forces as well, saying groups seeking the revisions are trying to inject political biases into the books by misusing a state law that requires all textbooks be "free from factual errors." "These are groups that are determined to control what Texas kids are taught, based on their own personal beliefs and political ideology," said Samantha Smoot of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that frequently squares off with social conservatives on textbooks and other education issues. Wednesday, the State Board of Education - made up of 10 Republicans and five Democrats - will hold the first of three public hearings this year on textbooks, and the proceedings are drawing national interest. That's because textbook decisions in Texas reverberate across the country. Among the states, only California buys more textbooks, and publishers whose books are adopted in the Lone Star State market them in dozens of other states. Lots of money is on the line. Texas alone is scheduled to spend nearly $ 345 million on social studies and other textbooks that will be adopted this fall and used in classrooms beginning in the fall of 2003. Ms. Smoot's group is leading a statewide campaign to urge the education board to leave the new textbooks alone - except for correcting what members call real factual errors - when they come up for final adoption in November. That would be a mistake, say conservative groups such as Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, which has called on its members and other residents to pore over the new books, seek out mistakes and take their findings to the state board. "I think there has been a general frustration with the liberal academia who are writing our textbooks," said Peggy Venable of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. "This is one way for people to get involved and also express their frustration." Textbook battles were commonplace in Texas through the 1980s and early '90s when special-interest groups and board of education members argued over evolution, sex education and other politically sensitive subjects. But the Legislature stepped in and sharply limited the board's authority over textbooks in 1995, shifting more responsibility to local school boards. "I never believed that all the wisdom on textbook selection was embodied in these 15 people [on the State Board of Education]," said acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Republican who as a senator in 1995 wrote the massive school reform bill that stripped much of the board's power over textbooks. Then last fall, members of the board's GOP majority took a step to restore some of their authority by rejecting an environmental science book targeted by social conservatives. The book, given good marks by a review panel of professors at Texas A&M University, was criticized over passages that praise the Endangered Species Act and warn about global warming. History repeats This year, board members scheduled extra hearings, and with scores of textbook critics and supporters ready to testify - 70 have already signed up for Wednesday's hearing - it seems like old times have returned. State board members such as Republican David Bradley of Beaumont contend that the panel has always had broad authority over textbooks despite the 1995 law, which says the board can reject textbooks only for factual inaccuracies, not meeting physical specifications or not covering the required curriculum in a subject. "We're winning the battle," Mr. Bradley said recently, referring to those who want to see the board take a more active role in reviewing textbooks. Mr. Ratliff, who has been at odds with Mr. Bradley on the issue, said he is increasingly concerned about misuse of the law to "police" textbooks for political correctness. "The language in the law was not intended to allow these groups to police opinions," he said. "The law refers to factual errors - and that is meant in the true sense of the word. For example, if a book says the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1775 instead of 1776, that needs to be corrected." Perhaps the most ambitious review of this year's textbooks was performed by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a group founded by San Antonio millionaire businessman James Leininger, a big GOP contributor and supporter of social conservatives on the state board. The foundation spent nearly $ 100,000 to hire 16 textbook reviewers - mainly college professors and classroom teachers - who examined 28 social studies books up for adoption. They say they discovered 533 factual errors in the books and also cited the publishers for hundreds more omissions - facts that the reviewers say should have been included. "Finding factual errors was a secondary mission of the project," said Michael Quinn Sullivan, a foundation spokesman. "Our primary mission was to find what the textbooks are lacking, what they are missing." Clinton vs. Nixon The group's review of one high school history book accused the publisher of showing favoritism to Democrat Bill Clinton when comparing his presidential impeachment proceedings with those of Republican Richard Nixon. The foundation did not give high marks to any of the proposed social studies books, but did indicate it will not seek to have any of the books rejected. "We have not, and will not, ask for content to be removed. Rather, we want content added to ensure that every topic is treated fairly and presented accurately," said Chris Patterson, director of education research for the group. Opponents said the group's suggestions, such as those dealing with the Indians and buffalo and the Kennedy brothers, are off base. The Texas Freedom Network also is having its members, including parents and teachers, review the textbooks so they can answer the criticism of the conservative groups. One of those is Phil Durst, an Austin laywer who said he is concerned that the critics are using their political clout to censor viewpoints they disagree with. "My children assure me that their textbooks can be made long and boring enough without the religious right's dogma on evolution, gender roles and their view of Christianity," Mr. Durst said. Publishers are sensitive to the criticism, but they contend that the books up for adoption this year have a high level of accuracy, particularly when one considers how much information they include. "We are always willing to correct any errors that are discovered," said Joe Bill Watkins of the Association of American Publishers. "But sometimes there is a difference of opinion about what constitutes an error."

07/17/2002
Sarbanes' Measure Is Overkill, Study Says
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Sarbanes' Measure Is Overkill, Study Says

BY Donald Lambro

The Senate-passed bill to crack down on corporate auditing abuses has been condemned by a bipartisan group of economists, who say it will result in regulatory overkill that will enrich trial lawyers and heap huge costs on U.S. firms "with little likely benefit." The bill, which passed the Senate on Monday 97-0, "goes far beyond what is necessary" to prevent corporate fraud, the economists said in a lengthy study of its impact that was conducted for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. A copy of the study, which has not been made public, was obtained yesterday by The Washington Times as the House reversed itself and passed criminal penalties for corporate fraud in the aftermath of the Senate's action. The House bill, overwhelmingly approved in a 391-28 vote, calls for criminal penalties and jail sentences for executives of publicly traded companies who deceive investors. The criminal-penalties provisions were not in the original bill the House passed in April. Yesterday's action was seen as a move by House Republicans to strengthen their hand when differences between the two bills must be ironed out in conference, which could happen by the end of the week. However, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's study questioned the effectiveness of recent legislation, saying that many of the provisions in the Senate bill authored by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, "go well beyond what is truly required to stem accounting and auditing abuses." While some aspects of the regulations "are advisable on economic grounds," many of the reforms "will likely impose significant new costs on American firms with little likely benefit. In addition, the new rules may significantly increase the exposure of firms and, particularly their managers, to litigation," the report said. In a separate broadside against the Senate bill, Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, said the Sarbanes bill was "a giveaway to a major financial backer of the Democrat Party - the trial lawyers." "All the Sarbanes legislation does is make it easier for class-action lawsuits to be filed against corporations," Mr. Beckner said. As for improving the ability of the government to uncover further corporate fraud, the chamber study said that "there is a strong possibility that the new rules will provide little help in sorting out the bad apples, in which case these extra costs would have little benefit." The Senate bill passed Monday would ban personal loans from companies to their top officials and directors, and would require company insiders to notify the Securities and Exchange Commission [SEC] more promptly when they buy or sell stock. The measure creates a new private-sector oversight board for the accounting industry with disciplinary powers, to replace the system in which the industry polices itself. The chamber study was written by economists Kevin A. Hassett and Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute, and Robert J. Shapiro, a former Democratic Leadership Council economist. Among their chief conclusions: *"The bill imposes potentially large ... costs on U.S. firms, costs that Congress has to date made no attempt to quantify." *"The bill could introduce new inefficiencies into the normal operations of businesses and potentially new distortions into the reporting of their financial condition." *"The bill would create a largely unprecedented and unconstrained bureaucracy, with unlimited taxing power and authority when what is required is to allow the SEC to pursue the authority it already has." *The bill "would enhance the power of Congress to influence the establishment of accounting principles - a route that will lead to far greater lack of investor confidence in the securities markets than we have seen thus far." The study concluded that "the Sarbanes bill - in the tangible and intangible costs it will impose on the economy - goes far beyond what is necessary to address the significant questions about the quality of accounting and auditing raised by the collapse of Enron and other companies." The White House opposes the Sarbanes bill in its present form, charging that the new auditing oversight board it would create will overlap with the regulatory jurisdiction of the SEC. "What you would end up with is turf wars, finger pointing and things falling through the cracks," said White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey. Under the Sarbanes bill "the board would have much broader jurisdiction that would include getting involved in securities fraud, and we think the SEC should be the one that handles that. The Sarbanes bill muddies the waters," he said.

07/17/2002
Government Meddling Greater Threat to Social Security Reform than Corporate Misdeeds
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Press Release

Government Meddling Greater Threat to Social Security Reform than Corporate Misdeeds

Because Republicans have been reluctant to discuss the issue of Social Security reform – particularly in the context of the 2002 midterm elections – the relationship between the declining stock market and proposals for personal retirement accounts has been an afterthought. Democrats may incorporate the supposed dangers of Social Security “privatization” into their “Republicans are too cozy with corporate crooks” election theme, but beyond that scarcely a word has been spoken about the relation between the two.

07/16/2002
People in Glass Houses
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Press Release

People in Glass Houses

For the first 18 years of his congressional career Dick Gephardt (D-MO) served in the majority. According to Gephardt’s own official web site, “as a House freshman, he was given the rare opportunity of serving on both the Ways and Means and Budget Committees, where he quickly became a national leader on health care, trade, and tax fairness.” Apparently, Gephardt considers himself something of a leader on national economic policy.

07/16/2002
Washington vs. Wall Street: Will New Rules Boost the Market?
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Press Release

Washington vs. Wall Street: Will New Rules Boost the Market?

This week, the Senate passed a bill creating more layers of oversight for corporate accounting while President Bush has announced tough new standards of corporate accountability. Unfortunately, the current rush for more regulation and increased federal oversight of market activity raises a number of questions while offering few solutions. It is not likely that political wrangling will have much effect on stock market jitters. If anything, excessive new regulations could hamper the workings of the equity markets without generating new information that is useful to investors or that boosts confidence in markets. Rather than more legislation or regulatory controls on accounting practices, a better approach would examine the fundamentals of the current market.

07/16/2002
Confirmation Of Smith May Herald End Of Judicial Nominee Gridlock
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Confirmation Of Smith May Herald End Of Judicial Nominee Gridlock

The Washington Times (7/16, Hudson) reports, "The gridlock over President Bush's judicial nominees eased yesterday with the confirmation of Judge Lavenski R. Smith to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the first action growing from a deal struck last week between Republicans and Democrats. Judge Smith of Arkansas was confirmed by the Senate on a voice vote, after senators backed a measure to vote on his confirmation by a 94-3 margin. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, tentatively agreed to hold votes on judges in exchange for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, releasing his hold on the nomination of Jonathan Adelstein, an aide to Mr. Daschle, for the Federal Communications Commission. . However, the objections of Sen. John McCain over a particular nominee are forcing Republicans and Democrats to proceed at a snail's pace to confirm 70 stalled candidates. . While Judge Smith was confirmed without conflict, the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla R. Owen to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court came under fire yesterday. Her first committee hearing is set for Thursday. . Liberal special interest groups held a press conference criticizing the nominee, immediately followed by conservative groups defending her as a fair and qualified candidate. . The groups, which include the National Organization for Women, the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood, want Democrats to reject the nomination." Coalition Decries Liberal Groups' Criticism of Owen. The Houston Chronicle/AP (7/16) reports, "The U.S. Senate should not allow any 'left-wing activist groups to hijack' the confirmation process of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, President Bush's nominee for a federal appeals court, several groups said Monday. 'She's just, very simply, an excellent, an extremely well-qualified and a very liked judge,' said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which says it specializes in the defense of religious freedoms and First Amendment rights. . Bush has nominated Owen for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which decides appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. A hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for Thursday. Shackelford made his comments Monday as his and other groups pledged their support for Owen after a coalition of labor, consumer and women's rights groups last week labeled Owen an 'ultraconservative activist' who opposes consumer and reproductive rights. The groups last week pledged to battle Owen's confirmation. . Among the groups Monday that held the news conference in support of Owen's nomination were the Texas Justice Foundation, Free Market Foundation, Liberty Legal Institute, the Texas chapter of Concerned Women for America, Texas Eagle Forum, the Texas Home School Coalition, the Texas Christian Coalition, the Young Conservatives of Texas and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy."

07/16/2002
Department of Homeland Security, Meet Government Bureaucracy
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Press Release

Department of Homeland Security, Meet Government Bureaucracy

This Week – Homeland Security continues to dominate the House as nearly a dozen committees submitted their suggestions to a Select Committee that is working to create a bill implementing President Bush’s vision of a new Department. In the meantime the House is also moving through the Appropriations bills. This week they expect to have four on the floor – Interior, Agriculture, Legislative Branch and Treasury, Postal.

07/15/2002
Why Volunteers Enlist In Textbook Wars
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Why Volunteers Enlist In Textbook Wars

BY Jim Suydam

Unemployed consultant Bill Peacock is a foot soldier in the seasonal clash of cultures that marks the state's adoption of textbooks. Driven by what he saw as an anti-business, anti-Christian bias in the textbook publishing industry, Peacock is taking advantage of time between jobs to scour seven proposed economics textbooks on behalf of the group Citizens for a Sound Economy. "Some of the things I've seen in textbooks have kind of made me stop and pause," Peacock said, referring to passages that he says speak kindly of socialism and communism. One example: a sentence in a social studies book for sixth-graders stating that in a socialist system, the government runs companies "for the good of the people, not profit." Like Peacock, Austin attorney Phil Durst is also volunteering to hit the books children may end up reading. Durst, however, is motivated by the hundreds of people screening books for groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy. "The religious right continues to use its political clout to make textbooks more religious and conservative," said Durst, who will be reviewing books for the Texas Freedom Network. Hundreds of other people, from a variety of backgrounds and political stripes, are doing the same in preparation for Wednesday, when the State Board of Education will hold its first public hearing on more than 150 proposed social studies and history books. Those books are approved every six years. In other years, the state considers other subjects. The board will approve the textbooks in November and will purchase 4,681,500 of them for the state's schoolchildren to use next school year. The stakes are high for textbook publishers as well. The state will spend $344.7 million on the textbooks up for review, and because Texas is the nation's second-largest textbook consumer, what publishers produce for the Texas market is what children in many other states are likely to read. Different causes Among the concerned parties is a coalition of eight nonprofit groups, who have a crew of volunteer textbook screeners working for the only pay they get: little gems of perceived bias or incorrect information mined from hours of digging through textbooks hundreds of pages long. The coalition, organized by Citizens for a Sound Economy, includes the Eagle Forum, the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Gabler Group and the Reason Foundation. Also involved in the review is the Texas Federation of Republican Women. The Texas Public Policy Foundation, another pro-business, limited-government advocacy group, hired 16 scholars to review texts. Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said reviewers are drawn by a common interest. "Really, who's mostly involved are parents and taxpayers who want to make sure what we feel is important is in there," Venable said. "We've got some people who don't know where to start. We've got experts; some are experts in the Civil War -- or 'the war between the states,' as they like to call it -- some are experts in the Second Amendment. We've got teachers who will be teaching from these books." Venable said reviewers such as Peacock aren't given marching orders, but they are given extensive readings on how to spot bias and review U.S. history material, among other things. About 100 volunteers from the Texas Freedom Network, a group that seeks to maintain a separation of church and state, are also screening textbooks -- with the goal of simply being prepared to object to changes suggested by the other groups. "For too many years now, a small but vocal group of people has controlled the textbook adoption process in Texas," said Samantha Publishers prepare All sides in the Texas textbook battle claim popular support. All sides claim the moral high ground. And publishers must listen to everyone involved as they work to get their draft books approved, said Wendy Spiegel, a spokeswoman for Pearson Prentice Hall. "They all deserve to be heard," she said. "Texas requires it." For the textbook publishing industry, this is a dicey time of the year, said Joe Bill Watkins, an Austin lawyer who represents the American Association of Publishers. About 80 percent of the work on a textbook is done before a publisher can go before the state board to try to make the sale. Unsuccessfully negotiating the ideological minefield that is the state's textbook adoption process can be costly, he said. "Most of these publishers have been in the business for decades. They are businesspeople, not ideologues," he said. "They realize that they cannot meet every viewpoint, but they try to present materials that cover what lawmakers say Texas schoolchildren should learn, and they try to present materials that are factually accurate and balanced." In 1995, legislators passed a law attempting to hobble the social activists who have made the adoption of Texas textbooks a priority in their annual efforts. The law states that the board could reject books only if the books fail to cover the material state lawmakers say must be taught or if the books have physical defects or factual inaccuracies. That law hasn't dampened anyone's enthusiasm, however. Already, publishers have shown that they are listening. Some have sent early copies of their texts to groups such as Citizens for a Sound Economy, soliciting their views and making changes. And Pearson Prentice Hall has pulled one book from consideration. "Out of Many," an advanced-placement U.S. history text that Pearson Prentice Hall sells to many colleges, was pulled after Grace Shore, chairwoman of the State Board of Education, noticed a passage about rampant prostitution in Wild West towns. Shore said she felt the mention of prostitution wasn't appropriate for juniors in high school. Most problems that have been brought forward so far are much less sexy, but no less contentious. In one book that Peacock reviewed, the author explains socialism to 12-year-olds: "In a socialist system, the government owns most of the basic industries. It runs them for the good of the people, not profit," according to Pearson Prentice Hall's sixth-grade social studies offering, "World Explorer: People, Places and Cultures." Embedded in these two sentences are two reasons Peacock is spending his free time reading textbooks when he and his wife don't yet have any children. Peacock, who holds an MBA but considers economics a hobby, says the phrasing implies that for-profit industries cannot be run for the good of the people. The statement also assumes that a socialist government can actually use property for the good of the people, "when, in fact, that this is what is at the heart of the debate over socialism," he said. That example also points to the larger issue that makes this year's textbook battle one of the most contentious ever, according to publishing insiders: Although members of the State Board of Education can give a thumbs down only because of factual or manufacturing errors, there are often no right or wrong answers in social studies and history.

07/15/2002
Groups Support Texas Supreme Court Priscilla Owen Nomination to Fifth Circuit
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Groups Support Texas Supreme Court Priscilla Owen Nomination to Fifth Circuit

A diverse collection of individuals and groups will hold a press conference on the steps of the Texas Supreme Court Building, on Monday, July 15, at 10 a.m. They will announce their unanimous support for the nomination of President George W. Bush of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those announcing their support are: Texas Justice Foundation; Free Market Foundation; Liberty Legal Institute; Becky Farrar, Concerned Women for America/Texas; Cathie Adams, President of Texas Eagle Forum; Tim Lambert, President of Texas Home School Coalition; Texas Christian Coalition; Mark Levin, Young Conservatives of Texas; and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy. These groups will announce that they concur in the judgment of the American Bar Association and President Bush that Justice Owen is a "highly qualified" candidate for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. While not agreeing with every decision Justice Owen has ever rendered, these groups agree with the people of Texas who have elected her to the Texas Supreme Court that she is a highly qualified, independent mainstream justice. The groups will also announce their condemnation of liberal special interests groups who oppose her nomination. Texas Justice Foundation CEO & Founder, Allan E. Parker, stated: "The liberal special interest groups who oppose Justice Owen are demonstrating that they are out of touch with mainstream Texans and have no respect for the people of Texas. Justice Owen has been endorsed by the people of Texas and the majority of newspaper editors in this State as a highly qualified Justice. To say that she is not qualified is an attack on the judgment of the people of Texas." The Senate and the Senate Democrats should respect the will of the people of Texas and their judgment as to judicial qualifications. These non-partisan groups support high quality judges like Ms. Owen, no matter what party affiliation. For instance, each of the groups would strongly support former Texas Supreme Court Justice Raul Gonzalez, a Democrat, for either the Fifth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court. "The fact that the extreme left has set its sights on such a fair and qualified judge as Justice Owen demonstrates the depths to which the confirmation process has sunk. There is no basis for their attacks," said Shackelford, chief counsel for the Liberty Legal Institute. "Apparently, instead of judicial qualifications, the only qualification that the extreme left demands in a judge is mindless adherence to their left-wing activist agenda. If the Senate begins rejecting judges of Justice Owen's caliber, the confirmation process will be reduced to a game of raw political power, permanently damaging our system of justice," said Shackelford.

07/15/2002
Groups Announce Support of Owen Nomination
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Groups Announce Support of Owen Nomination

BY Natalie Gott

The U.S. Senate should not allow any "left wing activist groups to hijack" the confirmation process of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen, President Bush's nominee for a federal appeals court, several groups said Monday. "She's just, very simply, an excellent, an extremely well qualified, and a very liked judge," said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel of Liberty Legal Institute, which says it specializes in the defense of religious freedoms and First Amendment rights. Bush has nominated Owen for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which decides appeals from federal courts in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. A hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled for Thursday. Shackelford made his comments Monday as his and other groups pledged their support for Owen after a coalition of labor, consumer and women's rights groups last week labeled Owen an "ultraconservative activist" who opposes consumer and reproductive rights. The groups last week pledged to battle Owen's confirmation the U.S. Senate. Owen's supporters say she received a unanimous "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association and that she faced little opposition in her state judicial elections and was elected overwhelmingly. Groups that opposed Owen's nomination are showing that they are out of step with Texas values, said Allan Parker, the chief executive officer for the Texas Justice Foundation. "We feel those liberal special interest groups have no respect for the judgment of the people of Texas when they attack their Supreme Court justice and say she is not qualified," said Parker, whose group says it provides free legal representation in cases to protect individual rights, limit government and promote a better business climate. Shackelford said the only basis for the attacks by the groups is that Owen "won't legislate their left-wing political agenda from the bench." The criticism Owen has received comes because she has tried to interpret laws passed by the Texas Legislature, which has been somewhat conservative, Shackelford said. The coalition against Owen said last week that her opinions on the state Supreme Court, where Owen has served since 1995, are anti-consumer. They also criticized her rulings against young women who seek to bypass the state's parental notification law for minor seeking abortions. Cris Feldman, a staff attorney for Texans for Public Justice, which opposes Owen's nomination, said Owen's published opinions reveal an "extremist and activist by any measure" and said her defenders consist of a who's who of the "right-wing fringe." "Furthermore, she is inefficient in processing her caseload and she repeatedly goes out of her way to protect large special interests," Feldman said. Owen's office referred calls seeking comment to the U.S. Justice Department, where Monica Goodling said Owen would be an excellent federal judge. Among the groups Monday that held the news conference to say they support Owen's nomination were the Texas Justice Foundation; Free Market Foundation; Liberty Legal Institute; the Texas chapter of Concerned Women for America; Texas Eagle Forum; the Texas Home School Coalition; the Texas Christian Coalition; the Young Conservatives of Texas; and Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy.

07/15/2002

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