Ken Starr vs. Ron Wyden

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Yesterday, Ken Starr resigned from his position as the president and chancellor at Baylor University, after an independent review found that he had systematically failed to protect female students from sexual assault from members of the Baylor Bears football team and others.

It was a stunning end to a career that many once believed would culminate in an appointment to the Supreme Court. Starr, of course, was a federal judge and the lead investigator in the wide-ranging witch hunt that lead to the unsuccessful impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

Over the weekend, Josh Kardon -- the former chief of staff to Senator Ron Wyden -- posted a friends-only note on Facebook about Starr's "situational" ethics. I asked Kardon for permission to re-publish it here.

Kardon's note describes a time in the 1990s when then-Congressman Wyden was at war with the tobacco industry. You might recall that Wyden led a hearing in which all seven CEOs of the major tobacco companies declared under oath that "nicotine is not addictive".

It's a piece of American history that Oregonians should know and remember. Here's Kardon's note, in full (my bolds):

Many in the U.S. legal and political community were likely shocked to learn last night that the most prominent, and possibly the most brilliant, conservative, legal scholar and lawyer of the past four decades was "demoted" for helping Baylor rapists escape justice. Effectively, Starr's misdeeds as President of the university endangered women on the Baylor campus in order to shield Baylor and its football program from scrutiny and the loss of football games and reputation. Starr, once a national arbiter of decency and propriety, is now laid bare for his situational attendance to decency, propriety, and justice.

One who probably isn't shocked is U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, who once found himself in the gun sights of Ken Starr in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C. It was a harrowing experience for Wyden, as Starr ultimately put on a show for the appeals panel, mesmerizing the justices with his preening, but impressive performance. At stake was whether Wyden and his staff could be compelled to appear in a hostile Kentucky state court to reveal the source of documents we had obtained in the course of a congressional investigation into the tobacco industry. Wyden would have refused to comply, and presumably a Kentucky jail cell would await. Our attorney in that proceeding, the now-deceased Barbara Olsen, advised the senator and myself not to fly through the Cincinnati airport (located across the Ohio state border in Kentucky) or we would find ourselves taken into custody.

Wyden got an up-close view of Starr's situational ethics, as the Clinton Inquisitor found no contradiction in receiving millions to attempt to shield evidence of Brown and Williamson's long-hidden knowledge of the addictive and fatal effects of its products, while simultaneously leading the effort to gain legal access into President Clinton's most intimate and private life in an attempt to overthrow a duly-elected government. So while the legal community - which still admired Starr in 2016 as much for his conservative values as for his legendary intellect - tries to reconcile its memories of Starr with the portrait that is just beginning to emerge from Baylor, there's a tall, skinny senator from Oregon who could have predicted that Starr's situational ethics would one day endanger and tarnish the very institution and students he was sworn to protect.

Kardon also linked to a 1998 New York Times op-ed by Frank Rich. Definitely worth a read.

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