How a Former Prisoner Took Down a Big Shot from the Private Prison Industry (and Cheney Pal)
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As for plaintiff's attorney David Randolph Smith, a Democrat, his support of Puryear stemmed at least in part from a desire not to see an even worse Republican candidate should Puryear's nomination fail. In a conversation with Friedmann, and later on the record with the Nashville Scene, Smith said he did not want a "right-wing religious nutjob" appointed to the federal bench in lieu of Puryear, whom he viewed as a moderate. That Smith thought Puryear was the least objectionable nominee was not exactly a ringing endorsement.
On April 13, 2008, Puryear's ex-boss, former Senator Bill Frist, weighed in with a Tennessean editorial in support of Puryear. Frist condemned "political posturing fed by outside groups" and the "political circus" that accompanies judicial nominations, and urged the Senate to "not play politics with the federal courts."
Oddly, Frist failed to mention that during his tenure in Congress he had proposed the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules in order to prevent Democrats from using filibusters to block votes on judicial nominees, in a partisan attempt to ensure the confirmation of more Republican judges. Perhaps it slipped his mind.
At CCA's annual shareholder meeting on May 16, 2008, which Friedmann attended, CEO John Ferguson acknowledged the company had spent funds on Puryear's nomination for the purpose of countering "unfounded" accusations and "mischaracterizations" about CCA as a result of negative media coverage.
As part of those corporate expenditures, CCA hired MMA Creative, an advertising and marketing firm, and placed paid ads with the City Paper and Nashville Post.
CCA created a blog site on August 1, 2008 to "provide factual information" about the company and "separate the facts from the reported myths about private prisons." While not specifically in response to the Puryear opposition campaign, the site ( www.thecca360.com) includes links to two pro-Puryear blogs, one of which has since been taken down.
The CCA 360 site also contains a section devoted to Friedmann. Titled "Who is Alex Friedmann?," CCA answers that question by saying he is a convicted felon (without mentioning his felony convictions are almost two decades old) who "lacks academic training" and is "not a reliable media source."
In response, Friedmann said the website "is exactly what I'd expect from CCA, and I'm flattered that they consider my efforts so effective that they have to resort to such infantile tactics."
The End Game
CCA's public relations campaign proved to be too little too late. The Tennessean, the Nashville Scene and the Associated Press all ran articles casting doubt on Puryear's judicial nomination. The Nashville Post reported that Puryear should "keep his day job." Even the right-leaning Nashville City Paper referred to his nomination as "stalled."
Senators Edward Kennedy and Dianne Feinstein, both members of the Judiciary Committee, reportedly put a hold on Puryear's nomination, deeming him a controversial candidate rather than a consensus nominee. "I understand they have put Puryear in the ‘controversial' category," said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick. "It's very rare for a district court nominee to become controversial."
Finally, on September 23, 2008, after no movement on Puryear's nomination in the Judiciary Committee for seven months, Senator Lamar Alexander, Puryear's chief standard bearer, raised the white flag and acknowledged it was "not going to happen."
Ironically it was one of Puryear's ardent supporters, Alabama attorney Ed Haden, who may have driven the final nail into Puryear's judicial nomination coffin. In an August 14, 2008 Associated Press article, Haden was quoted as saying Puryear could still be confirmed based on quid pro quo deal-making. "At the end of the session, it's, ‘Who wants a bridge in Vermont?'" he said, in a not-so-subtle reference to Vermont senator and Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.