11 Jul 2009

Opposition Research, or the Politics of Personal Destruction?

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Mess with the American left, its agenda, its candidate, or its appointees, and watch out! They will come after you. Well-funded organizations have the professional staff and all the resources needed to poke and pry into your life and background looking for ammunition, looking for anything negative that can be passed along to faithful and determined media allies to be used to discredit or destroy.

Sonia Sotomayor’s curt ruling in Ricci v. DeStefano (later overturned by the Supreme Court) is an obvious major vulnerability, so Norman Lear’s ultraliberal People for the American Way, as McClatchey reports, is painting a bright orange target on the middle of the back of the 35 year old fireman who brought the suit in the first place.

Supporters of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor are quietly targeting the Connecticut firefighter who’s at the center of Sotomayor’s most controversial ruling.

On the eve of Sotomayor’s Senate confirmation hearing, her advocates have been urging journalists to scrutinize what one called the “troubled and litigious work history” of firefighter Frank Ricci.

This is opposition research: a constant shadow on Capitol Hill. …

On Friday, citing in an e-mail “Frank Ricci’s troubled and litigious work history,” the liberal advocacy group People for the American Way drew reporters’ attention to Ricci’s past. Other advocates for Sotomayor have discreetly urged journalists to pursue similar story lines.

Specifically, the advocates have zeroed in on an earlier 1995 lawsuit Ricci filed claiming the city of New Haven discriminated against him because he’s dyslexic. The advocates cite other Hartford Courant stories from the same era recounting how Ricci was fired by a fire department in Middletown, Conn., allegedly, Ricci said at the time, because of safety concerns he raised.

The Middletown-area fire department was subsequently fined for safety violations, but the Connecticut Department of Labor dismissed Ricci’s retaliation complaint.

No People for the American Way officials could be reached Friday to speak on the record about the press campaign.

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