As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama must demonstrate executive experience, but he remains strangely silent about his eight years (1994-2002) as a director of the Joyce Foundation, a billion dollar tax-exempt organization. He has one obvious reason: during his time as director, Joyce Foundation spent millions creating and supporting anti-gun organizations.
There is another, less known, reason.
During Obama’s tenure, the Joyce Foundation board planned and implemented a program targeting the Supreme Court. The work began five years into Obama’s directorship, when the Foundation had experience in turning its millions into anti-gun “grassroots” organizations, but none at converting cash into legal scholarship.
The plan’s objective was bold: the judicial obliteration of the Second Amendment.
Joyce’s directors found a vulnerable point. When judges cannot rely upon past decisions, they sometimes turn to law review articles. Law reviews are impartial, and famed for meticulous cite-checking. They are also produced on a shoestring. Authors of articles receive no compensation; editors are law students who work for a tiny stipend.
In 1999, midway through Obama’s tenure, the Joyce board voted to grant the Chicago-Kent Law Review $84,000, a staggering sum by law review standards. The Review promptly published an issue in which all articles attacked the individual right view of the Second Amendment.
In a breach of law review custom, Chicago-Kent let an “outsider” serve as editor; he was Carl Bogus, a faculty member of a different law school. Bogus had a unique distinction: he had been a director of Handgun Control Inc. (today’s Brady Campaign), and was on the advisory board of the Joyce-funded Violence Policy Center.
Bogus solicited only articles hostile to the individual right view of the Second Amendment, offering authors $5,000 each. But word leaked out, and Prof. Randy Barnett of Boston University volunteered to write in defense of the individual right to arms. Bogus refused to allow him to write for the review, later explaining that “sometimes a more balanced debate is best served by an unbalanced symposium.” Prof. James Lindgren, a former Chicago-Kent faculty member, remembers that when Barnett sought an explanation he “was given conflicting reasons, but the opposition of the Joyce Foundation was one that surfaced at some time.” Joyce had bought a veto power over the review’s content.
Joyce Foundation apparently believed it held this power over the entire university. Glenn Reynolds later recalled that when he and two other professors were scheduled to discuss the Second Amendment on campus, Joyce’s staffers “objected strenuously” to their being allowed to speak, protesting that Joyce Foundation was being cheated by an “‘agenda of balance’ that was inconsistent with the Symposium’s purpose.” Joyce next bought up an issue of Fordham Law Review.
The plan worked smoothly. One court, in the course of ruling that there was no individual right to arms, cited the Chicago-Kent articles eight times. Then, in 2001, a federal Court of Appeals in Texas determined that the Second Amendment was an individual right.
The Joyce Foundation board (which still included Obama) responded by expanding its attack on the Second Amendment. Its next move came when Ohio State University announced it was establishing the “Second Amendment Research Center” as a thinktank headed by anti-individual-right historian Saul Cornell. Joyce put up no less than $400,000 to bankroll its creation. The grant was awarded at the board’s December 2002 meeting, Obama’s last function as a Joyce director. In reporting the grant, the OSU magazine Making History made clear that the purpose was to influence a future Supreme Court case:
“The effort is timely: a series of test cases – based on a new wave of scholarship, a recent decision by a federal Court of Appeals in Texas, and a revised Justice Department policy-are working their way through the courts. The litigants challenge the courts’ traditional reading of the Second Amendment as a protection of the states’ right to organize militia, asserting that the Amendment confers a much broader right for individuals to own guns. The United States Supreme Court is likely to resolve the debate within the next three to five years.”
(45:17-18; online link; slow).
The Center proceeded to generate articles denying the individual right to arms. The OSU connection also gave Joyce an academic money laundry. When it decided to buy an issue of the Stanford Law and Policy Review, it had a cover. Joyce handed OSU $125,000 for that purpose; all the law review editors knew was that OSU’s Foundation granted them that breathtaking sum, and a helpful Prof. Cornell volunteered to organize the issue. (The review was later sufficiently embarassed to publish an open letter on the affair).
The Joyce directorate’s plan almost succeeded. The individual rights view won out in the Heller Supreme Court appeal, but only by 5-4. The four dissenters were persuaded in part by Joyce-funded writings, down to relying on an article which misled them on critical historical documents.
Having lost that fight, Obama now claims he always held the individual rights view of the Second Amendment, and that he “respects the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms.” But as a Joyce director, Obama was involved in a wealthy foundation’s attempt to manipulate the Supreme Court, buy legal scholarship, and obliterate the individual right to arms.
Voters who value the Constitution should ask whether someone who was party to that plan should be nominating future Supreme Court justices.