Former Bush-appointed judge definitively debunks Matheson smear

Fox News personalities and other right-wing media figures have been baselessly claiming or suggesting that the Obama administration bribed Rep. Jim Matheson by nominating his brother Scott to a seat on the federal judiciary. Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano even declared it might be illegal for Rep. Matheson to vote for health care reform. Those claims were always extremely dubious, and a spokesman for Republican Sen. Robert Bennett said: “Sen. Bennett has heard of all kinds of pressure being applied and offers being made to Democrats for votes on health care, but Scott Matheson's nomination is not one of those because it has been in the works for a long time.”

But now the claim has been definitively debunked by former Judge Michael McConnell -- an appointee of former President Bush -- who last occupied the seat for which Scott Matheson has been named. Referring to the claim that Scott Matheson was picked in order to change Rep. Matheson's vote, McConnell wrote: “From my personal knowledge, this speculation cannot be true.” From McConnell's March 18 Salt Lake City Tribune letter to the editor:

News that University of Utah law professor Scott Matheson Jr. has been nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals has been marred by speculation that the nomination is an attempt to suborn the vote of his brother, Rep. Jim Matheson, in favor of the Obama administration's health care proposal. From my personal knowledge, this speculation cannot be true.

As the former occupant of the judicial position to which Matheson has been named, I was consulted in August 2001 [sic] by the White House Counsel's office to discuss potential nominees. It was clear Matheson was the leading contender.

The decision to nominate Matheson must have been made by mid-October, because in mid-January 2010 I received a call from the American Bar Association committee investigating him. Because of the need for a thorough FBI check, it takes approximately three months from the date the White House decides on a judicial nominee before the ABA can do its work. On Nov. 7, the House of Representatives passed the health care bill, with Rep. Matheson voting “nay.”

McConnell added: “Evidently, President Barack Obama nominated Matheson, who has superb credentials and excellent character, for the position despite the politics of health care, not because of it.”

And McConnell is not just any run-of-the-mill Bush appointee. He was widely rumored to be on Bush's short list for a Supreme Court nomination in 2005. And WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah said that McConnell would be an "excellent choice" for the Supreme Court.