Skip to comments.'Conservative reformer' wants to be Senate watchdog
Posted on 08/24/2004 9:53:33 AM PDT by nypokerface
MIAMI - Larry Klayman is not a Republican clamoring to voters in the middle. He is unapologetically hard-line, courting those on the far right of the political spectrum.
The U.S. Senate candidate, formerly the head of a conservative watchdog group, advocates overthrowing Cuban President Fidel Castro and reversing Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the legality of abortion. He has started a nationwide petition drive calling for the United States to leave the United Nations.
But Klayman stresses that not all his views fall in line with his party, noting that he doesn't agree with all elements of the Patriot Act and that he agrees with the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing prisoners at Guantanamo to challenge their detentions.
"I always pattern myself as a true Republican conservative reformer," he said. "You actually strengthen your party if you believe in values and if you're willing to stand up for them."
Klayman said concerns over government ethics and openness led him to enter the crowded field for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham. Klayman resigned from the conservative organization Judicial Watch before announcing his candidacy last year.
"After 10 years at Judicial Watch, I realized I could continue the fight even more effectively inside of government," he said.
Klayman said he wants to continue his role as public watchdog and is campaigning on a platform that includes reforming the judicial system, lowering taxes and fighting government waste. He opposes abortion and said that he would fight to stop federal funding of Planned Parenthood and would vote to appoint only pro-life federal judges.
A former Justice Department lawyer and international-trade attorney, Klayman is best-known for lawsuits he pursued while head of Washington-based Judicial Watch. He pursued ethics claims against Bill and Hillary Clinton throughout the 1990s and represented Gennifer Flowers, who said she had an affair with Bill Clinton, in a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.
Flowers has endorsed Klayman and has signed on to attend campaign events in South Florida.
"For many years, he was a hero to a number of conservative Republicans because he went after the Clinton administration," said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. "Of course, the problem is, everybody's moved on. Clinton's not in office anymore; he's never going to be president again. It doesn't have the same punch and bite it once did."
But Klayman said a lot of the same Clinton players are still in Washington and involved with John Kerry's presidential campaign.
And while he says he will work hard to ensure that President Bush is re-elected, Klayman talks as if he's preparing for a Kerry White House.
"You'll need a very strong Republican senator to stand up to John Kerry and the liberal Democrats," he said.
Klayman also has taken on Republicans, suing Vice President Dick Cheney twice. Under Klayman, Judicial Watch brought a lawsuit on behalf of investors against Halliburton Co. and Cheney, its former chief executive. He also has sued seeking information on which outside groups influenced an energy task force Cheney led.
"How can you have the moral authority to tell others what to do if you don't keep your own house in order?" Klayman asked.
His supporters say his willingness to take on the establishment works in his favor in the race.
"This is one of those reasons his voice and independent thought in the Senate, and his courage to put principle ahead of party, is so very important," said former Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, a longtime friend. "It's always discouraging that people in politics will criticize someone for putting principle ahead of party."
In the Aug. 31 primary, Klayman faces former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez, businessman Doug Gallagher and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, among others. Recent polls show Martinez trailing McCollum and Klayman with only single-digit numbers.
Education: Duke University; Emory University School of Law
Experience: Justice Department attorney; international trade lawyer; founder and former chairman of the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch
Family: Divorced; two children
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