Skip to comments.Larry Klayman enters race for Fla. senate
Posted on 10/09/2003 11:56:37 AM PDT by kattracks
WASHINGTON (AP) What do Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dick Cheney, Osama bin Laden and Fidel Castro have in common? Each has been sued by Larry Klayman.
The prosecutor-turned-watchdog also has brought cases against Iraq, the State Department, the Teamsters even his mother.
Now, after nearly a decade of legal activism, Klayman is turning his attention to politics. He has entered the race for the Republican nomination for the Florida Senate seat held by Bob Graham, who ended his Democratic presidential bid this week.
"I want to take the fight for honesty, the fight for ethics, inside the U.S. government," Klayman said.
Klayman's lawsuit against his mother has provided fodder for detractors. An aide to Senate campaign rival Bill McCollum, a former Republican congressman, said Floridians could never elect someone who sued his own mother.
Klayman said he took his mother to court over health care financing for his ailing grandmother. He defended the decision, saying that at the time he did not know his mother was suffering from dementia and that he was simply trying to protect his grandmother.
"She was the closest person in my life," he said of his grandmother. "She raised me."
Klayman's penchant for litigation is so pronounced it is difficult to find people to talk about him; some are afraid of being sued.
"He opens up all the elephant guns in cases that perhaps don't really require that," said Paul Rothstein, a law professor at Georgetown University.
Born in Philadelphia, the 52-year-old Klayman is a former Justice Department lawyer and international trade attorney. He became renowned critics say infamous after founding the conservative, Washington-based watchdog group Judicial Watch in 1994. He gave up a $250,000-a-year salary with the organization to run in Florida, where he has had a home since 1977.
Most of Judicial Watch's money comes from small contributions. But Klayman said the group also has bigger checks coming in, including about $1 million a year from Richard Mellon Scaife, a billionaire philanthropist and vehement critic of the Clintons.
At the outset, Judicial Watch's primary target was the Clintons and their administration. By Klayman's count there were about 80 lawsuits. Among others, he represented Gennifer Flowers in a defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. Flowers claimed she had an affair with Bill Clinton.
Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., said Klayman believes no one should be above the law.
"He feels very strongly in the rule of law and strict adherence to the rule of law and that people need to be held accountable," said Barr, Klayman's friend.
Klayman described Judicial Watch as a nonpartisan "private Justice Department," a label his critics take issue with.
"I'm not aware of him constantly pulling Republicans into court the way he did the Democrats," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a Democratic-leaning watchdog group.
Still, after dogging the Clintons for years, Klayman's highest-profile target has been a fellow Republican Cheney.
Judicial Watch sued Cheney last year after the vice president refused to make public the records of his energy task force meetings. The suit seeks to determine the role of business executives and industry lobbyists in formulating the Bush administration's energy plan in 2001.
Klayman said the public needs to know what went on in those meetings. Cheney's lawyers have said the documents involved sensitive deliberations and they are appealing a judge's order to release them.
"He's not a bad guy but he got carried away with his power," Klayman said of Cheney. "I'm actually doing him a service by opening up his task force because if you keep that stuff secret then it raises an inference that he did something wrong."
Klayman characterizes himself as a Jack Kemp-style Republican a socially conscious fiscal conservative. He said he will run on issues such as improving homeland security and lowering prescription drug prices.
While his days of filing suits against the Clintons are over, at least for now, he has not forgotten the former first couple. When he announced his candidacy, Klayman told supporters that if elected to serve with Hillary Clinton, now a New York senator, he will be her "worst nightmare."
But did his wife give up hers?
"I did not in March 1997, promise Larry Klayman that I would pay him for any medical or other expenses he might incur on behalf of my mother Yetta Goldberg," she stated in a sworn affidavit. "On the contrary," she continued, "on that occasion, Larry Klayman was verbally abusive to me and to my aunt (Yetta Goldberg's sister), which forced us to leave his house and go to a hotel for the night. Moreover, on this occasion, Larry Klayman's wife, Stephanie Klayman, was crying while Larry Klayman was screaming at my aunt and me."
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