More on Conflicts of Interest

Beldar, a blogger who is also a practicing lawyer, defends Jamie Gorelick’s service on the 9-11 Commission (here and here) as creating only a de minimus conflict with her firm’s representation of a Saudi prince accused of having helped finance and organize the massacre. He is confident that “Chinese Wall” procedures will keep anything Gorelick learns as a Commission member from leaking to whichever of her partners are defending the prince, and observes correctly that the contribution of the case to Ms. Gorelick’s personal finances isn’t going to be very large. His posts are worth reading as a clear exposition of the ethical rules pertaining to conflict, as lawyers deal with that issue.

But Beldar’s analysis leaves in place the fact that Gorelick is in a position, as a commission member, to directly and significantly help or harm her partner’s client’s case. As Beldar points out, the same is likely to be true of any Washington lawyer with enough stature to serve on the 9-11 Commission. But that’s exactly the point that Dwight Meredith *, Glenn Reynolds *, and I * (along, as Dwight notes, with most of the left blogosphere, which doesn’t seem nearly as indifferent to scandals involving Democrats as the right blogosphere is to scandals involving Republicans) have been making: the world of the big Washington (and national) law firms, whose denizens are, collectively, a major force in American public life, is intolerably permeated with Saudi money.

When Saudi Arabia was merely one of the many nasty third-world tyrannies with which the United States does business, and the leader of the OPEC conspiracy to expropriate the world’s oil consumers, that was merely objectionable. But now, when — as I believe — Saudi Arabia is actually waging undeclared war on the United States, its penetration of our power centers constitutes a significant national problem.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: