The Left Has Been Doing ‘Oppo Research’ on Conservative Justices for Years

Over the last 18 months, the conservative justices on the Supreme Court have found themselves in the corporate media’s crosshairs. Justice Samuel Alito, in particular, has faced a coordinated attack from the left ever since he wrote the majority opinion that struck down Roe v. Wade.

Alito’s 2022 opinion was leaked to the media and published by Politico before the Court’s ruling striking down the nationwide abortion law. The justices’ addresses and personal information was shared online afterward and they needed increased security after threats from outraged abortion activists.

The attacks haven’t slowed in the two years since, though they have gotten sillier. Last month, leftist journalists demanded Alito recuse himself from all Trump-related cases because his wife flew an “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside their vacation home. And this week, a liberal activist filmmaker working for Rolling Stone misrepresented herself as a religious conservative in order to gain access to Alito and his wife. Alito’s supposed bias revealed in her secret recordings is his admission that he is annoyed with the media, and that he believes that the country is divided by “fundamental things that really can’t be compromised.”

“I marvel at all the nonsense that has been written about me the in the last year,” Alito said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last summer. After two years of nonstop attacks, Alito and Thomas are finally defending themselves and refusing to heed calls for their resignations or recusals from cases involving Jan. 6 or Donald Trump.

It’s good that the justices are speaking out. But conservatives need to understand that there is nothing to all the media stories concocting ethics complaints about the justices —they are simply being targeted by coordinated “oppo research” campaigns.

Oppo or “opposition research” is used in politics to destroy political enemies. Genuine ethical questions usually involve things like bribes and the abuse of power. Opposition researchers, on the other hand, find people you dated when you were 16 years old and get them to say nasty things about you. They then try and use those things to stir up controversy. They feed it to the media then try and personally destroy the targeted person to get them to step down from public life.

It baffles me that by now conservatives are still fooled by this tactic. They assume that where there is smoke, there must be fire—when the left makes the smoke up out of thin air.

I have been warning about the left’s plan to do this to the conservatives on the Court for more than five years. I first brought it up in 2018 while talking to an old friend over lunch in Georgetown. I had been oppo researched, almost to death, to prevent Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, a high school friend of mine, from taking his seat on the Court. I told my friend that even though Brett made it, the oppo was just getting started. She laughed in my face. (She did not laugh when she read my account of the Kavanaugh hit in my book The Devil’s Triangle.)

Since then, I have spent hours, days, weeks, and months trying to warn the political right. They are going to go after the friends and family of the justices. They are going to dig up all kinds of nonsense. They are going to secretly record them.

The left’s playbook was revealed at a live symposium held two years ago in Washington, D.C. The journalists Dhalia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate, Elie Mystal of the Nation, and Jay Willis of the leftist Balls and Strikes website, all announced that their coverage of the Supreme Court over the years had been terrible and needs to change. Calling it “a wake-up call” and the result of “the sinking feeling that we’ve been doing it all wrong,” the speakers argued that they have been too deferential to the Supreme Court and its traditions. As the title of the symposium said, it is time to “fix the court one story at a time.”

So instead of dryly “translating” for readers the text of SCOTUS rulings, reporters now spend their time attacking members of the Court with the same malice they used to reserve for covering Congress or the White House. There will also be a lot of horrible stories about people who are said to be “victims” of the Court’s decisions—women “harmed” by the overturning of Roe v Wade, minorities debilitated by the end of affirmative action, and so on.

At the symposium, Dahlia Lithwick concluded that “we cover the institution like it’s made of magic and ponies. We need to adjust so we can do our job of speaking truth to power, and the justices can do their job of learning how to listen.”

This, presumably, is why Slate writer Joel Anderson arrived unannounced a couple years ago at the Georgia home of Leola Williams, the mother of Clarence Thomas. It’s also why Anderson spends a lot of time on “Slow Burn,” his podcast about Justice Thomas, discussing Lillian McEwan, Justice Thomas’s former girlfriend. As Anderson told an interviewer on Crooked Media, she was “a therapist” for Thomas, who “was into some stuff in the 1980s.” Elie Mystal, when speaking about Thomas at the symposium, demanded that the audience harass the justice at his house.

Could I have been the only conservative who saw this coming?

Perhaps I am not surprised about the new American Stasi’s attacks on the Court because I have endured one of the left’s oppo jobs. Though frequently misunderstood, my point in harping about it for so many years has not been to indulge in self-pity or to inspire pity in others. Nor was it about self-aggrandizement. To the contrary, I have been trying mightily to issue a warning to conservatives: They aren’t done yet. They won’t stop with 1980s keg parties.

It is useful here to recall how they went after me. Their plan with the Court will follow a similar trajectory.

On Sept. 16, 2018, the Washington Post published an explosive article about Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Christine Blasey Ford, a psychologist in California, was alleging that Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her in 1982 when the two were students in high school. Ford also claimed that I was in the room when the assault allegedly took place and that I witnessed everything before jumping in and breaking things up.

On Sept. 17, 2018—not even 24 hours after the Post story broke—the Daily Mail ran a lengthy “exclusive” about Georgetown Prep, the school where Brett and I were friends in the 1980s. The Daily Mail piece was very long and detailed, with quotes from books I had written and pictures I had posted, some months earlier, on Twitter or Facebook. It described Prep as Las Vegas on the Rockville Pike, with keg parties, sex, drugs, strippers, and beach bacchanals. 

How had the Daily Mail gotten so much rich information to concoct such a long piece less than a day after the Post story broke? Moreover, how did the oleaginous D.C. lawyer, Seth Berenzweig, manage to get a copy of our 1983 yearbook and have it ready for examination—with passages highlighted and Post-it notes—for his appearance on a local news station just one day after the Ford story broke? Why, at the same time, was Blasey Ford’s own salacious yearbook scrubbed from most internet searches and media coverage?

The answer is obvious: It was organized opposition research. Ford herself was using an opposition researcher for weeks leading up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. His name is Keith Koegler, and in the weeks between Brett’s nomination and the fall hearings, he beavered away at finding anything to sink him. His work is described in a book authored by two New York Times reporters, The Education of Brett Kavanaugh:

A tech industry lawyer, Koegler was a voracious reader and a technical thinker. In his second-floor home office, he’d spent many hours that summer poring over news coverage of the nomination process, biographical information about Kavanaugh, and writings and videos produced by Mark Judge. In combing through YouTube, articles, and social networks, Koegler had learned more about the house parties … and the lexicon of 1980s Georgetown Prep than he had ever thought he would care to know.

Like Justice Thomas, I guess I was “into some stuff in the ’80s.”

The father of oppo research is a man name Averell “Ace” Smith. Smith, the son of former San Francisco District Attorney Arlo Smith, grew up in San Francisco. At age 13, in 1972, he campaigned for George McGovern. In the 1980s Smith served as political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, working with bare-knuckle political brawler Rahm Emanuel. Smith started doing oppo in 1988, digging through newspaper morgues, financial records, libraries, anyplace that would yield the ricin that could sink a political opponent. Smith has worked Richard Daley, Ann Richards, Barbara Boxer, Howard Dean, Dianne Feinstein, the Clintons, and Kamala Harris. At a book party in July 2018, just weeks after Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court, Harris appeared at a book party with Smith, dubbing him “the father of oppo research.”

“I’ve seen him walk into a room, and the opposition candidate will literally start mumbling,” said former Democratic strategist Clint Reilly, who ran campaigns for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former California state treasurer, Democrat Kathleen Brown. “They’re just totally terrified with his presence,” Reilly continued. Chris Lehane, a former Al Gore and John Kerry staffer, told The New Republic that “Ace is like Bobby De Niro in The Untouchables—he always brings a gun to a knife fight.” The San Francisco Gate said that Smith “has honed a reputation as a take-no-prisoners opposition researcher, one so skilled at digging up dirt that he’s earned the nickname ‘Dr. Death.’” 

One person who worked with Smith was Michael Avenatti, the criminal and disgraced attorney who is now in prison for extortion and ripping off clients. In 2018, Avenatti, after years of shilling for his one-time client and then accuser, Stormy Daniels, accused me and Brett of drugging girls and gang rape. The media believed him.

I don’t have the learning or erudition of Justice Alito, but I do have some street smarts. The attack on the Court has nothing to do with an ethics problem with the justices. It’s an oppo hit, plain and simple.

I’ve seen it coming for five years.

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