In a world of constant spin, it's refreshing to come across someone who doesn't even try. The Washington Post reports:

free%20logo.gifTwo organizations that have provided free trips to hundreds of federal judges received large contributions from tobacco, oil and other corporate interests, according to documents released yesterday.

The Montana-based Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment (FREE) and George Mason University's Law & Economics Center previously said corporate money does not pay for the judges' seminars or declined to disclose their donors.

But documents released by the Community Rights Counsel, a nonprofit Washington law firm, show that corporations including Exxon Mobil, Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco have contributed tens of thousands of dollars toward these programs.

How did FREE respond to this news? In surprisingly frank, unintentionally amusing fashion. Check it out, after the jump.

So here's what FREE had to say when contacted by the Post:

"How does it look? It doesn't look good," said Pete Geddes, FREE's executive vice president. But he said that despite what the Exxon Mobil documents say, corporate money does not go to reimburse federal judges who attend the seminars, which provide a free-market perspective in solving the nation's environmental problems. Corporate money, he said, is used for rent, salaries and overhead, not for reimbursing judges for their expenses.

So FREE goes with the "fig leaf" distinction of overhead versus reimbursement. But fig leaves tend to work better if you don't, well, admit that they're fig leaves:

[Geddes] acknowledged that that might be a distinction that makes little difference. "We try to do the best we can," he said. "Everyone understands money is fungible."

But Geddes didn't throw in the towel entirely. The article concludes with this colorful quote about FREE's judicial guests:

"I don't think they're going to come to Montana, go on a horsy ride and run home and strike down federal environmental laws," Geddes said.

Point well-taken. We're not aware of too many federal judges who love "horsy rides" (although Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg, of the marijuana-derailed Supreme Court nomination, rides horses when he goes fox hunting).

Katherine Harris, she's another story.

Firms Donated to Groups That Gave Judges Free Trips [WP]


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