Stop Ashcroft Coalition formed

By Kevin Zeese, President, Common Sense for Drug Policy

A broad coalition of organizations from various human rights, civil rights, women's rights, criminal justice, drug policy, gay advocacy and environmental organizations has come together to oppose the nomination of John Ashcroft as United States Attorney General. It is the largest coalition to ever oppose an executive branch nomination and has come together more quickly than the coalition that successfully opposed the Bork nomination to the Supreme Court. The coalition held its first public event on January 8, 2001 - in attendance were over three dozen organizations. The event drew 20 television cameras and numerous other media. At an organizing meeting later in the day over 80 leading Washington operatives came together to strategize to stop this nomination. They represent a grass roots base of millions of people.

As you know, Senator Ashcroft is a grave danger to sensible drug policy as well as other important issues. He favors a policy based almost solely on interdiction and law enforcement. He has advocated cutting treatment and prevention budgets to expand drug war strategies (even though two of every three federal dollars already go to law enforcement). He opposes needle exchange, opposes reforms to stop racial profiling, favors mandatory sentencing, opposes medical marijuana, favors prosecution for web links to certain drug advocacy cites and has favored secret searches (where police can conduct warrantless searches without telling the property owner they did so).

It is likely that the hearings will start in mid-January under the Chairmanship of Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and will conclude under the Chairmanship of Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) after President-elect Bush is inaugurated. The decision on this nomination could be made by the end of January so prompt action is necessary.

Stopping this nomination will be an uphill battle, but stopping it is possible. It will take an intensive focus on energizing the grass roots base of many organizations from many different issue areas including drug policy reform and influencing the media in their coverage of Senator Ashcroft.

While you should contact your senators, the initial focus is on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The current members of this committee include:

Republicans Orrin G. Hatch (UT), Strom Thurmond (SC), Charles E. Grassley (IA), Arlen Specter (PA), Jon Kyl (AZ), Jeff Sessions( (AL), Robert C. Smith (NH) John Ashcroft (MO) and Spence Abraham (MI) were defeated in the recent election.

Democrats Patrick J. Leahy (VT), Edward M. Kennedy (MA), Joseph R. Biden (DE), Herb Kohl (WI), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Russell D. Feingold (WI), Robert G. Torricelli (NJ), Charles E. Schummer (NY)

The make-up of this committee will change as the new Senate takes effect.

While all of these Senators need to be contacted, members of the committee that need particular attention through letters, phone calls, emails and faxes, especially from people from their states, include: Arlen Specter (PA), Mike DeWine (OH), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Herb Kohl (WI), Russell Feingold (WI), Robert Torricelli (NJ)

Stopping this nomination is very important to our making progress. I urge you to take action today and urge your colleagues, members, activists and friends to join you in doing so.

If anyone would like additional information on this matter, please contact me at