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John C. Danforth

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On June 4, 2004, George Bush nominated John C Danforth, a Republican senator from Missouri from 1976 to 1995, and former special envoy to Sudan, to replace John Negroponte as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Danforth's Senate and international experience, opposition to family planning, religious-influenced politics, pro-corporate stances and fundraising for Republican candidates no doubt helped recommend him to Bush administration officials.

Danforth is an ordained Episcopal minister, an heir to the Ralston-Purina pet food company fortune, and a "Pioneer" for the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, meaning he pledged to raise at least $100,000 in "bundled" donations.[1] "If confirmed" as UN Ambassador, noted WhiteHouseforSale.org, Danforth "will become the 171st Bush bundler to receive an appointment."[2] Marjorie Cohn noted that Danforth "was also tapped to officiate at Ronald Reagan's funeral Friday, as Billy Graham is hospitalized. With millions of Americans watching that emotional event, the senators who will vote on Danforth's nomination would be hard-pressed to oppose it."[3]

Some of John Danforth's controversial stances in the Senate included voting against sanctions on the apartheid government of South Africa in the mid-1980s, voting to cut funds for United Nations peacekeeping in the 1990s, and voting to limit U.S. support for international family planning programs.[4] Based on these stances and Danforth's current close association with several large corporations (see below), law professor Marjorie Cohn warned that Danforth is "right-wing zealot in moderate's clothing."[5] A Mother Jones investigation into stock trading by members of Congress turned up several large deals Danforth made while discussions or votes on related industries were pending in the Senate. These deals include purchasing between $100,000 and $200,000 in Bell Atlantic stock during discussions of the Bell Atlantic/ TCI merger, and selling between $30,000 and $100,000 in Philip Morris stock as support rose in the Senate for the Tobacco Consumption Reduction and Health Improvement Act.[6]

The Washington Post reported that Danforth "has limited diplomatic experience, warn former colleagues and friends. Filling the shoes of Negroponte, a deft career diplomat who had major impact at the United Nations, will not be easy for the Missouri politician, they say." He was appointed by George W. Bush in 2001 to mediate the decades-old Sudan civil war. His performance in that role has been criticized: "Some of his limitations came into view in Sudan, including lack of engagement in details of the negotiations which he left to staff people and could be a liability at the UN," said John Prendergast, special adviser on Africa to the International Crisis Group.[7] Human Rights Watch, however, lauded Danforth's Sudan work as making "major steps towards improving the human rights crisis in Sudan," while cautioning that the Danforth report on Sudan "elevates freedom of religion above other basic rights."[8]

Danforth is a friend and mentor to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Both attended Yale Law School, and Thomas worked as an assistant in Danforth's Missouri Attorney General's office (a post he held from 1969 to 1976). Danforth "almost personally salvaged" Thomas' Supreme Court nomination after Anita Hill charged Thomas with sexual harassment:

In his book "Resurrection: The Confirmation of Clarence Thomas," Danforth described praying with Thomas and their wives in his office and playing "Onward Christian Soldiers" on a tape recorder before Thomas made his final defense at the Senate Judiciary Committee.[9]

Danforth's defense of Thomas went beyond praying; he tried "to force a vote before the Senate had been able to hear Hill's accusations," and "also threatened to refuse to support a civil rights bill if moderate Democrats opposed Thomas." In his book, Danforth admitted displaying very un-diplomatic behavior when Thomas' nomination was challenged: "I completely lost my temper in a table-pounding, shouting, red-in-the-face profane rage." Danforth wrote that he saw his role defending Thomas as "a warrior doing battle for the Lord."[10]

Other honors bestowed on Danforth include being appointed by the Clinton administration to head the investigation into the deaths of 80 Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas in 1993 (he concluded the FBI had "nothing to hide") and being briefly considered as a running mate to George W Bush in 2000. According to David Plotz, writing for Slate: "Danforth ... strongly resisted when George W. Bush considered him for vice president and also demurred when Bush recruited him to litigate one of the Florida recount cases."[11]

Since retiring from the Senate, Danforth has worked as a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP in St Louis, Missouri. In early 2002, "at the same time it admitted destroying documents related to Enron audits, Andersen hired former Sen. John Danforth to review the firm's 'records management policy and to recommend improvements.' What a sweet gig for both sides!" exclaimed David Plotz. "[Arthur] Andersen basks in the reflected glory of St. Jack. St. Jack will bask in the unreflected glory of a huge Andersen paycheck."[12]

Danforth "serves on the corporate boards of Cerner Corporation, The Dow Chemical Company and General American Life Insurance Compnay," in addition to Time Warner and MetLife, Inc.[13] He chairs the $312.5 million Danforth Family Foundation [14] and sitting on the boards of several St Louis-area religious and community groups.[15]

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