John David Ashcroft

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.


John David Ashcroft served as U.S. Attorney General from 2001 to 2004, and following that took a teaching position at Pat Robertson's Regent University as Distinguished Professor of Law and Government and formed a lobbying firm called the Ashcroft Group. [1] He graduated from Yale in 1963 and received his J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1967, and is considered to be a neo-conservative [2], a devout Christian, and a grittily determined singer, even at staff meetings. [3]

Married to Janet Ashcroft.[citation needed]


Ashcroft was a member of Yale University's class of 1964, an honor he shared with James Gustave Gus Speth. [4]

"Ashcroft served as one of Missouri's representatives in the U.S. Senate. He was elected in 1994. Previously, Attorney General Ashcroft served as Governor of Missouri, serving in that position from 1985 until 1993. He began his career of public service in 1973 as Missouri Auditor and was later elected to two terms as the state's Attorney General." [5]

In the 2000 election year, Ashcroft was defeated in his run for re-election to the U.S. Senate by Democrat Mel Carnahan, who remained on the Missouri ballot after he died in a plane crash. Less than three months later, Ashcroft won confirmation as President Bush's Attorney General by a 58-42 margin, the narrowest in recent times. Ashcroft announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney General on November 9, 2004. [6] His handwritten letter was dated November 2nd, citing gratitutde, success, and a belief in fresh leadership to take his place.


Ashcroft has been outspoken in his opposition to abortion rights and was cricized by civil rights groups for opposing the nomination of a black Missouri Supreme Court justice to the federal bench. "He also has come under fire for comments he made to the Southern Partisan, a magazine defending the historical reputation of the Civil War-era Confederacy," CNN noted. [7]

People for the American Way unsuccessfully campaigned against Ashcroft's nomination and released reports compiling his public statements on key issues. [8]

Corruption in U.S. Government

Ashcroft has made bold public statements against corruption by public officials. In particular he highlighted the need for law enforcment and the U.S. Department of Justice to keep their "own houses clean". [9] Ashcroft believed that the majority of corruption in government is unreported, undetected, and escapes investigation and prosecution: "We know that we can only detect, investigate and prosecute a small percentage of those officials who are corrupt."

Tobacco issues

As a Senator, John Ashcroft argued against a 1998 bill proposed by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) to enact comprehensive legislation aimed at protecting children from tobacco, arguing that the cost of such regulation would be passed on to cigarette consumers, thereby placing an unfair tax burden on low income families and inviting a lengthy court battle from tobacco companies.[10][11]

Ashcroft also served on the advisory board of the Washington Legal Foundation, a group that receives funding from Philip Morris] to carry out "advocacy," and which has been consistently hostile to legal and public health efforts to regulate tobacco and hold tobacco companies accountable for the damage caused by their products.[12][13][14] [15] [16]

Compassionate conservative?

Associated Press religion writer Richard N. Ostling, wrote, in his February 10, 2001, article "Bush's plan deeply rooted. Protestant thinkers helped shape his faith-based initiative":

"Like Bush, Ashcroft wanted to give religious groups a bigger role in federal welfare reform. The obvious problem was how to maintain separation of church and state under the U.S. Constitution.

"Ashcroft aide Annie Billings White, an evangelical Protestant like her boss, offered to seek advice from church-state expert Carl H. Esbeck, one of her law professors at the University of Missouri. As it happened, Esbeck had just delivered an extensive research paper at Chicago's DePaul University on the obstacles and the pressures to secularize when religious programs join service programs funded by government.

"Esbeck, a Protestant, has since become director of the Center for Law and Religious Freedom at the Christian Legal Society, an organization of 3,800 attorneys and law students based in Annandale, Va. He had sketched a law designed to grant publicly funded agencies more religious leeway while meeting church-state objections. He felt this was in line with less rigid Supreme Court rulings on church and state since 1981.

"The professor sent his draft law and his Chicago paper to White. That was the germ of the 'charitable choice' provision in the 1996 welfare reform law, one of the most important legislative efforts by Ashcroft, now U.S. attorney general."

On the White House office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, Ostling wrote: "Creation of the office is in concert with Bush's pledge to spend $8 billion in expanding 'charitable choice', in which churches and religious groups receiving federal funding to provide social services may now proselytize. ... Scott McClellan said on Jan. 7 [2001] that 'reaching out to faith-based groups that have a proven record of saving and changing lives is a top priority of President-elect Bush.'

"The primary engineer of 'charitable choice' was John Ashcroft, Bush's controversial nominee for Attorney General, who as U.S. Senator pushed through a 'charitable choice' amendment to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act ( 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act ) at the eleventh hour." [17]

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