[Ann Southworth, guest-blogging, January 30, 2009 at 7:49pm] Trackbacks
The sample, and more about mediator groups:

Several of you have asked me to say more about the method used to generate the sample of lawyers interviewed for my book, "Lawyers of the Right." Jack Heinz, Anthony Paik, and I relied primarily on the “issue-events” method to identify the organizations and lawyers for our study – that is, we selected seventeen legislative controversies involving issues that were important to different conservative constituencies in the late 1990s. The events included proposals regarding abortion, affirmative action, school prayer, tort reform, environmental policy, gay rights, civil rights, flag burning, funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the minimum wage, compulsory union dues, property rights, gun control, criminal procedure, funding for the Legal Services Corporation, and cultural assimilation for immigrants. We then searched on-line archives for articles about these legislative controversies in eighteen newspapers and magazines, and we identified all non-governmental, nonprofit organizations that appeared in these articles on the “conservative” side of the issues. This method produced the names of 81 organizations. We searched a variety of sources — including organization websites, board lists, litigation records, and a database of legislative testimony — to identify lawyers who worked for these organizations as officers, litigators, board members, lobbyists, and senior scholars.

To compensate for the issue-events method's possible bias against litigation and research groups, we supplemented the list with five additional organizations that were particularly active in those policy arenas, using to two directories of conservative organizations: The Conservative Directory published by RightGuide.com, and the Heritage Foundation's list of “U.S. Policy Organizations” (Wagner et al. 2000: 681-789).

I requested interviews with 98 lawyers for the 86 organizations, and I interviewed 72 of them. (The 26 lawyers I attempted to contact but did not interview included seven who did not respond and three who had moved to other jobs. Scheduling problems (theirs and mine) prevented me from interviewing 16 lawyers who appeared willing to meet with me.)

In my last post, I noted that, in my set of interviewed lawyers, advocates for libertarian and mediator organizations were much more likely than social conservatives or business advocates to be active in the Federalist Society. My sample size is small, of course, but the trends were very strong: 82 percent of the libertarian and affirmative action opponents were active in the Federalist Society, and all of the lawyers for mediator groups said that they participated. In contrast, just over one quarter of the advocates for social conservative organizations and the same percentage of advocates for business groups were active in the Federalist Society. Perhaps these skewed results reflect the prominence of the interviewed lawyers; in the larger population of advocates for conservative and libertarian causes, the various constituencies might be more evenly represented. But maybe my numbers really do reflect broader trends in the Federalist Society’s reach and membership. As I noted previously, many prominent social conservative advocates do not work in major metropolitan areas, which would make it difficult for them to be active in Federalist Society events. It may also be that those lawyers see less value in the meetings and debates. In the book, I speculate about other possible explanations as well, but I really don’t know the answer.

I have one (surely naïve) parting question for readers. Why aren’t there more (any?) truly bipartisan mediator organizations? If the Heritage Foundation, Federalist Society, and other mediator groups that I’ve mentioned in previous posts use various strategies (including indirect ones) to build bridges within the conservative coalition and mobilize support behind the GOP, where are the organizations that might help promote consensus across political lines on the most important public policy challenges of our time?