Explore Harvard's Nieman network Nieman Fellowships Nieman Lab Nieman Reports Nieman Storyboard

As we begin to look at Alberto Gonzales...

ASK THIS | November 12, 2004

In 2001, Morton Mintz, writing for the Tompaine Web site, posed questions for the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask of President Bush's nominee as attorney general, John Ashcroft. Many of those questions are still appropriate — even begging to be asked — of Alberto Gonzales (or, in fact, any attorney general nominee). Here are some of them, with a few changes in wording:

By Morton Mintz

Justice Department Policies & Priorities
Q. In the 1990s, the National Law Journal surveyed the counsels of major corporations, of which there are tens of thousands, and found that 66 percent believed their companies had violated federal or state environmental laws during the previous year. There have been very few prosecutions. Based on that, what are your plans for enforcement of the environmental laws against corporate violators?

Q. As Attorney General of Colorado, Gale Norton, now President Bush's Secretary of the Interior, favored letting corporate environmental violators police themselves. Do you favor self-policing for corporate environmental violators?

Q. The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the number of fatal work injuries each year from 1992-1999 at between 6,023 and 6,632 — an average of 6,247 annually. Over the decades, obviously, there have been hundreds of thousands of fatal on-the-job injuries. According to David Burnham, an expert monitor of Justice Department data, perhaps 5 to 10 percent were "a result of a knowing violation of the law." Yet by the early 1990s, "one businessman had gone to prison for violations of federal occupational safety and health law." What will you do about this situation?

Corporate Crime v. Street Crime
Q. Are there two standards of criminal justice? Is there one standard for people — mostly poor and minorities — and another for corporate executives who knowingly and willfully market defective products that injure or sicken hundreds or thousands of people? Who pollute in grave violation of environmental protection laws; seriously endanger workers in violation of occupational safety and health laws, or lie to the Food and Drug Administration about prescription drugs that cause injuries or deaths or were inadequately or fraudulently tested?

Q. Do you favor the death penalty for corporate executives who knowingly and willfully market lethally defective products, such as tires, SUVs, and IUDs?

Q. Can you name any corporate executives who have been indicted, prosecuted, convicted and/or incarcerated for having knowingly and willfully marketed a gravely or lethally defective product, gravely violated environmental or occupational safety and health laws, or lied to the FDA?

Competent counsel for defendants
Q. A study released in the year 2000 by a Columbia University law professor examined all death-penalty convictions that were overturned between 1973 and 1995. Nearly 40 percent were reversed because of ineffective assistance of counsel. Citing this finding, former Attorney General Janet Reno said, "Our system will work only if we provide every defendant with competent counsel." Do you agree or disagree?

American Progress Action Fund
Does Gonzales think torture is legal; what are his views on the Geneva Convention? Also: Gonzales and Halliburton, Enron, Valerie Plane and Texas death penalty cases.

The NiemanWatchdog.org website is no longer being updated. Watchdog stories have a new home in Nieman Reports.