Apparently trying to quell the rising waters of discontent among groups on the right, White House chief of staff James A. Baker III has established a regular pipeline for communications with several conservative groups that are upset about the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court.
Baker acknowledged yesterday that, in a recent meeting with representatives of several conservative groups, he established a regular process to permit the groups to bring their views on sensitive issues to the White House.
Paul Weyrich, head of the Free Congress Research and Education Foundation, who was present at the luncheon meeting in Baker's office, said many conservative groups are still extremely upset by the administration's action in the Supreme Court nomination.
"I tried to expalin to Jim Baker the damage that had been done to the coalition" of Republicans, religious groups, and activists on conservative causes, Weyrich said, adding that he was n ot sure Baker understands the extent of the rift.
Baker and the representatives of five conservative groups agreed to establish a regular memo channel into the White House so that groups on the right could alert the White House to their concern on some selected issues.
"It was a meeting to establish and maintain lines of communication," Baker said yesterday. "It was designed to make it clear that in appointing Sandra O'Connor the president went to great lengths to satisfy himself on her views . . . that in making this nomination he would not be walking away from his own views."
The meeting was also intended to show that "the president is conscious of the strong support he received during the campaign from the 'family coalition,'" Baker said. "Not just the anti-abortion groups but other pro-family groups."
Weyrich said that is was agreed in Tuesday's meeting that he will write memos on selected issues, and they will be passed directly to Rich Williamson, assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs, who was also present at the luncheon meeting Tuesday. "Baker tole me he would read them himself as well," Weyrich said.
Baker told the conservatives that they can't expect to veto appointments and other decisions. Weyrich said they did not seek a veto, but rather that their views be heard and considered before decisions are announced.
Weyrich was referring to the case that started the rift on the right -- the nomination of O'Connor to the Supreme Court. It has been reported that she voted in favor of abortion when she was an Arizona state senator, and conservatives complained that they were not consulted about the nomination.
Two issues raised at the meeting were typical, Weyrich said, of the kind of things that will be put into the regular flow of memos to the White House; A memo he said has been written by the Justice Department saying that tuition tax credits are unconstitutional; another opinion he attributed to the Justice Department that said that action by Congress to remove social issues from the Supreme Court's jurisdiction would be unconstitutional. A Justice Department spokesman refused to confirm the existence of such memoranda.
Conservatives are also expected to oppose the anticipated nomination of Mary Louise Smith, former Republican national chairman, to head the U.S. Civil Rights Commission."She said that if she was appointed she would work to get [the Equal Rights Amendment] adopted.'
Also attending the meeting were Pat Robertson, the television evangelist, Gordon Jones of the United Family movement, John Mackey of the Ad Hoc Committee in Defense of Life, and Richard Dingman of the Republican Study Conference.