Georgetown ties may be playing a critical role in a national political scandal.

According to several Georgetown students and alumni, Manuel iranda (SFS ’82), the former Republican Senate aide at the center of an ethics investigation over leaked Judiciary Committee memorandums, had a close relationship with Sean Rushton (SFS ’95, SSCE ’01), the head of a conservative political group and a suspected recipient of those controversial memos.

Miranda’s political connections with Rushton have begun to attract the attention of an investigation into how the memos were leaked. According to Georgetown students and alumni, Miranda and Rushton’s relationship developed on the Hilltop through their involvement in campus media and the Stewards, a secret society.

Miranda, a former Judiciary Committee staffer and top judicial aide for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), recently resigned his post after admitting he read computer files that outlined Democrats’ strategy for blocking Republican judicial nominees.

But Miranda has denied any criminal wrongdoing and no charges have been pressed against him.

Excerpts from the memos first appeared in a Wall Street Journal editorial in November 2003 and then later in The Washington Times, prompting questions into how the newspapers obtained the information. Miranda denies that he forwarded the memos.

In a report on the investigation into the leaked files headed by Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle, one of the investigation’s sources is cited as believing Rushton, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, “to be the middleman between [Miranda] and the press.” According to the report, Rushton’s Committee for Justice was contacted by Pickle’s investigators and its employees refused to answer questions.

Two of Rushton’s classmates who knew him well at Georgetown said Rushton was close friends with Miranda while he studied on the Hilltop during most of the 1990s. One said that Rushton and Miranda were like-minded men – both were “intelligent, astute and informed” – and became friends.

Rushton is also a rumored member of the Stewards, a secret society that Miranda helped found in the early 1980s. Several of Rushton’s classmates speculated that Rushton was a Steward and said it was a common rumor around campus when they were at Georgetown.

“We all had our suspicions,” Molly Peterson (SFS ’94) said. “We would ask him about it and he would laugh it off. He didn’t answer.”

A current student close to the Stewards said Rushton is “well known” to be a Steward and that he is “high up” in the organization. He said Rushton and Miranda led meetings together with Stewards and other students during the 2001 and 2002 campaign supporting the Yard, an alternative form of student government.

Another Steward, Adam Carter (CAS ’87, LAW ’91), is one of two lawyers defending Miranda pro bono during the investigations. Carter served as the Stewards spokesman in 1988 and 1989 during a brief period when the Stewards publicly identified themselves and claimed to have disbanded. The Stewards have since been revived.

The Stewards’ motto is “Non Sciolae Se Vitae,” or “Not for School, for Life.” In an article in THE HOYA in 1989 (“Stewards Remain Active at GU”, Feb. 21, 1989, page 1), Carter was quoted as saying, “There is no such thing as an ex-Steward.”

Rushton, Miranda and Carter could not be reached for comment for this article.

Rushton also served as the editor in chief of The Georgetown Academy, a conservative newsmagazine, in 1999, and wrote for the magazine as an undergraduate. Miranda, until recently, had been actively involved with the Academy, serving as a legal and business adviser, according to Ross Grimes (COL ’04), a former Academy publisher.

“Anyone who worked for the Academy for a significant amount of time I’m sure would have known Manny [Miranda] well,” Grimes said. Steve Slawinski (COL ’97) described Rushton as “a big wheel” at the Academy while he was at Georgetown.

The Academy, although not officially related to the Stewards, has been viewed as closely tied to the society. A student close to the Stewards called the Academy a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of the Stewards.

Miranda has been conspicuously involved with Georgetown since his graduation in 1982, attending Philodemic debates and contributing articles to THE HOYA as well as to the Academy. Rushton served as THE HOYA’s senior news editor in 1994, a time when Peterson, who was then THE HOYA’s editor in chief, said Miranda was “always writing in.”

“Manny was definitely around on the scene,” Dan Erck (COL ’96), Rushton’s classmate, said of Miranda’s involvement on campus from 1992 to 1996.

Now, Miranda and Rushton are together again, tied up in the investigation some on Capitol Hill are referring to as “Memogate.”

In addition to the Pickle report, which implicates both Miranda and Rushton, Rushton was also mentioned in a letter sent by Judiciary Committee Democrats to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, asking whether Bush administration officials knew of, or had access to, the leaked memos. The Democrats asked the White House to list all communication it had with Rushton and his boss, the chairman of the Committee for Justice, C. Boyden Gray.

Democrats suspect that conservative groups like the Committee for Justice and the Committee for a Fair Judiciary first received the memos from Miranda and another Senate aide named in Pickle’s report, Jason Lundell, and then passed them along to some of their favored media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times.

The Committee for a Fair Judiciary displayed complete copies of some of the memos on its Web site shortly after the excerpts appeared in newspapers.

Rushton’s Committee for Justice recently posted a response to Pickle’s report written by Carter, Miranda’s lawyer, on its Web site. The response defends Miranda and says Pickle’s investigation was “seriously flawed” and includes “false statements.”

Last week, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to ask for federal prosecutors to continue the investigation Pickle began. A spokeswoman for Pickle said the he was currently in discussions with the Justice Department and the Secret Service to determine how to proceed.

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