In her letter to Bachmann, ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson recognized the planned Constitution classes as an important opportunity "to ensure that Members of Congress and all Americans are familiar with the U.S. Constitution in its entirety."
She noted, however, that the classes have been termed "Conservative Constitutional Seminars," "suggesting that you do not intend to provide members of Congress with a comprehensive understanding of the Constitution, but instead will offer an interpretive approach that yields results consistent with the political views of Tea Party Caucus members who are organizing the seminars."
Several legal commentators have questioned the propriety of Scalia's participation in a closed-door Tea Party Caucus-hosted event.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who wrote a column in The Washington Post criticizing Scalia's appearance, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Scalia's participation in such an event "suggests an alliance between a conservative justice and a conservative member of Congress."
Such a private seminar before legislators presents the opportunity for improper influence by Members of Congress who have interests in a host of cases coming before the court, adds Richard Painter, former Chief Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush.
"A lot of what the Supreme Court does is decide whether what Congress does is constitutional," Painter told the Star Tribune, noting that Bachmann is one of 63 House members who are filing a brief in support of the Florida lawsuit challenging the health care reform law.
A written statement to the Star Tribune from Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg about Scalia's participation in the class "referred to the event as a ‘constitutional seminar,' leaving out the qualifier ‘conservative' used by Bachmann's office," the newspaper notes.
In her letters to Boehner and Bachmann Friday, Fredrickson offered to expand the discussion by making available ACS experts to participate in these seminars, or to provide other ACS resources.
"You may recall that Speaker Boehner, in his memo, ‘New Constitutional Authority Requirement for Legislation,' included ACS as a resource on constitutional issues," Fredrickson wrote. She encouraged both Boehner and Bachmann to take full advantage of the resources they had appropriately recommended to their fellow legislators.