Conservative Senator Passes Away

OPINION:  This article contains commentary which may reflect the author’s opinion

James Buckley, a prominent figure in conservative politics, passed away on August 18th in a hospital in Washington. He had a strong familial connection to his younger brother William, and both had a passion for conservative ideologies. James Buckley held esteemed positions in all three branches of government, including a notable term as an independent-minded U.S. senator during the 1970s. He reached the age of 100, making him the most elderly former U.S. senator in terms of longevity.

The demise was verified by Peter Buckley, his son, who refrained from disclosing the precise cause.

Within political spheres, Mr. Buckley is primarily recognized for his role as the principal plaintiff in a significant legal case concerning campaign funding, known as Buckley v. Valeo. This litigation, which took place in 1976, resulted in the partial dismantling of the post-Watergate legislation pertaining to the regulation of political funds. The aforementioned verdict established the foundation for a series of judicial determinations, culminating in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, which espoused the notion that monetary resources possess an equivalency to the act of expressing oneself.

According to Trevor Potter, a former commissioner of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and a champion for campaign finance reform, the Buckley decision holds significant importance as it is considered the pivotal case in this domain during our generation. This is primarily due to its allowance of unrestricted independent political expenditures.

The involvement of Mr. Buckley in the case originated from his triumphant third-party bid for a Senate position, coupled with his conviction that the planned restrictions on expenditure and contributions would “squeeze out the ability of challengers to come in and confront the political establishment.”

In addition to the aforementioned case, Mr. Buckley gained recognition as a conservative scholar who shown a strong passion for animals and the environment. This was evident in his decision to bring a pet boa constrictor during his time as an undergraduate at Yale University. Furthermore, he eventually emerged as an advocate for the Endangered Species Act.

Throughout his career, he directed his critical attention towards the federal government. This commitment was evident when he became a member of the Senate in 1971. Additionally, he served in many capacities throughout the Reagan administration, including as the head of Radio Free Europe and later as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Formerly, he held the position of vice president at the Catawba Corp, a family-owned oil corporation founded by his father. The Catawba Corp, in which the Buckley children held equal shares, was involved in the management and investment of energy assets on a global scale.

In 1965, the individual in question embarked upon his initial venture into the realm of electoral politics by assuming the role of campaign manager for his brother William’s mayoral bid in New York City. Regrettably, this endeavor proved to be fruitless, as their opponent, a liberal Republican congressman named John V. Lindsay, emerged victorious.

James Buckley emerged as a progressively troublesome individual for the moderate Republican establishment leaders in New York state. In 1968, he made a failed bid for the Senate as a third-party conservative, challenging the incumbent Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R). However, two years later, Buckley achieved victory and secured a seat in the Senate.

In the year 1970, William F. Buckley Jr., competing once more as the nominee for the Conservative Party, emerged victorious in the electoral contest by defeating the incumbent Republican Senator Charles Goodell, who held moderate views, as well as the well-liked Democratic Representative William Ottinger.

Despite his authorship of three books, his leadership in federal courtrooms, and his service in the Senate, Mr. Buckley’s level of recognition was comparatively lower than that of William, the renowned writer and television host who established the National Review. William exhibited a notable sense of fashion, humor, and charm, often displaying a rebellious and flamboyant demeanor. Conversely, James was characterized by his reserved nature, earning admiration from even his philosophical opponents for his attentive and empathetic listening skills.

In John B. Judis’s biography of William Buckley, it is mentioned that when his brother secured a Senate seat and proclaimed himself as “the voice of the new politics” on the night of triumph, William Buckley, albeit momentarily eclipsed, reminded his family and friends by stating, “La nouvelle politique, c’est God damn well moi.”

James Lane Buckley was born in Manhattan on March 9, 1923. He was the fourth child of a total of 10 siblings, and was nurtured on the family home in Sharon, Connecticut. His parents instilled in their children a comprehensive education in the classics, emphasizing the principles of individual responsibility and the teachings of Catholicism.

The spouse of the individual in question, formerly known as Ann Cooley, with whom he entered into matrimony in the year 1953, passed away in the year 2011. Besides Peter from Aiken, South Carolina, the list of survivors encompasses five additional children: James F.W. “Jay” Buckley from Bristol, Rhode Island; Priscilla Illel from Valbonne, France; William “Bill” Buckley from Bozeman, Montana; David Buckley from Arlington, Virginia; and Andrew Buckley from Pembroke, New Hampshire. Furthermore, there are eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. James L. Buckley, who was a resident of a senior-living institution in Bethesda, Maryland, was the final surviving member among his nine siblings.


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