Arlen Specter Dies, 82

Former Senator Was Longtime Champion of Shield Law Allowing TV Cameras in Federal Courts

 Former Penn. Sen. Sen. Arlen Specter, onetime chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and longtime champion of cameras in the courts, has died. He was 82.

According to The New York Times, the cause of death was non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Specter, who had been a Republican, lost his seat in 2010 after switching to the Democratic party.

He was also a long-standing critic of TV sports rights policiies he thought disadvantaged viewers. Back in 2006, he threatened to try to remove the NFL's antitrust exemption, citing the NFL's exclusive satellite deal for its Sunday Ticket package, the move of Monday Night Football to cable, moves to seed its NFL Network with regular-season games, and harkening back to franchise moves like that of the Colts to Indianapolis, Specter said the NFL was building a case for the removal of the antitrust exemption it was granted by Congress in 1961.

Specter was a fan of Comcast and its merger with NBCU. He praised his home-state company as a good corporate citizen and said the deal--which was ultimately approved by the FCC and Justice-- would "advances the national communications policy goals of diversity, localism, innovation, and competition."

In addition to wanting to give broadcast journalists and the public televised access to trials, the former district attorney long worked for a federal shield law to provide journalists with limited protection from being forced to give up sources to the feds. Like cameras in the court legislation, those efforts were not successful, but not for lack of trying on Specter's part.

One Arlen effort that broadcasters were just as happy did not succeed was one that could have taken millions our of broadcasters' campaign ad coffers--his push for a campaign finance reform bill that would have given candidates an extra 20% discount over the current lowest unit rate and would have given them nonpreemptible spots for that discounted price.

Commenting on Arlen’s death, Vice President Joe Biden tweeted: “Our Nation has lost a dedicated public servant who served his country with strength, grit and determination.”

“Arlen Specter and I were first elected to the United States Senate the same year, and I served with him on the Judiciary Committee for 30 years," said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) Sunday (Oct. 14). "We came from very different places, an Iowa farmer and a Philadelphia lawyer, and we had different views, but we shared a commitment to making the legislative process work in the Senate.  Sen. Specter was a friend to his colleagues, and he served Pennsylvanians with his tenacity and willingness to fight hard no matter what the challenge.”

Specter was born in Wichita, Kansas Feb. 12, 1930. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951, and from Yale Law School in 1956 after two years in the Air Force. He practiced law in Philadelphia, was the assistant DA in the city, and was assistant counsel on the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President Kennedy.

He was elected to Congress in 1980 and served until Jan. 3, 2011. His chairmanships, in addition to Judiciary, included the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.