Senate Republican Accuses Kagan of Staying Silent on Saudi Gift to Harvard

A Senate Republican is accusing Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan -- who protested the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy as an influential dean at Harvard -- of remaining silent about the university receiving $20 million from a Middle East country that sanctions the oppression of gays.

The accusation comes as the both sides in Senate gear up for the start of confirmation hearings for Kagan, as Republicans opposed to her confirmation seize on "anti-military" fodder.

On Wednesday, during a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noted Harvard University accepted a $20 million gift from Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz in 2005 that was used to establish a center for Islamic Studies in his honor.

Sessions cited an Obama State Department report that noted that homosexual acts are a crime in Saudi Arabia under Sharia law and punishable by death or flogging.

At around the same time the university was accepting the gift, Kagan, as dean of the Harvard Law School, was actively seeking to exclude military recruiters from the campus for banning gays from serving openly in the military.

"Ms. Kagan was perfectly willing to obstruct the U.S. military – which has liberated countless Muslims from the hate and tyranny of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban," Sessions said. "But it seems she sat on the sidelines as Harvard created an Islamic Studies Center funded by – and dedicated to – foreign leaders presiding over a legal system that violates what would appear to be her position."

In a widely circulated 2003 memo, Kagan called the military's ban on gays "a moral injustice of the first order," as she explained to students and faculty why military recruiters were allowed on campus again after almost 25 years of being banned from the law school's main recruitment office.

She said that under a federal law known as the Solomon Amendment, the university risked jeopardizing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding unless the school helped recruiters. The law allows the government to deny federal grants to schools that prohibit military recruitment on campus.

The following year, after a federal appeals court struck down the law as unconstitutional, Kagan re-imposed a ban on recruiters – a move that was criticized by Republicans during her confirmation hearing last year for her current post as U.S. solicitor general.

Military recruiters were still allowed to recruit students on campus through the Harvard Law School Veterans Association, a student group.

But within months, she lifted the ban when the Supreme Court overturned the appeals court.

"She fought the ability of our own soldiers to access campus resources, but not those who spread the oppressive tenets of Islamic Sharia law," Sessions said. "Perhaps her response was guided by campus politics. But Ms. Kagan lacks experience as a judge, as a lawyer, and as a scholar. Much of her career has been spent actively engaged in liberal politics – not legal practice."

A Justice Department spokeswoman did not return messages seeking comment on the accusations against Kagan. Harvard University did not respond to a request for comment.

A Judiciary Committee aide told that Kagan should have "at the very least, given the clear dictates of Sharia law, voiced public concern and at the most she could have pursued the same level of dramatic action that she wrongfully undertook in discriminating against the military.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.