From the Reagan Presidential Library: Glue sniffing? Did you have sex in high school or junior high? Do you buy or sell pornography? The (Draft) Background-Check Questionnaire and Other Documents Relating to the Kennedy Nomination

Today, I’ll share one last set of documents from the Reagan Presidential Library. These materials, which I found among the papers of White House lawyer Arthur Culvahouse, relate to the nomination of Anthony Kennedy to the United States Supreme Court.  

I’ve posted the documents as a single PDF file. The posted papers include a short memo that describes the vetting that had been performed on Kennedy and a memorandum from Culvahouse to President Reagan in advance of the latter’s meeting with Kennedy to screen him as a possible nominee.

If you scroll down several pages, you’ll get to the most interesting of the documents: what appears to be a draft questionnaire, listing the due-diligence background-check questions to be asked to Kennedy (there are actually two such questionnaires; one short and one long). Reading through the lengthier questionnaire, you might start to wonder why anyone would ever want to be a Supreme Court nominee. The questionnaire asks, inter alia:

Relating to Kennedy’s junior-high and high-school years:

Did you have sex in high school or junior high? If so, How often? How many different girls? Where? Were there any pregnancies? Were there any abortions? Did you ever contract venereal disease? Did you use contraceptives?

Did you ever engage in any aberational [sic] sexual activity?

Do you have any bitter friends, e.g., bitter girlfriends?

Did you ever use drugs? Glue sniffing? Parents prescription drugs? Did you attend partires [sic] where drugs were used? (Interestingly, the types of drugs inquired into shifts as the questionnaire moves from Kennedy’s high-school to his college years, and beyond; later versions of this question in the questionnaire substitute marijuana and cocaine for parents’ prescription drugs.)

Relating to Kennedy’s college years:

Were you rejected by any colleges? If so, what was the basis for rejections?

Were you a member of a fraternity? If so, What hazing was there? Were there racial or religious restrictions? What was the fraternity’s reputation? Were there any bizarre rituals? Did the fraternity engage in sexual harassment?

Relating to Kennedy’s law-school years:

What was the most unpleasant or embarassing thing that happened to you while in law school[?]

Relating to Kennedy’s present personal life:

Do you buy or sell pornography?

Have you ever abused your wife?

Have you ever had an extramarital affair?

Has your wife ever had an abortion?


Just in case you thought that the questionnaire was a tiny bit invasive, the question “Have you ever engaged in kinky sex?” does have a line drawn through it, suggesting that Kennedy was spared from having to answer.

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