Roberts traveled in the fall of 2000 to the sunny state of Florida, where he played a mostly behind-the-scenes role in helping Bush prevail in the legal fight that followed the disputed presidential election.
Republican lawyers who worked on the recount told the Times that Roberts advised Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on the role that he and the Florida Legislature could play in the fight over the recounting of ballots. "Mr. Roberts, one of the preeminent constitutional attorneys in the country, came to Florida in 2000 at his own expense and met with Gov. Bush to share what he believed the governor's responsibilities were under federal law after a presidential election and a presidential election under dispute," Jeb Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre told the Times. "Judge Roberts was one of several experts who came to Florida to share their ideas. The governor appreciated his willingness to serve and valued his counsel."
Working on the recount is hardly disqualifying -- as the Times notes, just about every leading constitutional-law type was involved in the case somehow -- but Roberts' role does raise some questions about whether he's really the nonpartisan lawyer and jurist that his proponents would make him out to be. "What's interesting is that only now is it coming to the fore that John Roberts was part of that," People for the American Way President Ralph Neas told the Times. "He always created an impression of being above the political fray, being part of the Washington legal establishment, but not of partisan politics."
UPDATE: Roberts wasn't just an unpaid assistant in the Gore-Bush debacle in Florida in 2000. Thanks to Daily Kos, we've also been reminded that he was one of Ken Starr's attack dogs in the attempt to impeach Clinton over invading Iraq on false premises. Errr, I mean a blowjob. From a 1989 WaPo story:
Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr is expected to name Washington attorney John G. Roberts Jr. to be the "political" deputy in the solicitor's office, the government's advocate before the Supreme Court.
Roberts, 34, a former clerk to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, met Starr when both worked as aides to Attorney General William French Smith in the early Reagan years.
The job, counselor to the solicitor general as well as deputy solicitor general, was created in 1982 after strong conservative criticism that the traditionally independent office was not forceful enough in pushing the administration's social agenda at the high court. Of the five deputies in the office, the political deputy is the only non-career appointee.