Dark Money and Selecting a Conservative Catholic Judge

Dark Money and Selecting a Conservative Catholic Judge October 14, 2020

This performance from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is stunningly good. And this should make anyone interested in far and honest politics utterly ashamed of what the GOP is doing right now.

Vested interests. $250 million spent why?

“If you find hypocrisy in the daylight, look for power in the shadows.”

Wow, that is spot on.

Watch this very good video:

The ACA is looking do be doomed. Rove v Wade, doomed. Any number of cases within the conservatives’ crosshairs, doomed. This is big, big news. Here are some of Whitehouse’s claims from a fascinating Democratic Party document he helped prepare:

Chief Justice Roberts’ Right-Wing Rout

Chief Justice John Roberts has said there is no such thing as “Trump judges” or “Obama judges”—that “[w]hat we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”5 That sounds nice, but it doesn’t hold up, given the Roberts Court’s stunning record of partisan judicial activism.

Under Chief Justice Roberts, the Court’s Republican-appointed five-justice majority handed down 80 partisan 5-4 decisions—joined by no Democratic appointee—that delivered wins to the Republican Party and the big corporate interests behind it.6 These decisions have had (and will have) an enduring impact on voting rights, labor protections, environmental protections, civil rights, gun safety, and reproductive rights. The most flagrant of these partisan decisions—Shelby County v. Holder and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—have rigged the very rules of our democracy for Republican Party interests, resulting in voter suppression and corruption of our government through unlimited special-interest political spending.

Those notorious partisan decisions are just the tip of the iceberg—there are dozens and dozens more. By bare partisan majorities in these 80 decisions, Republican justices have greenlighted GOP gerrymandering and hobbled America’s unions. They have slammed courthouse doors shut for workers and consumers, and gutted public safety regulations that kept our air and water clean. They have weaponized the Second Amendment to stymie sensible gun safety regulations, and curtailed access to reproductive healthcare.

More often than not, the Republican justices in these 80 decisions abandoned traditionally “conservative” principles like judicial restraint, respect for precedent, and even “originalism.” As it turns out, these were doctrines of convenience, useful until they got in the way of a desired political result. For the “Roberts Five”, they are summoned, or not, depending on the Republican Party’s larger political goals. This is not calling “balls and strikes.”

Follow the Money

Republicans and their corporate and billionaire backers have used an outside-inside strategy to capture our courts: ultra-wealthy funders on the outside fund the operation, and politicians on the inside implement it. The Right’s court-capture machinery is fueled by hundreds of millions in special-interest dollars, the sources of which are never fully disclosed to the public.

At the heart of this network is Leonard Leo. Mr. Leo, who co-chairs the Federalist Society and was until recently its well-paid Executive Vice President, has had unfettered access to President Trump as he makes judicial appointments that shape our country. At the same time, Leo manages and coordinates a secretive network of more than two dozen right-wing nonprofits that raised over $250 million between 2014 and 2017 alone—money targeted at efforts to support “conservative” policies and judges.7 The true sources of that money—and the true interests of the anonymous donors—remain unknown to the public.

What is all this money used for? It funds a complex network of think tanks, law school centers, policy front groups, political campaign arms, and public relations shops, all focused on shaping the composition of the courts and the rulings they make. Deploying hundreds of millions of dollars from big-money donors like the Koch brothers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this network picks judicial nominees, wages media campaigns for their confirmation, props up the politicians that vote for them (while attacking those that don’t), develops legal doctrines for them to adopt, then tees up cases for them to rule on—delivering big returns for the donors.

Shredding Senate Norms

Mitch McConnell’s inside game has been just as important as the network’s outside funding. Under his leadership, Senate Republicans have taken a wrecking ball to a century of bipartisan Senate norms. After McConnell became the Senate Majority Leader in January 2015, he obstructed President Obama’s attempts to fill vacancies on the federal courts, leaving over 100 seats—including a stolen Supreme Court seat—for the next president to fill. Once a Republican president took over, the Republican majority then upended Senate rules to confirm President Trump’s judicial nominees at a pace never before seen in the Senate. On the whole, these nominees have been notable for their inexperience, youth, and demonstrated partisan extremism. Rather than provide meaningful advice and consent on Trump’s judicial nominees, McConnell’s GOP Senate has been nothing more than a conveyor belt. It is unprecedented. But it is also a signal of just how central courts are to the Republican Party’s reactionary political agenda. 6 Why Does It Matter? For McConnell-led Senate Republicans, confirming Trump judges has become the primary purpose of the Senate. The Democratic majority in the House has passed over 350 bills that have yet to even be considered by the Senate. Nearly 90% of these bills received bipartisan support and provide solutions that the voting public overwhelmingly approves of, such as lowering health care costs, combating the climate crisis, and reducing corruption in politics. Instead of passing legislation to help the American people, Mitch McConnell has chosen to bury those bills in his legislative graveyard.

There is a lot we have yet to learn about the special-interest “dark money” that fuels the complex court-packing scheme and its overlap with the funding behind the Republican Party. What is clear is that this effort has come at a tremendous cost for the American people and our democratic institutions.

Over the coming months, Democrats in the Senate will shed light on the corruption and conflicts of interest now spreading around the Trump judiciary. As part of future efforts, we will show the real-world impact of the courts’ activist decisions on issues ranging from healthcare and reproductive rights to voting rights and the climate. And we will propose legislative reforms to clean up this mess.

This report looks behind the curtain of the GOP’s long campaign of judicial capture, into the fundamental threat it poses to the rule of law and American democracy.

And so on.

People should be really quite scared now. The GOP will get their nomination through – there is nothing to stop them – but the sheer hypocrisy and vested monied interests in so doing should give everyone, conservatives included, pause for thought, pause for worry.

The SCOTUS is screwed, going forward, and only packing the court is going to change this if the Dems can do it in the next term. So get out there and vote these corrupt politicians out (starting with Trump, but definitely going down-ballot), and convince as many people you know to do the same.


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