Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Exposes Those Behind The Trump GOP Axis To Circumvent The Political Process By Grabbing Control Of The Federal Courts.
Politics does not operate in a vacuum. Sure the Democrats occasionally take fat cat money, but in the main they try to do good with it. First off they try to defend democracy and the vote that supports it. They try not to allow corporate power and super wealth to run wild over average folks. They create and defend basic social services — social security, Medicare and the ACA.
Meanwhile Trump, McConnell and the rest of the GOP work non-stop to trash all of that good work while shoveling as much money as possible to their wealthy corporate donors. Meanwhile, they manage to stay in business politically by playing to the worst of lower middleclass White tribal impulses and White greed on the upper end of the social pyramid.
This brings us to Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic junior Senator from Rhode Island. In the recent confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the US Supreme Court, the good Senator has taken the occasion to lay out in clear detail the Republican gambit by which the GOP corporate shills continue to grab control by all means possible the entire American judicial system — lifetime appointment of hundreds of Federal judges from the court of appeals level to Supreme Court.
For big bucks these GOP political prostitutes serve the interests of corporate polluters and cheaters — the worst elements of American capitalism. Below are some excerpts from Senator Whitehouse’s presentation to the judiciary committee on October 13th. It’s not sexy stuff and thus it likely won’t generate a lot of public attention, but it highlights the powers behind the political curtain for which Trump and his fellow GOP criminals sabotage the national interest and that of Average Americans on behalf of our nation’s oligarchs.
Realizing that demographics are working against them the old White power boys have been intent on grabbing control of lifetime judicial positions as their means of maintaining special interest control.
Here Senator Whitehouse is addressing Judge Barrett. He is using a lot of visual aids so this pure text may be a bit confusing.
“So there is a lot of hard-to-explain hypocrisy and rush taking place right now, and my experience around politics is that when you find hypocrisy in the daylight, look for power in the shadows. Now people say well, what does all this matter? This is a political parlor game; it’s no big deal. Well, there are some pretty high stakes here that we have been talking about here on our side, and I will tell you three of them right here.
Roe v. Wade, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases. Here’s the GOP platform, the Republican platform, the platform of my colleagues on the other side of this aisle say that a Republican president will appoint judges who will reverse Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases. So if you have a family member with an interest in some autonomy over their body under Roe v. Wade, the ability to have a marriage, have friends marry, have a niece or a daughter or a son marry someone of their same-sex they have — you’ve got a stake, and if you are one of the millions and millions of Americans who depend on the affordable care act you’ve got a stake.
t’s not just the platform. Over and over again, let’s start by talking about the Affordable Care Act. Here is the president talking about this litigation that we are gearing up this nominee for for November 10. In this litigation, he said we want to terminate healthcare under Obamacare.
That is the president’s statement, so when we react to that, don’t act as if we are making this stuff up. This is what President Trump said. This is what your party platform says: reverse the Obamacare cases. Senator after senator, including many in this committee, filed briefs saying that the Affordable Care Act should be thrown out by courts. Why is it surprising for us to be concerned that you want this nominee to do what you want nominees to do?
One quick stop on NFIB v. Sebelius, because a lot of this has to do with money. This is an interesting comparison. National Federation of Independent Businesses, until it filed the NFIB v. Sebelius case, had its biggest donation ever of $21,000. In the year that it went to work on the Affordable Care Act, ten wealthy donors gave $10 million. Somebody deserves a thank you.
Let me start with this one. In all cases, there’s big anonymous money behind various lanes of activity. One lane of activity is through the conduit of the Federalist Society. It is managed by a guy — was managed by — a guy named Leonard Leo, and it has taken over the selection of judicial nominees. How do we know that to be the case? Because Trump has said so over and over again. His White House counsel said so. So we have an anonymously funded group controlling judicial selection run by this guy Leonard Leo.
Then in another lane, we have again anonymous funders running through something called the Judicial Crisis Network, which is run by Carrie Severino, and it is doing PR and campaign ads for Republican judicial nominees. It got $17 million — a single $17 million donation in the Garland-Gorsuch contest. It got another single $17 million donation to support Kavanaugh. Somebody, perhaps the same person, spent $35 million to influence the United States Supreme Court. Tell me that’s good.
And then over here you have a whole array of legal groups, also funded by dark money, which have a different role. They bring cases to the Court. They don’t wind their way to the Court, your Honor, they get shoved to the Court to by these legal groups, many of which ask to lose below so they can get quickly to the Court to get their business done there. And then they turn up in a chorus, an orchestrated chorus of amici.
Now I’ve had a chance to have a look at this. And I was in a case, actually, as an amicus myself, the Consumer Financial Protection Board case. And in that case there were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 amicus briefs filed, and every single one of them was a group funded by something called DonorsTrust.
DonorsTrust is a gigantic identity-scrubbing device for the right wing so that it says DonorsTrust is the donor without whoever the real donor is. It doesn’t have a business. It doesn’t have a business plan. It doesn’t do anything. It’s just an identity scrubber.
And this group here, the Bradley Foundation, funded eight out of the 11 briefs. That seems weird to me when you have amicus briefs coming in little flotillas that are funded by the same groups but nominally separate in the court.
So I actually attached this to my brief as an appendix. Center for Media and Democracy saw it, and they did better work. They went on to say which foundations funded the brief writers in that CFPB case. Here is the Bradley Foundation for $5.6 million to those groups. Here’s DonorsTrust, $23 million to those brief writing groups. The grand total across all the donor groups was $68 million to the groups that were filing amicus briefs, pretending that they were different groups.
And who wins when you allow unlimited dark money in politics? A very small group. The ones who have unlimited money to spend and a motive to spend it in politics. They win. Everybody else loses. And if you’re looking at who might be behind this, let’s talk about people with unlimited money to spend and a motive to do it. We’ll see how that goes.
Next, knock the civil jury down. Whittle it down to a nub. The civil jury was in the Constitution, in the Bill of Rights, in our darn Declaration of Independence, but it’s annoying to big corporate powers because you can swagger your way as a big corporate power through Congress. You can go and tell the president you put money into to elect what to do. He will put your stooges at the EPA. It’s all great until you get to the civil jury, because they have an obligation, as you know, Judge Barrett, they have an obligation under the law to be fair to both parties irrespective of their size.
You can’t bribe them. You’re not allowed to. It’s a crime to tamper with the jury. It’s standard practice to tamper with Congress. And they make decisions based on the law. If you’re used to being the boss and swaggering your way around the political side, you don’t want to be answerable before a jury. And so one after another, these 80 5-to-4 decisions have knocked down, whittled away at, the civil jury, a great American institution.
Third — first was unlimited dark money, second was demean and diminish the civil jury — third is weaken regulatory agencies. A lot of this money, I’m convinced, is polluter money. The Koch Industries is a polluter, the fossil fuel industry is a polluter. Who else would be putting buckets of money into this and wanting to hide who they are behind DonorsTrust or other schemes?
And what are — if you’re a big polluter — what do you want? You want weak regulatory agencies. You want ones that you can box up and run over to Congress and get your friends to fix things for you in Congress. Over and over and over again, these decisions are targeted at regulatory agencies to weaken their independence and weaken their strength. And if you’re a big polluter, a weak regulatory agency is your idea of a good day.
And the last thing is in politics. In voting. Why on earth the Court made the decision, a factual decision — not something appellate courts are ordinarily supposed to make, as I understand it Judge Barrett — the factual decision that nobody needed to worry about minority voters in preclearance states being discriminated against, or that legislators would try to knock back their ability to vote. These five made that finding in Shelby County against bipartisan legislation from both houses of Congress, hugely passed, on no factual record.
They just decided that that was a problem that was over, on no record with no basis, because it got them to the result that we then saw. What followed? State after state after state passed voter suppression laws. One so badly targeting African Americans that two courts said it was surgically, surgically tailored to get after minority voters.
And gerrymandering, the other great control. Bulk gerrymandering where you go into a state, like the Red Map project did in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and you pack Democrats so tightly into a few districts that all the others become Republican majority districts. And in those states, you send a delegation to Congress that has a huge majority of Republican members, like 13 to 5, as I recall, in a state where the five, the party of the five actually won the popular vote.
You’ve sent a delegation to Congress that is out of step with the popular vote of that state and court after court figured out how to solve that, and the Supreme Court said nope. 5 to 4 again. Nope. We’re not going to take an interest in that question. In all these areas where it’s about political power for big special interests, and people who want to fund campaigns, and people who want to get their way through politics without actually showing up, doing it behind DonorsTrust and other groups, doing it through these schemes over and over and over again, you see the same thing.
80 decisions, Judge Barrett. 80 decisions. An 80-to-0 sweep. I don’t think you’ve tried cases, but some cases, the issue is bias and discrimination. And if you’re making a bias case as a trial lawyer — Lindsey Graham is a hell of a good trial lawyer. If he wanted to make a bias case — Dick Durbin is a hell of a good trial lawyer. If they wanted to make a bias case and they could show an 80-to-0 pattern, A, that’s admissible, and B, I’d love to make that argument to the jury. I’d be really hard pressed to be the lawyer saying no, 80-to-0 is just a bunch of flukes.
All five-four. all partisan, all this way. So something is not right around the Court. And dark money has a lot to do with it. Special interests have a lot to do with it. DonorsTrust and whoever is hiding behind DonorsTrust has a lot to do with it, and the Bradley Foundation orchestrating its amici over at the Court has a lot to do with it.
So I thank you, Judge Barrett, for listening to me now a second time and I think this gives you a chance for you and I to tee up an interesting conversation tomorrow. And I thank my colleagues for hearing me out.”