From Portside <[email protected]>
Subject Amy Barrett and the Corporate Crusade for Control of the Supreme Court
Date October 18, 2020 12:05 AM
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[This week US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) charged corporate
dark money is behind a plot, bearing all the marks of a covert
operation, to control the Supreme Court and undermine the independence
of the judicial branch of the federal government. ]
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Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
October 14, 2020
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_ This week US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) charged corporate
dark money is behind a plot, bearing all the marks of a covert
operation, to control the Supreme Court and undermine the independence
of the judicial branch of the federal government. _

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), speaking before the Senate Judiciary
Committee hearing on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Amy Coney
Barrett. His testimony focused on the dark money behind Barrett’s
nomination., C-SPAN screenshot


There’s a scheme being run on the American people, and, as we embark
on this rushed and bitter fight over whether to confirm Judge Amy
Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the American people ought to
understand what’s really going on.

It almost doesn’t matter who President Donald Trump picked to
replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; it never really did. What really
matters is who — and whose money — lurks behind the process of
shaping the Supreme Court, and what’s at stake for all of us, from
the voting public to the Republican senators rubber-stamping it.

First, it's easy for even Washington insiders to forget how we
actually got here. Back in the 1970s, corporate interests had grown
uneasy with what they saw as attacks on their financial interests by
the anti-war, environmental, civil rights and women’s rights
movements. Napalm manufacturers were being protested; big companies
faced workers organizing for fairer wages and working conditions, and
a more just society. Polluters — like the chemical and fuel
extraction businesses of the Koch family — faced accountability for
damage they were doing to our air and water. Big Tobacco was rightly
convinced it would be facing liability from the steadily mounting (and
increasingly public) evidence that their product kills people and that
they knew it.

A corporate lawyer for Big Tobacco — Lewis Powell — had an answer.
In a memo
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he implored the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the corporations and
ideologues in its ranks to organize a new campaign to influence
government in corporations’ favor. In particular, Powell wanted
corporate interests to focus on the judiciary.

The courts, he said, are possibly “the most important instrument for
social, economic, and political change” in American government.
Weeks after Powell wrote that memo, President Richard Nixon appointed
him to the Supreme Court as Justice Powell.

Powell’s wish has come true. The corporate-funded Federalist Society
now not only signs off on Republican judicial nominees, but the
organization is “in-sourced
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to the Trump White House, and Trump admitted it picks his nominees
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And a dark-money-funded private organization, the Judicial Crisis
Network, takes anonymous donations — some as much as $17 million
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to fund political ad campaigns for those nominees’ confirmations.

Meanwhile, dark-money-funded private organizations hunt for plaintiffs
of convenience to bring cases before the Supreme Court that advance
the big donors’ agenda, while other dark money-funded organizations
appear at the court by the orchestrated dozen
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“friends of the Court” to instruct the corporate-selected judges
how to rule.

There is every reason to believe the anonymous funders behind all of
these groups are the same big interests.

The scheme bears all the marks of a covert operation — one being run
against our own citizens, to undermine the independence of a branch of
government that had been previously beyond the reach of lobbyists and
special interests. It happens behind the scenes, through front groups
and hidden money; the sources of the funds and the interests of the
donors behind it are masked. But the goal is clear: to cement
pro-corporate and partisan donors' interests in law by controlling our

With a 5-4 court, those interests have already run up 80 partisan
victories (the 73 counted here
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plus seven more since). Now, they’re on the cusp of the prize
they’ve coveted for generations: a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court
to rule in their favor every time.

What might a 6-3 court promise? Rulings that boost corporate and
special interest power: limits on worker protection and the right to
organize for fairer pay and wages; limits on Americans’ ability to
sue companies when they’ve been harmed; limits on effective
environmental and health protections; and new restrictions on minority
voting — all while protecting unlimited corporate dark money in

Job number one will probably be tearing down the Affordable Care Act:
The moment the ink was dry on the health care law in 2010, the dark
money-funded National Federation of Independent Business Legal
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26 Republican attorneys general sued to strike it down. The Heritage
Foundation and other dark money-funded groups activated to support the
litigation and undermine the law in the eyes of the public.
Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity spent enormous
amounts on astroturfing and political attack ads to secure the Senate
majority that Mitch McConnell — and eventually Donald Trump —
needed to pack the courts.

The big ideological donors’ obsession with striking down the ACA
likely explains the mad rush we are seeing from Republicans now. The
deadline rush to jam Trump’s pick through may not be based on the
election at all, but the argument date for the ACA case in the Supreme
Court on Nov. 10. They failed to strike it down when Republicans
controlled both houses of Congress; they failed even with a 5-4
majority on the Supreme Court.

In the midst of a pandemic that has already claimed 200,000 American
lives, Republicans and the powerful interests who back them are
fixated on undoing the health care protections regular Americans
gained with the Affordable Care Act. Replacing Ginsburg’s vote to
protect the law with the vote of a publicly anti-ACA Trump nominee
gives them that chance.

The Trump administration is urging the court to overturn the ACA and
thus undo protections for patients with pre-existing conditions, and
Trump himself promised that his “judicial appointments will do the
right thing, unlike Bush’s appointment John Roberts, on Obamacare
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So on Nov. 10, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion — covering 17 million
Americans — is on the chopping block, along with coverage for basic
services like maternity care, cancer screenings and contraception.
Nearly 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions stand to
lose insurance protections. Millions of seniors stand to pay billions
more for prescriptions.

And then, of course, it’s on to Roe v. Wade.

Republicans in the Senate still have a choice. They can still provide
a legitimate Senate process and defend the integrity of our judiciary.
But if you look at where else the power of this dark money covert
operation has been deployed, you can understand why they likely

[_Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General
of Rhode Island, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee._]

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