“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.”
Wednesday, October 14
Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse used his 30 minutes of allotted time during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing not to ask questions of President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett—who repeatedly dodged the straightforward questions of other lawmakers—but to deliver a detailed presentation on the sprawling “dark money operation” fueling the right-wing takeover of the U.S. judicial system.
Displaying a number of visuals and flow charts, the senator from Rhode Island traced the dizzying array of special interests and advocacy groups—from the Koch network to the Federalist Society to the Judicial Crisis Network to the Pacific Legal Foundation—coordinating and pouring money into the effort to confirm Barrett and other far-right, corporate-friendly judges committed to rolling back reproductive rights, voting rights, climate regulations, and more.
“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… We have an anonymously funded group controlling judicial selection,” Whitehouse said, referring to the Federalist Society. “Then in another lane we have, again, anonymous funders running through something called the Judicial Crisis Network… and it’s doing PR and campaign ads for Republican judicial nominees.”
Whitehouse noted that the Judicial Crisis Network received two single $17 million dollar donations to back Trump Supreme Court picks Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
“Somebody, perhaps the same person, spent $35 million to influence the United States Supreme Court,” the senator said. “Tell me that’s good.”
Whitehouse went on to highlight the major role of DonorsTrust, a secretive organization the senator described as a “gigantic identity-scrubbing device for the right wing.”
“I was in a case, actually, as an amicus myself, the Consumer Financial Protection Board case,” said Whitehouse. “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… It doesn’t have a business. It doesn’t have a business plan. It doesn’t do anything. It’s just an identity scrubber.”
“Something is not right around the court,” Whitehouse said in closing. “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.”
Watch the senator’s full presentation:
“Kudos to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for shining a light on the dark money (secret donors) behind the right-wing campaign to remake the Supreme Court,” economist Robert Reich tweeted in response to Whitehouse’s remarks, echoing the applause of other progressives. “Best argument I’ve heard for (1) outlawing dark money, and (2) expanding the size of the court.”
Below is a full transcript of Whitehouse’s remarks, courtesy of the Center for Media and Democracy:
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