America is facing a "dark money" crisis & the Supreme Court is about to make it worse

Thom plus logo Joe Biden must "pack the court"

Thanks to Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell, the Supreme Court has become a menace, and only Congress and President Biden can fix it.

In 2010 conservatives on the Supreme Court, over the loud and clear objections of members of the moderate and liberal minority, doubled down on earlier suggestions that corporations are not "dead and soulless creations of the law," as one of America's first Supreme Court justices called them, but actually "persons" and, as such, have access to those rights we find in the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Today's Supreme Court just chose to hear a new case that may radically expand those "corporate rights" by letting corporations conceal the people funding their actions in the political sphere.

Back in 1907, to stop the Robber Barons of the day from using their massive corporate resources to corrupt politics, Republican President Teddy Roosevelt pushed the Tillman Act through Congress, which made it a federal crime for any corporation to give any kind of money or other support to any candidate for federal office.

It stood for more than a half a century before conservatives on the Supreme Court with their "corporations are persons, my friend" ideology struck it down.

Now that the Supreme Court has broadly let corporations involve themselves in politics, two very politically active corporations are demanding that they should be able to influence politics and politicians without anybody ever knowing are the actual humans behind their efforts.

These corporations demand the "right" to put forward and sponsor candidates and legislation that will serve their interests without American voters ever realizing that those candidates are actually front men for some of America's most powerful oligarchs.

Even if other corporations have extensive ties to foreign governments or take most of their money from foreign leaders to whom they may be especially beholden, this case could establish the universal billionaire "right" to own American politicians and push legislation entirely in secret.

This is what it looks like when a democratic republic makes the transition into a full blown Oligarchy, as I outline in my new book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.

In this case before the Court, the rich don't just want their corporations to essentially take over the American political process; they want to make it impossible for the people subject to the power of law and government to know who is really behind the scenes pulling the strings.

It's hard to imagine that this is what the Founders had in mind when, in the Declaration of Independence, they wrote, "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

To add insult to injury, the two corporations bringing this case, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation that has historically been funded by the Koch brothers and their friends, and the Thomas More Law Center, which describes itself as a "Christian, conservative" organization, are both non-profits and therefore subsidized by your taxes and mine.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse writes about this in a January 12th National Law Journal article titled 'Dark Money' Influence Could Soon Become a Constitutional Right:

"The Supreme Court faces a credibility crisis," Whitehouse writes. "This crisis intensifies after nearly $100 million in anonymous funding - known as 'dark money' - entered the confirmation fights of the last three [Supreme Court] justices."

Senator Whitehouse adds, "At the same time, the country faces a dark-money crisis as anonymous influence spreads malicious disinformation and corrupts and disrupts our politics. And now a case before the court could lock in dark money influence as a constitutional right."

This is a crisis brought about by 50 years of wealthy conservatives using their financial power to manipulate the American political process, a takeover envisioned by Lewis Powell in his 1971 memo to the US Chamber of Commerce (who've filed a friend of the court brief in favor of this case). A year later Richard Nixon put Powell on the Supreme Court, and he authored the 1978 Bellotti decision that, for the first time ever, established the "free speech rights" of corporations.

There's little we as citizens can do to influence the Supreme Court. But Congress an change the entire character of the Court by expanding the number of justices to reestablish a rational ideological balance.

That should be one of President Biden's and this new Congress' first priorities.

-Thom

First published at thomhartmann.medium.com.

Comments

alis volat's picture
alis volat 34 weeks 4 days ago
#1

President Biden said he is not a fan of adding justices, but he knows things are out of whack. Yea, you could say that after McConnell's rip-off. Biden seems determined to gather constitutional scholars to study the court overall. Good idea. I would like to hear their ideas of what Congress could pursue.

Better fortify the Supreme Court building if they change anything. It is from 1932 and as beautiful as the Capitol. The radical right will loose their shit if more justices are added. I hope if they go there for another "peaceful demonstration" they read the inscription on the way in. Equal Justice Under Law. Let's hope any marauders will understand they could get a taste of what under law means. And perhaps they also now realize some family members, colleagues, and their ex's might love America more than they love them. To me, that factor has a ring of justice to it all by itself.

cuz's picture
cuz 34 weeks 3 days ago
#2

Calm down Thom. Today is the day you are allowed to stop with the negative rants and move on to a more positive position. It will lengthen your life and create a much healthier environment for your family and the listeners of your radio show.

It is a new day and now the control is all in the hands of the democratic party. Hopefully, they will choose to manage wisely. I have no reason to think otherwise.

Good luck president Biden.

Legend 34 weeks 3 days ago
#3

Interesting that you seem to think that presenting facts is negative rants.

vetinla's picture
vetinla 34 weeks 3 days ago
#4

@#2; Ya otta' tell Fox "News" the same, instead of Thomm.

@ # 3; Yep!!

Louise A White's picture
Louise A White 34 weeks 3 days ago
#5

I have some ideas regarding reforming the federal judicial system (supreme court, all federal courts).

To eliminate the issue of which president gets to nominate a supreme:

Establish a shadow supreme court or something; there has got to be some important tasks such a court could be responsible for, right?

Every four years (the second year of each presidential term, for instance) rotate the longest serving supreme court justice to the shadow court (they used to do this in olden days didn’t they?) then nominate and seat one new supreme court justice.

If a supreme retires or passes rotate the longest serving shadow court judge back to the supreme court.

Restrict shadow court terms to twenty years.

To prevent the appointment of inferior judicial persons, apply minimum requirements such as:

Require all nominees be ABA acceptable.

Require all nominees have sufficient years on the bench to ensure that the nominee decisions can be ascertained to be consistently fair and representative.

Require all nominees have sufficient years on the bench to exhibit a record of seriously attending to conflicts of interest.

Require all nominees be honest, solvent, etc.

*****

We have a considerable number of judicial appointments currently serving in the Federal judicial system (most of whom sneaked through in the last administration). The more extreme of these, at least, should be removed from office. For others, find some place where they can work to attain the minimum requirements for acceptance into the federal judiciary. Farm them out to the immigration courts, maybe (I have heard these are currently in short supply of judges) and they would encounter some contact with real needs and troubles of humanity.

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