Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Comingling


At his last State of the Union Address, President Obama declared

Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign companies -- to spend without limit in our elections. Well, I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

Recognizing that the Republicans on the Court were called out, on national television, enabling foreign corporations and the governments which control them to determine American elections, Associate Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and was heard muttering "not true."

Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas had joined the three other corporatist Justices in ruling in favor of Citizens United in the controversial and pivotal January ruling, in which corporations, unions, and other advocacy groups were authorized to spend unlimited sums, without disclosure of source, on political campaigns while given the protection of freedom of speech.

But the New York Times in October reported that the "activism" of Thomas' wife Virginia, president and CEO of the right-wing interest group Liberty Central

.... is raising knotty questions, in particular about her acceptance of large, unidentified contributions for Liberty Central. She began the group in late 2009 with two gifts of $500,000 and $50,000, and because it is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group, named for the applicable section of the federal tax code, she does not have to publicly disclose any contributors. Such tax-exempt groups are supposed to make sure that less than half of their activities are political.

Mrs. Thomas now has, appropriately, decided to resign from the leadership of Liberty Central because, reportedly, of the "distractions" caused by her high profile. Still, following the ruling in Citizens United and the GOP's squashing of the DISCLOSE Act, no one knows where those contributions came from.

Nor has Justice Thomas recused himself from any cases nor suggested that he would consider doing so. It's not surprising, given that, as Think Progress revealed in October

Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas have also attended secret political fundraisers. We published a memo detailing fundraising events, organized by oil billionaires David and Charles Koch, to fund Republican campaigns, judicial elections, and groups running ads in the 2010 midterm election. The fundraisers, attended by some of the nation’s wealthiest bankers, industrialists, and other executives, help fund much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo stated the Thomas and Alito were past participants of the Koch fundraisers. Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress’ resident legal expert, noted:

A Supreme Court justice lending a hand to a political fundraising event would be a clear violation of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges, if it wasn’t for the fact that the nine justices have exempted themselves from much of the ethical rules governing all other federal judges. Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court tells ThinkProgress that “[t]he Justices look to the Code of Conduct for guidance” in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities.


Now, it's Justice Alito, who recently attended a fundraising dinner for the right-wing American Spectator, whose publisher

helps lead a secretive group of conservatives called the “Conservative Action Project,” formed after President Obama’s election, to help lobby for conservative legislative priorities, elect Republicans (the Conservative Action Project helped campaign against Democrat Bill Owens in NY-23), and block President Obama’s judicial appointments. The Spectator’s gala last night, with ticket prices/sponsorship levels ranging from $250 to $25,000, featured prominent Republicans like RNC chairman Michael Steele, hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer (a major donor to Republican campaign committees and attack ad groups), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce board member and former Allied Capital CEO William Walton. Among the attendees toasting Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN), the keynote speaker for the event, was Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito.

We have, they tell us in civics classes, a tradition of separation of powers and checks and balances in American government. It's one thing for the Repub majority on the Supreme Court to have selected a President in 2000, in a decision Justice Scalia (who said "get over it"- a great legal mind) warned should not be used as precedent. But ten years later, a few of these judges continue to be heavily invested in the political process, trying to draw the country further right. Perhaps the mainstream media, though partial to the GOP, would consider inquiring into the political process of corporations and the Justices who are their most important supporters.

No, they won't.



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