Our Supreme Court is awash in dark money influence. The American people may not be able to see all of the rot, but they can see enough to know that something is rotten over there across First Street at that court. — Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
Our Supreme Court is awash in dark money influence. The American people may not be able to see all of the rot, but they can see enough to know that something is rotten over there across First Street at that court. — Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
This member of Congress wants everyone to know about the 'dark money scheme' that's 'captured' the Supreme Court
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is fighting to end the "dark money" that he says is plaguing the Supreme Court.
  • The Rhode Island Democrat is referring to private groups using anonymous donations to advance their interests at the highest court.
For the ninth time this year, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse gave a speech this week blasting right-wing anonymous donors whom he believes have "captured" the Supreme Court and "built" its current 6-3 conservative majority.

"Our Supreme Court is awash in dark money influence," the Rhode Island Democrat said on the Senate floor on Tuesday. "The American people may not be able to see all of the rot, but they can see enough to know that something is rotten over there across First Street at that court."

Unlike some members of his party, Whitehouse has steered clear of reform ideas such as adding more seats to the bench or setting term limits for justices. Instead, the three-term senator has been vehemently pushing for financial transparency in the third branch of government to expose how it's been influenced by a far-right conservative agenda.

Whitehouse, who chairs a key panel on the Senate Judiciary Committee, calls it a three-fold "scheme" — private groups use anonymous donations to groom Supreme Court candidates, promote and defend these nominees with political ad campaigns and later try to influence these justices in legal briefs filed without any financial disclosures.

"If it's the same people who paid for all of it, particularly if they're the same people who are funding politicians, then it becomes not just a problem, but potentially toxic," Whitehouse, 66, said in a recent interview with Insider.

According to the senator's findings, the effect of this operation is being played out during Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts' tenure, which has handed down at least 80 partisan decisions that advanced conservative interests.

"It's a terrible record," Whitehouse said.


When Whitehouse began investigating the matter years ago, he "had a general sense that things had gone off the rails" at the Supreme Court and wanted to do research to show "how big, special interests hiding behind dark money had been able to exert their power," he told Insider.

In a report published last year by the Harvard Journal on Legislation, Whitehouse laid out his evidence of the dark money trail by pointing to major Supreme Court decisions that delivered wins to conservatives. Those rulings included allowing unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns, reversing the rights of labor unions, and weakening voting rights.

The trend is only continuing, according to Whitehouse. What he finds most troubling is an increase in the number of legal briefs, known as amicus briefs, that are filed without any financial disclosure to convince the justices to rule a certain way.

"The rule of the court purports to say that you can't hide behind a front group. There's almost no other situation in court where somebody is allowed to come in and not identify themselves, and yet there is conspicuous non-enforcement of that rule, and it deprives the public of seeing the coordination among the phony front groups," Whitehouse said, adding that he doesn't "understand why the court doesn't clean that up itself."

In the current term, hundreds of briefs tied to a slew of contentious cases have been filed to the Supreme Court. One highly-watched case, concerning a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, has attracted dozens of briefs that express support for or opposition to the law.

"We're seeing in real time this vector of anonymous influence deploying in enormous numbers on these political cases and that's just a rotten site for a court to present to the country," Whitehouse said.
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/sheldon-whitehouse-fighting-to-end-dark-money-at-supreme-court-2021-11