Sheldon Whitehouse: Republicans are spending a fortune in ‘dark money’ to influence the federal judiciary

Sheldon Whitehouse: Republicans are spending a fortune in ‘dark money’ to influence the federal judiciary

As President Joe Biden weighs his options for a U.S. Supreme Court nominee to replace the retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, far-right MAGA Republicans are running ads claiming that Biden is up to something sinister. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, in an op-ed published by the Washington Post on February 17, finds those fearmongering ads to be an example of projection — as GOP dark money has helped Republicans obtain the 6-3 hard-right majority they presently enjoy on the High Court.

“When Supreme Court vacancies occur, a Republican dark-money operation swings into action,” the Democratic senator explains. “Now, an anonymously funded right-wing group is airing an ad aimed at the yet-to-be-picked nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. The group alleges that liberal dark-money interests will guide President Biden’s choice. The music is ominous, the central claim false, and the hypocrisy thick.”

The group that Whitehouse is referring to calls itself the Judicial Crisis Network. And its anti-Biden ad, Whitehouse writes, is total hypocrisy in light of all the Republican dark money that has been spent on the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The ad, launched by the same right-wing donor interests that captured our Supreme Court under President Donald Trump, is an effort to distract from their own dark-money operation,” Whitehouse notes. “Their accusations of dark-money corruption are a bizarre reimagining of the very strategy that they, themselves, hatched and executed.”

The Judicial Crisis Network and other “dark money groups,” according to Whitehouse, are “linked to Leonard Leo, Federalist Society co-chairman and former executive vice president.”

“Leo has been a force behind dark-money court-capture dating back to the George W. Bush Administration,” Whitehouse notes. “When Trump was elected, this operation ramped up: The network selected reliable right-wing judicial nominees, its trusted advisers shepherded nominees through the Senate, and millions in dark-money PR campaigns and ads propelled nominees’ toward confirmation. Thus, today The Court That Dark Money Built reliably hands down decisions favorable to the donors.”

The Judicial Crisis Network, according to Whitehouse, is accusing Democrats of the very thing that it is doing: spending dark money to influence the federal judiciary.

“It’s an old propaganda technique: Accuse your adversary of the exact wrong you are committing,” Whitehouse writes. “Russian President Vladimir Putin uses it regularly.”

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