Money in Politics Emerges as Key Theme in Gorsuch Hearing
Money in politics and the power of corporations to influence our elections is poised to play a major role in Judge Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings this week, with seven of the nine Democratic Senators on the committee mentioning the issue in their opening statements—from the Roberts’ Court’s decisions in cases like Citizens United and McCutcheon v. FEC to Gorsuch’s own record on the issue.
- In her opening statement, Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein said the hearing was so important because the Supreme Court “decides whether billionaires and large corporations will be able to spend unlimited sums of money to buy elections and whether states and localities will be able to pass laws and make it harder for poor people, people of color, seniors, and younger people to vote.”
- In his statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy noted how unusual it was for “special interest groups” to pick a nominee, instead of the president in consultation with the Senate: “I do not know of any other Supreme Court nominee who was selected by interest groups.” And, he said, Americans deserve to know if Gorsuch will “elevate the rights of corporations over real people.”
- Sen. Dick Durbin said, “let me be clear, when I talk about expanding freedom, I’m not talking about freedom for corporations. We the people does not include corporations.” He said, “In the 2010 Citizens United case, the Supreme Court held for the first time that corporations have the same rights as living breathing people to spend money on elections.”
- Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse’s entire opening statement was a critique of the Roberts’ Court’s views on corporate power, especially money in politics. On the groups spending money to support his nomination, Whitehouse said, “They obviously think you will be worth their money.”
- The proliferation of secret money in elections and attacks on voting rights were two of the first issues Sen. Amy Klobuchar mentioned in her opening statement. Later, she specifically highlighted Gorsuch’s opinion in Hickenlooper and Hobby Lobby as troubling examples of his views on the issue. She noted that the impact of these decisions wasn’t just to give more power to the wealthy, but to take it away from regular Americans: “When the court stripped away the rules that opened the door to unlimited super PAC spending, it wasn’t the campaign finances or the ad man who was hurt. It was a grandma in Minnesota that believed giving $10 to her Senator would make a difference.”
- Sen. Al Franken noted the Roberts’ Court has issued decisions that “limit our constituents’ ability to participate in our democracy” and specifically said, “Perhaps most egregious of all was Citizens United.”
- Sen. Mazie Hirono asked, “Will the court protect free and fair elections by stopping unfettered campaign spending or allow corporations and the ultra-rich to highjack our democracy with dark money? Will the court protect the right to vote for all Americans, or allow states to use voter fraud as an excuse to disenfranchise vulnerable communities?”
As Demos and Campaign Legal Center wrote in January Gorsuch’s record suggests he would vote to give wealthy donors even more power in our elections. He believes corporations are people, has supported a legal standard that could lead to the end of contribution limits, and regularly sides with the wealthy and powerful at the expense of everyday people.