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Senators Voice Their Concerns About Neil Gorsuch’s Troubling Record on Money in Politics

February 28, 2017 | Adam Smith

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Judge Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s nominee for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, has continually sided with the wealthy and powerful and against everyday people. At least 17 Senators have brought this issue up in discussing his nomination.

After their meeting on Monday, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said she “emphasized” her concerns “with the influence of unlimited corporate and dark money in American politics.”

After their meeting, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) “expressed concern about the dramatic increase of secret money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United decision.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D.R.I.) said in his statement following his meeting with Gorsuch, “In recent years, the Supreme Court has delivered one 5-4 decision after another, benefiting the Republican Party’s political operation in three big ways: helping them win elections by rolling back campaign finance and voter protections; helping the Party’s corporate backers by punishing unions and workers; and delivering far-right social policy that Congress would not pass.”

To win his support, the Senator said, “Gorsuch will have to convince me that he will stand up to the sort of political giveaways to Republicans that have been the hallmark of the Roberts Court.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) raised concerns about his record on corporate power too, and “said that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts had ruled overwhelmingly in favor of big corporations and that Gorsuch’s judicial record suggests he may continue that trend.”

In an op-ed in the New York Times recently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (R-N.Y.) wrote that Gorsuch simply “refused to answer” any questions about decisions like Citizens United, that gave big money donors more ability to influence our elections.

In an interview with Bill Maher on HBO, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said, “I don’t want another 5-4 activist conservative majority” that’ll support decisions like Citizens United. He continued, “The Roberts Court has been a…pro-corporate, pro-pollution, pro-big money in campaigns and in elections and I’m not going to OK another 5-4 Roberts Court.”

After his meeting, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reiterated that “when it comes to some fundamental issues, issues relating to freedom of religion, issues relating to Citizens United and the like, I have some basic differences with his approach.”

In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said,”I care a lot about campaign finance” and noted Gorsuch’s support for a legal standard that would lead to the elimination of contribution limits that are commonsense safeguards against corruption.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said before his meeting with Gorsuch, “But I have real concerns about what I believe are two of the most fundamental rights in our democracy: the right to vote and the right to know who you are voting for. And I specifically want to know how the judge feels about the suppression of voting rights and about the amount of undisclosed, unlimited money in campaigns.”

The night and day after his nomination was announced, several Senators weighed in on the issue too:

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement, “I question whether he will put the interests of working families in New Jersey and throughout the country before those of big corporations.”
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) tweeted, “I cannot support any SCOTUS nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.”
  • Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash) tweeted, “women’s choice, LGBTQ rights, marriage equality, voting rights, immigration & campaign finance reform–so much at stake.”
  • Sen. Durbin tweeted, “In recent years, the Court has shifted dramatically toward big money corporate interests at the expense of American workers and small biz.”
  • Sen Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) tweeted, “The next justice will have a profound impact on money in politics, voting rights, immigrant and women’s rights, and more.”
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) said in a statement that Gorsuch’s confirmation “could threaten fundamental rights in America,” including, “the rights of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard rather than being drowned out by the corrupting influence of dark money from the richest Americans.”
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) tweeted, “Judge Gorsuch must explain his hostility to women’s rights, support of corporations over workers and opposition to campaign finance reform.”
  • Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) tweeted, “I am concerned that Gorsuch has a tendency to favor the interests of big corporations & special interests over every day Americans.”
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said in a statement, “For years, powerful interests have executed a full-scale assault on the integrity of our federal judiciary, trying to turn the Supreme Court into one more rigged game that works only for the rich and the powerful. They spent millions to keep this seat open, and Judge Gorsuch is their reward.”
  • Sen. Whitehouse tweeted, “Americans deserve to know where Trump’s SCOTUS nominee Judge Gorsuch stands on the special interest politics that has stricken the Court.”

They’re absolutely right to be concerned. As detailed by Campaign Legal Center and Demos, Gorsuch’s record on money in politics shows a willingness to throw out any limits on the ability for wealthy donors and corporate special interests to spend money in our elections. Or, in short, as Fordham University Law Professor wrote in a recent op-ed, “A Gorsuch democracy won’t look much like a democracy at all, with donors allowed essentially unlimited avenues for influence.”

Senators must continue asking Gorsuch about his dangerous views that the wealthy and powerful deserve more protections than everyone else, and he should be forced to answer for them during his confirmation hearings in March.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.

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