The Courts: Shifting the Judiciary to the Right ... for Big Business

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"The Republican Party's right wing has long recognized the role of federal courts in deciding public-interest and civil rights cases. For this constituency the judicial nominations process is a critical factor in determining how, and whether, they vote." George W. Bush's first term, "witnessed the increasing involvement of another powerful Bush constituency: the business lobby, which is financing private-sector campaigns to confirm nominees. Like Ronald Reagan, Bush has used his judicial nominations to shore up his right-wing base and to increase fundraising. Republican strategist Karl Rove recently spoke about the need to invoke judicial nominees to reach and mobilize 4 million disaffected fundamentalist voters," Nan Aron wrote in February 2004. [1]

"There the two goals are obvious," Mike Pridmore, opined in the April 11, 2005, Daily Kos. "Publicly use the Christian angle to excite the base while quietly supporting the real agenda, the exact same pro-business agenda [Rove] had in Texas before he had mastered manipulation of the Christian Right for political profit." [2]

Courting Influence

"President George W. Bush’s nominees to some of the most influential positions on the federal bench during his first term are notable for their close ties to corporate interests, especially the energy and mining industries, according to a new investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting. Many of the nominees have been appointed to judgeships holding central jurisdiction over litigation affecting these industries." --Federal Juciciary Nominees and Their Ties to Special Interests

The "nuclear option"

"Proposals on Capitol Hill to speed approval of President Bush's nominees to the federal judiciary system could alter the way Congress does business, and even threaten the constitutional balance of powers.

"Dubbed 'the nuclear option' both by critics and supporters, the changes include making it easier to end filibusters (a practice where a minority of legislators hold up proceedings.) Even more radical are calls to divide obstreperous courts such as the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and render select legislation enacted by congress having to do with religion esentially 'off limits' to judicial scrutiny." [3]

From Texas to Washington

Pridmore wrote that "In all the discussions about how long Tom DeLay will last and about the fight in the US Senate over Democratic use of the filibuster to keep Bush judicial nominees from becoming judges, one thing that seems to be going unnoticed is the mutual history Rove and DeLay left behind in TX, a history that includes not only a coordinated effort to gain control of the US House of Representatives but also includes a mutually coordinated effort to buy control of the TX judiciary. That mutual history serves as the key to understanding the real reason why they also want to shift the US judiciary far to the right." [4]

"In the late 1980s, Rove began collaborating with Bob Perry. Their goal was to fund various Republican candidates and provide a fake issue to be used in political campaigns. Using these tactics, they little by little patiently expanded Republican power in Texas," Pridmore wrote September 6, 2004.

Pridmore refers to James Moore's August 28, 2004, Salon article on Karl Rove, in which Moore wrote: [5]

"Perry worked with Rove early in the consultant's political ascension. The Houston homebuilder, who has developed into the biggest giver to Republican causes and candidates in Texas, was the finance chairman of the 1986 Texas gubernatorial campaign of Bill Clements. Rove managed that race for Clements and Perry was an important fundraiser, helping Rove generate the donor lists he used to rebuild the Texas Republican Party, and, ultimately, finance the climb of his prize client, George W. Bush.
"Rove had already convinced Perry to begin raising money to elect state judges -- funds used to help launch the Texas Civil Justice League. The Civil Justice League was Rove's initial surrogate organization and carried the message that trial lawyers were bad people who were screwing up the business climate with frivolous lawsuits. The chorus singing about the evils of lawyers in Texas was later joined by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (an organization that Rove helped grow and with which he maintains close contact today), and yet another front group called Texans for Lawsuit Reform. As they chanted their messages across the state about the horrors of litigation, Rove's political clients were able to publicly acknowledge the concerns of these groups. Thus an entirely artificial movement, conceived and funded by Rove, was used to change the state's judicial system..."

"When Rove went to Washington, Tom DeLay picked up where he left off in Texas and collaborates with Bob Perry to help build upon the 'tort reform' foundation laid by Rove," Mike Pridmore wrote September 6, 2004. [6]

Exciting "Big Business"

Following U.S. presidential election, 2004, BusinessWeek remarked that "many of America's corporate chieftains cheered the reelection of George W. Bush, knowing they could look forward to four more business-friendly years of Republican rule. With Bush safely ensconced in the White House and the GOP boosting its margin in Congress, big items on business' wish list seemed within reach: tort reform, permanent tax cuts, continued regulatory relief, a comprehensive energy bill, and private Social Security investment accounts." [7]

Exciting the Dominionists

"Meet the Dominionists -- biblical literalists who believe God has called them to take over the U.S. government. As the far-right wing of the evangelical movement, Dominionists are pressing an agenda that makes Newt Gingrich's Contract With America look like the Communist Manifesto. They want to rewrite schoolbooks to reflect a Christian version of American history, pack the nation's courts with judges who follow Old Testament law, post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse and make it a felony for gay men to have sex and women to have abortions. In Florida, when the courts ordered Terri Schiavo's feeding tube removed, it was the Dominionists who organized round-the-clock protests and issued a fiery call for Gov. Jeb Bush to defy the law and take Schiavo into state custody. Their ultimate goal is to plant the seeds of a 'faith-based' government that will endure far longer than Bush's presidency -- all the way until Jesus comes back." --Bob Moser, Rolling Stone, April 7, 2005.

Cementing Right-Wing Dominance

BuzzFlash reader Dennis Mick remarked April 7, 2005, that "Recent remarks by John Cornyn and last week by Tom DeLay were intended to stir the far right base against the Judicial Branch." [8]

These, he wrote, "were not random comments made in the heat of the moment and later regretted. They were key sound bites in a carefully orchestrated and intricate campaign to cement into perpetuity right wing dominance and virtually permanent impotence of the Democratic party." [9]

Indicative of this strategy was the move made by Jeb Bush, who cemented his religious and social conservative credentials with his "last-minute intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo." [10]

Judicial Statistics

As of February 18, 2004, Aron reported, Republican appointees comprised "53 percent of the federal judiciary and [were] in the majority on 9 of 13 circuit courts. Given vacancies and pending nominees, by the end of the year Republicans could gain the majority on all but one.

"President Bush relentlessly pushes to pack the courts, and he has not shown the same commitment to diversity demonstrated by President Clinton. Of Clinton's 440 judicial nominees, 131 were women (30 percent) and 112 (25 percent) were racial or ethnic minorities. Of President Bush's 216 nominees to date, 46 (21 percent) are women and 40 (19 percent) are minorities.

"Although Democrats have been able to block the worst of the nominees, Bush already has made enough lifetime appointments to leave an indelible mark on the federal judiciary -- and there is no reason to believe that his campaign to stack the courts will abate in an election year." [11]

"Confronting the Judicial War on Faith"

From Max Blumenthal, The Nation, April 11, 2005:

"The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges 'is understandable,' Cass told [Blumenthal], 'but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution.'" [12]

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