The Courts: Shifting the Judiciary to the Right ... for Big Business
"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. 
"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." 
- 1 Courting Influence
- 2 The "nuclear option"
- 3 From Texas to Washington
- 4 Exciting "Big Business"
- 5 Exciting the Dominionists
- 6 Cementing Right-Wing Dominance
- 7 Judicial Statistics
- 8 "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith"
- 9 SourceWatch Resources
- 10 External links
"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." 
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." 
"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: 
- "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. 
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." 
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
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." 
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." 
"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.'" 
- Faith-based and Community Initiatives
- George W. Bush: The Culture War President
- James R. Leininger
- Justice Sunday
- Moral Majority
- religion and empire
- religion-in-prison movement
- Presidential Prayer Team
- Richard Viguerie
- The Bush Theocracy
- tobacco industry
- Texans for Lawsuit Reform website.
- Texas Civil Justice League website.
- Texas Freedom Network website: "Religious Right Watch. Texas-Based Organizations."]
Studies & Reports
- Carl Deal and Joanne Doroshow, The CALA Files: The Secret Campaign by Big Tobacco and Other Major Industries to Take Away Your Rights, Released by Center for Justice & Democracy and Public Citizen.
- "Paybacks: Tobacco Industry, Public Campaign, 2004.
- "Church-State Separation in the United States: Religion in Public Schools and the Legal/Off-Courtroom Strategies of the Christian Right," eriposte.com, last updated March 6, 2005.
Articles & Commentary
- R.G. Ratcliffe, "Businessman invests capital in his causes. Leininger's millions helped conservatives make gains," Houston Chronicle, September 21, 1997.
- Pam Pressley, "New Report Uncovers Secret Campaign by Big Tobacco and Other Industries to Restrict Legal Rights," The Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, July 26, 2000: "'Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse' Groups Linked to National Network Funded by Major Tobacco and Corporate Money."
- Adam Cohen, "Deborah Cook Is the Typical Bush Judicial Nominee? So Watch Out," New York Times, February 24, 2003.
- Molly Ivins, "Texas Ledge gets wacky while top donors look on from 'owner's box'," Working for Change, May 1, 2003.
- Nan Aron, "Judicial Disappointments," In These Times, February 18, 2004.
- Eric Alterman and Mark Green, "The New Scopes Trials," The Nation, February 19, 2004: "In the Bush Administration, when the religious right or big business weighs in on a matter of science, politics usually prevails."
- Timothy Noah, "George W., Judicial Activist. The religious right made him do it," Slate, February 24, 2004.
- Dan Noyes, "Courting Big Business. Is the Bush White House Using the Courts as Another Way to Pay Back Special Interests?," Salon, April 2004.
- Julian Borger, "Bush poll campaign courts religious right. Evangelical 'mega-churches' may hold the key to the White House," Guardian/UK, July 3, 2004.
- Scott Gold, "Top Bush supporter funds attacks on Kerry's war record. Homebuilder is longtime force in Texas GOP," Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2004.
- Amy Goldstein and Sarah Cohen, "Bush Forces a Shift In Regulatory Thrust. OSHA Made More Business-Friendly," Washington Post, August 15, 2004.
- David Sirota, Christy Harvey, Judd Legum and Jonathan Baskin, "Bush's Big Business Agenda," American Progress Action Fund, August 16, 2004.
- "Chamber Targets Daschle in Statewide Voter Education Campaign. Senator’s Anti-Business, Pro-Trial Lawyer Record Highlighted," U.S. Chamber of Commerce, August 19, 2004.
- James Moore, "Smear artist. The coauthor of Bush's Brain examines the rise of Karl Rove as the dark genius behind the president's dirty campaigns," Salon, August 28, 2004.
- Mike Pridmore, "'Tort Reform': Truth to the Lies, Part 1: How Bob Perry Bought Texas for Karl Rove," Daily Kos, September 6, 2004.
- Mike Pridmore, "'Tort Reform': Truth to the Lies, Part 2: Big Tobacco et al Goes National with Rove's Idea," Daily Kos, October 2, 2004.
- Richard S. Dunham and Howard Gleckman, "Can the GOP Get Down to Business?," BusinessWeek, November 22, 2004.
- Joshua Holland, "Conservative über-activist Richard Viguerie talks politics," The Gadflyer, November 27, 2004.
- "Religious Right Ready to 'Go Nuclear' Against Independent Jucidiary," atheists.org, December 2, 2004.
- Paul Siegel, "Big Business Boosts Bush Judge Nominees," The Learning Fountain, January 6, 2005.
- "Curbs to Abusive Class-Action Lawsuits. A Big Win for Small Business," Small Business Administration, February 18, 2005.
- Carl Hulse and David D. Kirkpatrick, "Casting Angry Eye on Courts, Conservatives Prime for Bench-Clearing Brawl in Congress," New York Times, March 23, 2005: "Conservatives, already disdainful of the way judges have handled subjects like same-sex marriage and abortion, say the court treatment of the Schiavo case illustrates a judiciary that is willing to ignore the will of the public and elected officials."
- Adam Nagourney, "The Schiavo Case: The Governor; "In a Polarizing Case, Jeb Bush Cements His Political Stature," New York Times, March 25, 2005.
- "DeLay says those responsible will answer for it. President Bush offers words of comfort, praise to families," AP/Houston Chronicle, March 31, 2005; "DeLay Statement on Terri Schiavo," US Newswire, March 31, 2005.
- Hugh Hewitt, "Faith And Politics," The Weekly Standard, March 31, 2005.
- Mike Allen, "DeLay Wants Panel to Review Role of Courts. Democrats Criticize His Attack on Judges," Washington Post, April 2, 2005.
- Seshadri Kumar, "DeLay tackles 'liberal media, out of control judges' in home turf," Fort Bend/Southwest Sun, April 5, 2005: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land was in his elements at the Sugar Land Rotary Club last week as he spelled out his views on issues ranging from 'how to fight the liberal media' and the 'out of control' judges to the ethics violation charges and his leadership role in the Congress to social security reforms and tax reforms."
- Judd, "Cornyn Refuses to Apologize, Defends Earlier Remarks," Think Progress, April 6, 2005.
- Dennis Mick, "The Invisible War for Right-Wing Dominance," BuzzFlash, April 7, 2005.
- Carl Hulse and David D. Kirkpatrick, "DeLay Says Federal Judiciary Has 'Run Amok,' Adding Congress Is Partly to Blame," New York Times, April 8, 2005.
- Dana Milbank, "And the Verdict on Justice Kennedy Is: Guilty," Washington Post, April 9, 2005.
- "Outrageous," Jesus Was Not a Republican blogspot, April 10, 2005: "According to today's issue of Parade Magazine: The government spent more than $40 million for the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations but only $15 million for the 9/11 Commission to examine the terrorist atacks of Sep. 11, 2001."
- Max Blumenthal, "In Contempt of Courts," The Nation, April 11, 2005.
- Mike Pridmore, "All about the Money: Rove, DeLay, conservative judges, SBLfB," Daily Kos, April 11, 2005.
- "James Dobson compared Supreme Court justices to the KKK," Media Matters for America, April 11, 2005. See video clip in which Dobson says: "I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about."
- Larry Margasak, "DeLay Fundraising Plied Special Interests," Washington Post, April 11, 2005: "Fundraisers for a political committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay routinely solicited donations by identifying legislative actions that prospective givers wanted, from video gambling to lawsuit limits, memos show."
- Laura Flanders with Steven Rosenfeld, "Republican Vigilantism," Laura Flanders Show, April 11, 2005: "It’s not just that the White House and the Senate Right are gearing up to do whatever it’ll take to pack the judiciary. There’s a campaign going on against the rule of law itself."
- Steven Greenhouse, "Falling Fortunes of the Wage Earner," New York Times, April 12, 2005.
- Paul Waldman, "Hard Times," The Gadflyer, April 12, 2005.
- "History Loves a Big Ol' Chomp O' Ass," The Rude Pundit, April 12, 2005. Caution: May contain offensive language.
- Sol Wachtler and David Gould, "Let Ten Commandments debate begin. The framers of our Constitution did not draw upon the Bible to shore up our legal system," Newsday, April 12, 2005. Note: "Sol Wachtler is a former chief judge ot the New York State Court of Appeals. David Gould is a former assistant United States attorney."
- Billmon, "Straight From the Ass's Mouth," Whiskey Bar, April 12, 2005.
- Carl Hulse, "Republicans May Hasten Showdown on Judicial-Nomination Filibusters," New York Times, April 13, 2005.
- Derek Rose, "Robertson: Judges worse than Al Qaeda," New York Daily News, May 1, 2005: "Federal judges are a more serious threat to America than Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 terrorists, the Rev. Pat Robertson claimed yesterday."
- Jonathan Weisman and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "Business Groups Tire of GOP Focus On Social Issues," Washington Post, May 24, 2005: "'I'm inclined to support the Republican Party, but the question becomes, how much other stuff do I have to put up with to maintain that identification?' asked Andrew A. Samwick, a Dartmouth College economics professor who until recently was chief economist of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers. ... 'I don't know a single business group involved in the judicial nominees,' said R. Bruce Josten, an executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 'Nada, none, zip.'"