August 10, 2014
Add Bloomberg Businessweek to the list of gullible news outlets duly reporting the Justice at Stake/Brennan Center/Other Soros-Financed Groups line that money is “flooding” into Tennessee’s upcoming retention race for three Supreme Court Justices. The article tsk-tsks over the $268,000 spent on television ads by outside groups (less than the judges themselves are spending, BTW). By comparison, that’s about as much as University of Tennessee football fans spent on hot dogs and Cokes at the Vols’ Orange-White spring exhibition game. Some crisis. Personal foul Businessweek – 15 yard penalty.
May 23, 2014
The disclosure scam – where political activists pressure companies to stay on the sidelines in political fights – is falling flat with shareholders, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial today. Compared to last year, support among shareholders for proxy votes on greater disclosure of political activities is flat or even declining by some measures. That’s because shareholders increasingly recognize these proposals for what they are – blatant attempts to bully, intimidate or harass companies into giving up their First Amendment rights to participate in the political process.
As the Journal put it:
“Disclosure sounds like corporate apple pie, but there’s no fiduciary reason that companies should have to disclose in a proxy how much they give to groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable or to political campaigns. In this era of government economic dominance, political spending to prevent regulatory damage is as critical a business expense as marketing.”
The editorial also points out that much of this disclosure charade is being financed by billionaire Wall Street speculator George Soros – a fact that somehow never manages to make it into most news reports. It’s yet another example of the selective outrage of the Professional Left’s media toadies who demonize wealthy right-leaning donors, but go silent when billionaires spend millions to advance causes that align with their political ideologies.
May 12, 2014
In North Carolina, $1.3 million was spent on ads “designed to make voters’ skin crawl” in a “David-and-Goliath political money intrigue” raising the prospect that “justice might be for sale.” The result of this potential catastrophe of Biblical proportions? The incumbent Democrat won the race. Ho hum.
Perhaps the funniest (or at least the most ironic) complaint was that $50,000 in campaign spending came from “Koch Industries.” Who registered that complaint? None other than Bert Brandenburg of Justice at Stake, which is financed by … George Soros. Of course, that fact never made it into the article.
December 11, 2013
The Wall Street Journal editorial page weighs in on the intimidation campaign by Senator Elizabeth Warren I wrote about last week. Warren struck back against the Third Way think tank when two of its members published an op-ed in the Journal arguing that Warren’s brand of hard-core doctrinaire liberalism won’t sell well beyond Massachusetts in 2016. Because of their apostasy, Warren and the Professional Left have “launched a campaign to purge them for their deviation from progressive dogma.”
The interesting thing, as the Journal points out, is that the Left never tried to rebut the op-ed’s arguments:
“Instead, they set out to silence Third Way, intimidate Democratic politicians and donors into disavowing the group, and discredit the think tank on ground that – gasp! – some of its supporters work at financial companies.”
This is a critical insight. The Professional Left has clearly grown tired of engaging in public debate over any issue. Rather than trying to win people over to their point of view, their new strategy is to try to bully, intimidate and ultimately silence opposing voices. This is the common thread that connects the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups, calls for the SEC to pass new rules aimed at outing companies who participate in the political process, efforts by Soros-financed groups to silence pro-business groups, and other attacks on the First Amendment.
The Warren attack on Third Way represents something of a crossing-the-Rubicon moment for Democrats. Up until now, the intimidation campaign has been focused on conservative and pro-business groups. Warren’s letter shows that Democrats themselves are not safe from the left-wing thought police. Will any ordinary Democrats stand up and say enough is enough?
November 20, 2013
Influential columnist Robert Samuleson takes on the myth that rich donors are somehow buying government and argues the influence of U.S. companies on the political process is “vastly exaggerated.”
Samuleson’s column lends credence to Yale Law School Professor Jonathan Macey’s contention that the goal of the current transparency charade – funded by billionaire speculator George Soros – “isn’t disclosure but unilateral business disarmament” in the political arena. According to Samuelson, “democracy’s problem is not the influence of money.” In fact, writes Samuelson:
“The idea that government is routinely bought and sold by the rich is a source of widespread – but misleading – cynicism. It’s the false premise on which so-called campaign finance ‘reform’ rests. Money interests are allegedly so corrupt that they must be controlled or else will ruin democracy. The resulting campaign rules have, by inspiring evasions and compromising free speech, fed the cynicism they were supposed to suppress. They have made politics more costly and cumbersome without making it more effective.”
The bottom line: All the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by the phony transparency crowd isn’t giving us better government, it’s just feeding more cynicism.
November 5, 2013
NPR – formerly National Public Radio – has a hit piece out on a Michigan Supreme Court race that cost Justice Alton Davis his seat on the bench. Taxpayer-supported NPR ($445 million to its parent the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) tries to portray Davis’s defeat as a “new way of doing politics,” with campaign ads sponsored by independent organizations like the American Justice Partnership, which I lead.
Of course, no mention was made of the dark money that helped defeat Michigan Chief Justice Clifford Taylor in 2008. Nor did NPR dig into the liberal C-3 world that includes groups like Justice at Stake and other beneficiaries of George Soros’s millions. And no comment on the “social welfare” groups that use private money to try to silence pro-business voices in the political arena.
Actually, the real story behind former Justice Davis is far more interesting than NPR’s air-brushed version.
Davis got to the Michigan Supreme Court through a backroom deal that would have made the old Tammany Hall crowd look like a bunch of amateurs. His appointment was made possible when longtime Justice Betty Weaver agreed to resign under the cloud of a complaint filed by her fellow justices with the Judicial Tenure Commission. But before resigning, Weaver first asked Davis whether he would replace her and then cut a deal with former Governor Jennifer Granholm to appoint Davis in her place.
The Weaver-for-Davis shuffle allowed Democrats to seize control of the Court, bypassing the will of Michigan voters who had elected a pro-rule-of-law majority, rather than a trial-lawyer-friendly judge like Davis. Michigan voters dumped Davis unceremoniously at the first possible chance. So the real story behind Davis’s defeat is one of the voters rejecting sleazy backroom deals and rising up to retake control of the Court, not a relatively small ad financed by AJP.
October 22, 2013
In a must-read WSJ op-ed, Yale Law School Professor Jonathan Macey lifts the rock on the Soros-financed index that purports to track corporate accountability and transparency, revealing it as a sham designed to bully businesses into silence by “activists in the continuing political war against corporate America.”
According to Macey, the “deeply flawed” CPA-Zicklin Index’s “design and metrics are outcome oriented, reflecting the subjective and political biases of the index’s sponsors.” Translation: This is a political campaign, not an academic exercise. Macey also points out that businesses which retreat from engaging in politics do so at their own peril:
“The presumption that more disclosure by corporations is necessarily good for investors is also deeply flawed. U.S. companies must compete in a highly politicized world in which engagement in politics – and with politicians – is, unfortunately, necessary. In the context of antitrust, intellectual property, securities regulation, environmental law and many other fields, engagement in politics is often essential for survival. Boards of directors’ fiduciary duties to maximize shareholder value often require that companies engage politicians who control the competitive and regulatory environment in which they operate.”
Macey also calls out the Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending – as I did in a Washington Times op-ed last summer. As Macey correctly notes, this Soros-bankrolled entity is “part of a war in which activists try to silence pro-business points of view by using disclosure to name and shame the companies that speak up for U.S. business.” The “clear goal of these activists,” Macey writes, “isn’t disclosure but unilateral business disarmament.”
“If shareholder activists … stop capitalists in the U.S. from engaging in politics, only anti-capitalists will have a voice inside the Washington Beltway. The results would be catastrophic for American competitiveness.”
October 15, 2013
The Soros-bankrolled gavel grabbers are patting themselves on the back following an editorial that endorses judicial selection by special interest groups and “salutes JAS partner” Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts on its 25th anniversary.
Yes, that’s right. Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts has been lobbying like crazy for a quarter of a century to get voters and their public servants in the legislature to give up their constitutionally protected right to vote for judges and turn the job over to a gang of legal special interest groups. After 25 years of failure, you’d think they’d be little embarrassed about popping the champagne corks, but I’ll raise my glass to another 25 great years of more of the same.
October 7, 2013
The Wall Street Journal has a strong editorial today on an upcoming case, McCutcheon v. FEC, calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to “restore the First Amendment as a bulwark of free political speech.”
The case involves an Alabama businessman who is challenging existing limits on total contributions that can be made during an election cycle. Under current law, donors cannot give more than $5,200 to a candidate and cannot exceed a total ceiling of $48,600 to all candidates.
As the Journal correctly points out, “there is little risk of quid-pro-quo corruption if a donor spreads his donations among dozens of candidates,” but “aggregate limits do restrict how much donors can participate in politics.” The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that donations are political speech and subject to First Amendment protections. Moreover, “the sheer amount of spending on politics today reduces the influence of any single campaign donor” such that “even large donations aren’t likely to buy corrupt favors in campaigns with many such donors and huge sums spent.” Yet thanks to past Supreme Court blunders, the Journal notes that “political participation is more heavily regulated today than are video games and pornography.”
All of the would-be speech suppressors and proponents of phony disclosure rules like the Soros crowd have the same purpose in mind: Silence points of view they find distasteful – such as support for free enterprise, less regulation, and lower taxes – and keep them out of the public arena at all costs. Let’s hope the Court gives “the benefit of the doubt to speech, not censorship” in this case.
September 5, 2013
Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett is winning cheers from the Soros-bankrolled “merit” selection campaign for a recent interview in The Atlantic where he sharply criticizes the system of democratic judicial elections that put him on the bench.
It seems Justice Willett doesn’t think much of the people he serves, suggesting that “voters know far more about their American Idol judges that their Supreme Court judges.” He complains that judges running in democratic elections must “spend 99 percent of your time raising a colossal fortune that you then use to bombard voters in hopes of branding your name onto a tiny crevice in their short-term memory for a few fleeting moments.”
While Texans may not know anything about their Supreme Court justices, they harbor the “suspicion that donations drive decisions … and that’s toxic to the idea of an impartial, independent judiciary.” Justice Willett assures us that, at least in his case, “it flatly doesn’t happen” – casually sliming his colleagues on the Court who he wants us to believe tally up their campaign contributions before writing decisions.
The whole process of courting voters is so distasteful to Justice Willett that “nothing would please me, or my wife, more than if my last election were my last election.” The Atlantic interviewer adds that Justice Willett “holds his nose while he campaigns for votes pledging to be ‘conservative.’”
All of which raises the question: Why does this man continue to run for office? For all I know, Justice Willett is a fine judge, but if the process of winning the approval of the people he serves is that degrading to him, he owes it to himself, his family and the people of Texas to step aside for a judge who understands that elections – as messy and unpleasant as they can be – are a critical safeguard for keeping our public servants accountable and responsible.