The Price of Apostasy on the Left

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?

Phony Campaign Finance Reform Based on “False Premise” That Generates “Widespread Cynicism”

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.

NPR Gives Biased View of Campaign Donations

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.

Engagement in Politics “Essential for Survival” for U.S. Companies

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.”

In Pennsylvania, 25 Years – And Counting

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.

Supreme Court Should Protect Free Speech

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.

Don’t Like Elections? Don’t Run for Office!

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.

Do Judges Give Up Their First Amendment Rights?

August 20, 2013

The Soros brigade is now training their fire on Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry Saad.  What has Judge Saad done to earn their ire?  Exercised his First Amendment rights by contributing to political campaigns.

A recent article in Bridge notes that Saad donated $80,000 to Republican candidates and causes last year.  Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network – part of the Soros web of political organizations working to control state judiciaries – claims Saad’s contributions have “destroyed any pretense that he is non-partisan.”

But as Saad notes, “contributing money to a candidate for political office is a constitutionally protected First Amendment right.” In fact, recently the Tennessee Bar Association supported a move to reverse the ban on political donations by judges in that state, suggesting that judges don’t give up their First Amendment rights when they join the bench.

Of course, the objection by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network and the Soros echo chamber has little to do with ensuring non-partisan courts.  It’s merely an effort to tarnish a conservative-leaning judge in a state where left-wing judicial candidates have a hard time getting elected.

Do Judicial Rulings Follow Money or Does Money Follow Judicial Rulings?

June 19, 2013

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy is out with a new report that purports to show a nefarious connection between business support for judicial candidates and pro-business judicial rulings. Of course, no study was made of trial lawyer contributions to pro-trial bar judges. That’s because as long as the game was rigged by the trial bar, the left got the activist judges it wanted. It’s only been in the last decade or so that pro-business groups have joined the fray, donating to judges who are more likely to uphold the rule of law than invent new theories of business liability or override the desires of elected legislatures.

The interesting thing about this new study is how insular the campaign to demonize pro-business groups and their involvement in judicial elections has become. The American Constitution Society for Law & Public Policy is a charter member of the George Soros-financed campaign to end democratic judicial elections and put trial lawyers back in charge of judicial selection. The new report is being promoted by another Soros-bankrolled group that we all know and love, Justice at Stake.

The fact is, despite all the chest beating by the Soros crowd, this new report provides no evidence that judges are shifting their votes to favor campaign contributors. Instead, it merely makes the most obvious point in the world – which is that pro-business groups are more likely to support pro-business judicial candidates who respect the rule of law instead of the rule of trial lawyers.

The left’s real goal with pseudo-academic reports like this is to try to intimidate, pressure, or bully pro-business groups into silence. Since the left knows that voters are more likely to elect the kind of rule-of-law judges business groups support, they are doing everything in their power to silence pro-business groups and keep them out of elections. Or even abolish elections by imposing “merit” selection systems that disenfranchise voters and make judges unaccountable to the people they serve.

Blame the Judges, Not the Voters.

June 19, 2013

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice and current Honorary Chair of George Soros’s Justice at Stake Sandra Day O’Connor frets that democratic judicial elections create the perception that judges are “politicians in robes.” Actually, there’s a better explanation for this perception: Judges who act like politicians by arrogating to themselves the role of legislators.

In Kansas, for example, earlier this year a District Court panel of three judges ordered the state to increase school funding from $3,838 per pupil to $4,492 per pupil – in effect raising taxes on Kansas citizens and business by $400 million per year. Under the Kansas Constitution, the power to appropriate money is vested in the Legislature, not the Judiciary.

Instead of railing against elections, maybe Honorary Chair O’Connor should turn her considerable skills to instructing judges of their true place in our system of divided government.

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