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Sheldon's Master Class


Sheldon Whitehouse represents one of the country's smallest states: Rhode Island. It happens to be a state noteworthy for its corruption. Most of us experienced it as cops handing out tickets as cars left the beach, in much the same way Louisiana officers pounce on drivers with out-of-state plates. You can have a chat with the judge to work things out.

Perhaps this is why the Democratic senator, who's also a former U.S. Attorney and state attorney general, is clued in to what's behind Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Forget abortion. Forget gay marriage. (Well, yeah, you can probably forget both of those if she gets confirmed.)

It's all about the Benjamins.

A 64-year-old graduate of Yale and University of Virginia law school, Whitehouse ascended to rock star status this week when he gave up his 30 minutes of questioning Amy Coney Barrett to deliver a master class on how dark money corporate interests have campaigned for control of the federal court system, all the way up to the supreme court.

Here's what our favorite Channeler of Hunter Thompson, Charles Pierce, wrote in Esquire:

The general feeling that the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court is the capstone of a lavishly funded, long-term conservative plan to own the federal judiciary for the foreseeable future, and that Barrett's career is altogether a product of that project, has hung over the confirmation hearings like a foul mist. On Tuesday afternoon, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave that feeling form and substance, and charts, too.

As Pierce notes, the takeover has been decades in the making. It started in 1982, with the creation of the Federalist Society, which operated like the CIA.

Here's how it starts. As the Atlantic reported in 2018, Federalist Society strategists spot talent at the nation's universities, grooming bright young folks to be good soldiers in the war against American workers. Environmental regulation, needless to say, isn't popular with these folks, either.

"Rightward philanthropists and organizations (Joseph Coors, Charles and David Koch, the Olin Foundation) poured money into certain law schools, such as George Mason University, whose faculty members were supportive of conservative ideas in their research and would train their students accordingly."

One of those bright young students was Amy Coney Barrett.

Grooming judges-to-be is just the beginning. Then there's lobbying. The takeover of America's judiciary doesn't come cheap. Whitehouse documents $250 million spent on the effort so far, through the Federalist Society and its louder ally, the Judicial Crisis Network, along with roughly a dozen other dark money groups.

Take that in: a quarter of a billion dollars. At least $70 million just to get Neal Gorsuch on the bench.

But when you think of the staggering corporate profits when court cases break the right way, it's a veritable bargain. Dark money interests are essentially creating a shadow empire within the borders of the United States. Like all empires, this empire is run by ruthless commercial interests.

Sound like a conspiracy theory? Whitehouse notes that of 80 decisions handed down by the current court as 5-4 decision, the business/conservative side's decisions that almost always coincides with the interests of Republican donors is 80-0.

In the first video, below, Whitehouse clearly describes the decades-long effort. It's no coincidence that the case he uses as an example was one that weakened the power of unions.

In the second video, Whitehouse appeals to Barrett to consider this corruption as she rules on cases.

Whitehouse is a class act and a master tactician. (Yes, you can be both.) While tacitly acknowledging that Barrett will almost certainly be confirmed, he's going with the only possible fallback. He graciously gives Barrett the benefit of the doubt: as a deeply religious person, he implies, she is also an ethical person. Respectfully, politely, he adjures her to listen to her better angels.

Whitehouse's presentation should be seen by every American.

Day 1: "The Foul Mist"

Day 2: "Better Angels"

Want more?

The Daily Beast breaks down the hearings here.

The New Yorker's in-depth coverage of the Federalist Society's machinations: "Full Court Press"

Dirty Money ::: Antibalas

If There’s A God ::: Ry Cooder

Don’t Give That Shit To Me ::: Seun Kuti

Idioteque ::: Radiohead

Dirty Laundry ::: Curtis Mayfield

Corruption ::: Iggy Pop

Mr President, Have Pity On The Working Man

Mr Big Thief :::: Seen Kuti & Africa 80

I’m Afraid of Americans ::: David Bowie

Me & The Devil ::: Gil Scott Heron

Backstabbers ::: The O’Jays

Money Power Glory ::: Lana Del Rey