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The Dark-Money Tipping Point

For years, an orchestrated campaign by powerful corporate interests has sought to rig the US judiciary in its favor. Having largely succeeded, it is now on the verge of securing constitutional protection for its signature method of corruption: dark-money influence operations.

WASHINGTON, DC – America’s courts are under siege from right-wing special interests. They want to rig the federal judiciary to favor large employers over workers, mega-banks over small businesses, and gun manufacturers over gun victims. Again and again, the political agenda pushed through the Federalist Society, a group that has done more than any other to move the federal judiciary far rightward, has become the law of the land at the expense of everyone else. And now, if this operation gets its way in a little-noticed case before the Supreme Court, secretive interests will cement their upper hand in US constitutional law for generations to come.

As the chairs of the Senate and House subcommittees on courts, we have closely observed the alarming encroachment of dark money on the judiciary. The undisclosed interests wielding that influence dictated the last three nominations to the Supreme Court, and then pressured the Senate to ram the nominees through, including by spending millions of dollars on national television and radio ad campaigns (especially for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when his nomination ran into trouble).

Having helped to install sympathetic jurists on the federal bench, a web of financially interconnected legal groups then takes turns setting up cases to land in the Supreme Court, where they file coordinated amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in support of the outcome they are pitching. Resembling a strategically conducted orchestra, the amicus effort is the closing movement of a massive court-capture operation.