The scheme How the right wing used dark money to capture the Supreme Court

Sheldon Whitehouse, 1955-

Book - 2022

"A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee recounts how anonymous donors seized control of the U.S. Judiciary, including the Supreme Court"--

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New York : The New Press 2022.
Main Author
Sheldon Whitehouse, 1955- (author)
Other Authors
Jennifer (Lawyer) Mueller (author)
Physical Description
xi, 288 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction
  • Part I. Behind the Scheme
  • Chapter 1. Climate Denial, Regulatory Capture, and Covert Ops
  • Chapter 2. Of Courts and Corporations
  • Part II. Motive
  • Chapter 3. Of Social Gains and Election Losses
  • Part III. Means
  • Chapter 4. The Plan: The Powell Memo
  • Chapter 5. Building the Influence Machine: Campaign Finance Cases
  • Part IV. Co-conspirators
  • Chapter 6. Mercenaries, Fringe Groups, and Lobbyists
  • Chapter 7. The Front Group Archipelago
  • Chapter 8. Super PACs, 501(c)s, and Corporate Shareholders
  • Part V. Method
  • Chapter 9. The Federalist Society Turnstile
  • Chapter 10. The Doctrine Factory and Casting Call
  • Chapter 11. The Senate Conveyor Belt
  • Chapter 12. Plaintiffs of Convenience and Friends of the Court
  • Part VI. A Susceptible Victim: The Compromised Court
  • Chapter 13. Ripe for Capture
  • Part VII. Payday: The Captured Court
  • Chapter 14. The 80 (aka The Prize)
  • Chapter 15. Cases Controlling the Political Process
  • Chapter 16. Cases Protecting Corporate Interests
  • Chapter 17. Cases Restricting Civil Rights
  • Chapter 18. Cases Advancing a Far-Right Social Agenda
  • Part VIII. Rebuttal
  • Chapter 19. So-Called Conservative Principles
  • Chapter 20. The Shadow Docket
  • Part IX. Closing Argument
  • Chapter 21. The Scheme
  • Acknowledgments
  • Appendix A. "The 80": Decisions by the Roberts Five, 2005-2019
  • Appendix B. Amicus Briefs Filed by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
  • Appendix C. Whitehouse Brief Appendix: Overlapping Amici Funders in Seila Law
  • Appendix D. Wharton Analysis of Corporate Funding Disclosure
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Rhode Island senator Whitehouse (Captured) delivers an alarming if familiar account of efforts to install conservative judges on the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary. Behind this scheme, Whitehouse alleges, are "a handful of corporate oligarchs" who paved the way for the Supreme Court to advance a "far-right agenda" that includes "unleashing massive amounts of dark money, impeding citizens from voting, allowing corporations to dodge lawsuits and liability, undermining civil rights, and denying individuals access to juries." Whitehouse details how the Court's 2010 Citizens United decision kicked the conservative judicial movement into high gear by allowing anonymous groups to spend "unlimited money" to promote judicial nominees who would be willing to gut federal regulatory standards. The Federalist Society, a conservative law group created in the 1980s as a "counterweight to what viewed as liberal orthodoxy at law schools," became a launching pad for "proven conservatives" to reach the federal bench; Whitehouse suggests that the Koch brothers only dropped their objections to Donald Trump's presidential candidacy when he put Federalist Society "fixer" Leonard Leo in charge of identifying Supreme Court candidates. Though Whitehouse gathers copious evidence and strikes a fiery tone, he doesn't break new ground. This polemic works best at establishing its author's partisan bona fides. (Oct.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A damning investigation of dark money by a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The scheme of Sen. Whitehouse's title concerns "regulatory capture," in which a business infiltrates a government agency to undo any efforts to make that business obey the law. "A classic response by regulated entities has been to try to 'capture' the agency meant to be overseeing them," he writes, and the practice has now been extended to wholesale "agency capture." In this scheme, the federal court system is an object of capture, which is why it should come as no surprise that wealthy businesses and individuals spent millions of dollars to ensure that Donald Trump's three Supreme Court appointees made it to the bench. The Founding Fathers, Whitehouse writes, "did not intend courts as an anti-majoritarian back door for billionaire anti-government donors frustrated that the public hates their ideology"--but that's exactly where we are. The author traces the origins of this capture movement to Robert Bork's unsuccessful Supreme Court bid during the Reagan administration, when conservatives devoted their energies to placing like-minded judges throughout the federal judiciary. One strong instrument of capture came with the Citizens United decision, which declared that corporations had individual rights; one strong instrument to curtail this capture, which Whitehouse has championed, would require disclosure of any campaign contribution of more than $10,000. "No surprise," he writes, "Republican Senators have blocked it from becoming law." Yet another instrument of capture is the appointment of individuals to legal positions even though the legal community at large has rated them to be unqualified, without--as in the case of Brett Kavanaugh--minimal due diligence. We don't know all there is to know about the scheme, Whitehouse concludes in this closely reasoned argument, adding, "I expect history will dig out those sordid details." A maddening indictment of a corrupt and corrupted judiciary. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.