On Wednesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) framed two of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees as serving the interests of “dark money.”
Whitehouse made his comments during a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing for Amy Coney Barrett and Joan Larsen, who are nominated to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, respectively. Barrett is a law professor at Notre Dame Law School and Larsen is a justice of Michigan’s Supreme Court.
Barrett and Larsen, said Whitehouse, are supported by nefarious "dark money" interests:
A very significant machinery of influence … is designed … to bring the will of ideological and commercial interests into our courts in ways that will follow the wishes of those ideological and commercial interests.
[Barrett and Larsen] have been cleared by those very ideological and commercial interests for policy-making positions in the courts.
Whitehouse regularly speaks of “dark money” as a powerful political phenomenon pushing America rightward. Omitted from his calculus is the volume of money spent in the opposite direction, including but not limited to leftist expenditures to news media outlets, academia, the bureaucracy, popular culture and celebrities, and ostensibly nonprofit and charitable organizations.
Barrett and Larsen share “an affinity for commercial interests,” said Whitehouse. “Dark money” operators sought to yield a “return on investment” in federal courts from their spending on public campaigns in support of Barrett’s and Larsen’s confirmations to federal judgeships, he added.
Whitehouse lamented the evasive nature of modern nominees in addressing inquiries about their own views of mistaken rulings from the Supreme Court:
To sit here and pretend that there is no role for people’s personal and private views, or their social views when they go to the court, is just so preposterous and to be crisis. ...
We sit here in this bizarro world in which we’re asked to pretend that nominees’ personal views and social views have no role, and we shouldn’t discuss them, at all; and we’re just gonna sit around following precedent, when we know as practising lawyers is not true.
Across his speaking time, Whitehouse said “dark money” five times and “ideological and commercial interests” six times.
Watch Whitehouse's comments below.
Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter.