Op-Eds

04.20.22

Cutting Back the Dangerous Levels of Corporate Power

by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

We Americans today are frogs, in a slowly heating pot of corporate political power. It's time to pay attention. Our Constitution provides no role for corporate entities in the governance of America. Why would it? A corporate entity is a legal fiction, with neither morals nor soul. Corporate political power was not even a topic in the Constitutional Debates, nor of the Federalist Papers. The first words of our Declaration of Independence are "We the People." Our greatest president in our darkest… Continue Reading


04.14.22

Seize Russian yachts, jets and Picassos. Then use the money to help Ukraine.

by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ)

The split screen is stomach-turning: In Ukraine, Vladimir Putin's rockets fall on fleeing refugees, missiles gash occupied apartment buildings and hospitals, and civilians huddle in metro stations as bombs fall above. Outside Ukraine, mega-yachts ferry Russian oligarchs between tropical islands, private jets shuttle them to ski vacations and priceless art adorns the walls of their villas. Putin's enablers - and even members of his family - live abroad in laundered luxury off the wealth they st… Continue Reading


02.17.22

In the federal court wars, the right has jumped through a dark-money looking glass

by Sheldon Whitehouse

When Supreme Court vacancies occur, a Republican dark-money operation swings into action. Now, an anonymously funded right-wing group is airing an ad aimed at the yet-to-be-picked nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer. The group alleges that liberal dark-money interests will guide President Biden's choice. The music is ominous, the central claim false, and the hypocrisy thick. In nature, some creatures develop ingenious defenses. The squid, for instance, can squir… Continue Reading


01.25.22

How Cruz Supreme Court case could lead to unlimited anonymous election spending

by Sheldon Whitehouse

The long, dark-money plan to capture the Supreme Court is delivering the goods. The "capture" mission is accomplished, now 6-3, and the captors seek to claim their prizes. Dark money was the weapon used to capture the Court, so it's no surprise that the No. 1 deliverable is to protect maximum dark money. It is the evil that makes all the other dark-money evils possible. The Supreme Court recently heard arguments in the campaign finance case Federal Election Commission v. Ted Cruz for Senate. Fo… Continue Reading


12.06.21

Summit for Democracy will follow the money

by Sheldon Whitehouse

America is engaged in a clash of civilizations, pitting democracy and the free market on one side against kleptocracy and corruption on the other. We have vital national security stakes in this contest: Almost all the international evil that has come America's way in recent decades has come from regimes outside the rule of law, from terrorist attacks to election subversion. That's why it is a contest we must win. This week, the State Department will convene the first-ever Summit for Democracy. … Continue Reading


11.17.21

How Russian Hackers Helped Expose the Right-Wing Dark Money Corrupting Our Courts

by Senator Sheldon Whitheouse

A piece of news that came out on the same day that the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case-at the center of what the NRA has bluntly termed the Republican justices' "project" to overturn gun safety- revealed how deep the rot goes. The news came from Russian hackers on the dark web. According to reporting by The Trace, the hackers unearthed a document suggesting that the NRA paid a lawyer more than $500,000 to advocate on its behalf through "the Independence Institute." This included filing … Continue Reading


10.14.21

Justice Alito complains, but the evidence is clear: This Supreme Court was built by dark money

by Sheldon Whitehouse

Justice Samuel Alito wants desperately for us to believe that everything is just fine at the Supreme Court. Indeed, in his view the court is a victim. Before an audience at Notre Dame on Sept. 30, Alito denounced "unprecedented efforts to intimidate the court." He aimed his outrage at the media, at leading legal academics, and at people like me who are concerned about, as he put it, the Supreme Court "deciding important issues in a novel, secretive, improper way in the middle of the night, hidd… Continue Reading


10.11.21

Fighting climate change means putting our coasts on par with our mountains

by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Martin Heinrich

It's hard to find states more different than New Mexico and Rhode Island. One is big, the other small; one is landlocked mountain ranges and high desert, the other seaside coast. But both count on a healthy, clean environment, and each presents wondrous natural beauty. So we both fight tirelessly to defend that environment as climate dangers mount. Whether the worsening danger is wildfires or coastal flooding, we recognize the importance of dedicated federal funding to conserve that beauty for … Continue Reading


06.17.21

A World Without Fossil Fuels Funding Our Enemies Would Be A Safer World for America

by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Sen. Lindsey Graham

We are a conservative Republican and a progressive Democrat who disagree on a great many things. We write today, however, to highlight an area of strong agreement: a global transition to renewable energy would greatly assist in our nation's fight against the world's most corrupt and illicit regimes. If you could wave a magic wand, and transition the world away from fossil fuels, Americans would instantly be safer. Oil and gas development has often been associated with autocracy and corruption. … Continue Reading


05.11.21

To Thwart the Illegal Narcotics Trade, Expose the Dark Economy

by Sheldon Whitehouse

READ FULL OP-ED HERE This spring, I began work as chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. The panel focuses on battling drug trafficking and improving cooperation with our international partners, and on the public-health aspects of narcotics use, including research into addiction. To undermine the illegal narcotics trade, we must better understand the economics that drive it. In particular, we need to explore the dark economy servicing the narcotics market, and the "clas… Continue Reading


04.28.21

As the US withdraws from Afghanistan, what is our plan for the aftermath?

by Sheldon Whitehouse

President Biden's decision to withdraw US military forces from Afghanistan should bring back memories and lessons from previous withdrawals of American troops, and their aftermaths. In particular, there are traumatic lessons from US withdrawals out of conflicts in Southeast Asia. Related: 'Time to end America's longest war': Biden announces timetable for Afghanistan withdrawal Few if any people who served through those times in Vietnam or Laos remain in government; our institutional memory is p… Continue Reading


04.22.21

President Biden's Earth Day climate summit is a rebuke to Trump's denialism. But it's only a start.

by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.

America abandoned its position of leadership on climate change under Donald Trump, and it cost us. It cost us the very international standing he swore he so valued, and, more importantly, it cost us precious time to battle the climate crisis. President Joe Biden and the entire U.S. government now have a pivotal opportunity to reclaim our leadership role on climate change and to do our part in reducing emissions. We must act now - and we must act big. And there is no better time than Earth Day … Continue Reading


03.22.21

How Right-Wing Dark Money Is Trying to Kneecap the Biden DOJ

by Sheldon Whitehouse

Someone is targeting Biden Justice Department nominees Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke with attacks. Why? Both nominees hold exceptional records as litigators and civils rights activists. The respect they've earned extends beyond the civil rights movement and progressives to law enforcement and leading conservatives. They ought to be consensus picks. But pull back the curtain, and strategy and motive take shape. Gupta and Clarke are poised to use their skills to defend Americans' right to vote,… Continue Reading


01.27.21

Following US Capitol attack, we senators must investigate fellow members of Congress — and follow the money

by Sheldon Whitehouse

My first signal that things were seriously awry was when Capitol Police officers brought a badly shaken colleague to shelter in my Capitol hideaway. "They're in the building," she said. Shortly after, I was evacuated as the United States of America lost control of its Capitol to a violent pro-Trump mob intent on stopping the constitutional process of certifying the presidential election. Five people died in the Jan. 6 attack. We need to understand what took place that day. We need to understand… Continue Reading


01.12.21

Credibility Crisis: 'Dark Money' Influence Could Soon Become a Constitutional Right

by Sheldon Whitehouse

The Supreme Court faces a credibility crisis. This crisis intensifies after nearly $100 million in anonymous funding-known as "dark money"-entered the confirmation fights of the last three justices. At the same time, the country faces a dark-money crisis as anonymous influence spreads malicious disinformation and corrupts and disrupts our politics. And now a case before the court could lock in dark money influence as a constitutional right. Big donors have reason to smile. The Republican majori… Continue Reading


01.04.21

Why we can’t just “move on”: We need accountability for Donald Trump’s misdeeds

by Sheldon Whitehouse

Barack Obama's administration made the policy decision to look forward, not back, and to leave the misdeeds of George W. Bush's administration to history's judgment. That would be a mistake for the incoming Biden administration. Donald Trump and his henchmen have made a concerted attack on American democracy, and done so much corrupting damage that it would be dereliction to give them a pass. Three areas in particular need investigation. One is the administration's denial of climate science, do… Continue Reading


11.11.20

America’s Captured Courts

by Sheldon Whitehouse

WASHINGTON, DC - Any objective observer of the American political system must wonder why, when the United States confronts the world's highest COVID-19 death toll and a ravaged economy, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will do nothing but confirm outgoing President Donald Trump's appointees to the federal judiciary. It's strange behaviour. The explanation is a special-interest lobby operating largely out of public view - a political creature that has stalked America's judiciary for gen… Continue Reading


10.14.20

Amy Coney Barrett rose from corporations' crusade for power over the Supreme Court

by Sheldon Whitehouse

There's a scheme being run on the American people, and, as we embark on this rushed and bitter fight over whether to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, the American people ought to understand what's really going on. It almost doesn't matter who President Donald Trump picked to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; it never really did. What really matters is who - and whose money - lurks behind the process of shaping the Supreme Court, and what's at stake for all of us, from th… Continue Reading


09.25.20

Beacon a lesson for hospital merger

by Sheldon Whitehouse

As prospects for a merger between Rhode Island's two hospital systems appear to grow more promising ("Lifespan, CNE Move Forward With Letter of Intent to Merge," PBN, Sept. 9), there are important questions of monopoly and potential abuse of market power that deserve discussion. Health care is an arena of our economy less suited to dog-eat-dog competition and more suited to policy, structure and coordination than almost any other. After all, a person who arrives unconscious at a hospital is hard… Continue Reading


07.08.20

Crashing coastal property values and the economic fallout of climate change

by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Sheldon Whitehouse

Climate change has taken hold here in New England. From the White Mountains to Narragansett Bay, there have been more frequent heat waves; native wildlife and plants are shifting north; and there have been troubling upticks in climate-related ailments like tick-borne diseases and asthma. But nowhere is climate change more apparent than along the coast, where warming and acidifying waters and rising sea levels are taking a toll, disrupting fisheries and eroding coastal marshes and beaches. These… Continue Reading

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