May 24, 2021

Whitehouse Announces New Series of Speeches to Reveal the Special-Interest Scheme to Capture the Supreme Court

Senate Courts Subcommittee Chair’s run of remarks will draw on his long record of exposing special-interest influence over the federal judiciary; Senator’s new floor push will come with a fresh floor chart

Washington, DC – Today, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Courts Subcommittee, announced a series of Senate floor speeches exposing the scheme by right-wing donor interests to capture the U.S. Supreme Court and achieve through the Court’s power what they cannot through other branches of government. Whitehouse will trace the decades-long roots of the scheme, its development and funding, and its coming to fruition under Donald Trump with the installation of a six-justice right-wing majority on the Court.

Whitehouse will deliver the first of his speeches on Tuesday at ~5:40 p.m. on the Senate floor. Watch the livestream here.

The senator’s speeches will build on the series of Captured Courts reports that he and the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee released last year. The reports revealed how major donors to the Republican Party used hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money to pack the federal judiciary with judges who would rule reliably in their favor. In addition to the workings and dark-money funding behind the scheme, Whitehouse and Senate Democrats’ research showed the practical effect of a captured Court on issues vital to the American people.

The Rhode Island senator has carefully reviewed the record of the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts, and highlighted the clear pattern of over 80 decisions, all decided on partisan lines, benefiting the right-wing donor interests behind the court-capture scheme. As Whitehouse wrote in an issue brief published in 2019, “Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have, with remarkable consistency, delivered rulings that advantage the big corporate and special interests that are, in turn, the political lifeblood of the Republican Party.”

Whitehouse’s speeches will also draw from his research and legislation related to Court ethics and transparency. Last summer, Whitehouse published an article in the Harvard Journal on Legislation that proposed a range of legislative solutions to counter special interest influence at the Court. He has also led the Courts Subcommittee in hearings on court capture and judicial ethics.

In the Senate, Whitehouse has offered several bills to ensure greater transparency in the judicial system and protect the courts against political influence. His legislation includes the AMICUS Act, to force filers of amicus curiae brief to disclose their big-donor funders; the Judicial Travel Accountability Act, to require judicial officers’ financial disclosure statements to include gifts and reimbursements for lodging and transportation expenses; and the Judicial Ads Act, to require groups spending on big-dollar ad campaigns aimed at influencing judicial confirmations to disclose their major donors.

Whitehouse has filed numerous amicus briefs with the Supreme Court to draw attention to special-interest influence on the Court’s work. He has also pressed the Court directly to address lax transparency and ethics rules that expose the justices to potential conflicts of interest and undermine the Court’s credibility.

This will not be Whitehouse’s first series of floor speeches. For nearly nine years, he took to the floor every week the chamber was in session to call attention to the threat of climate change. Whitehouse retired his Time to Wake Up series, and his battered Time to Wake Up chart, earlier this year after 279 speeches.

Whitehouse plans to unveil a new chart for his speeches about the Court. He does not expect, however, to deliver quite so many speeches in this series.

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