March 22, 2017

Whitehouse Presses Gorsuch on Dark Money

Asks Gorsuch to call on his dark-money supporters to reveal themselves

Washington, DC – Today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) pressed Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch for his position on the effect unlimited, secret political spending—or “dark money”—has had on our political system since the 2010 Citizens United decision, and whether Gorsuch knew why a dark money group was spending on his behalf.  Whitehouse noted that the same dark money group that led a campaign to defeat President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court in 2016, Merrick Garland, has committed $10 million to support Gorsuch’s bid for the Court.

“What’s interesting is that this group sees a huge difference between you that I don’t understand,” Whitehouse said. “The dark money group that is spending money on your [nomination] spent at least $7 million against him getting a hearing and a confirmation here, and indeed produced that result by spending that money.  And then now we have $10 million going the other way.  That’s a $17 million delta.  And for the life of me, I’m trying to figure out what they see in you that makes that $17 million delta worth their spending.  Do you have any answer to that?”

“You’d have to ask them,” Gorsuch replied.

“I can’t,” said Whitehouse. “Because I don’t know who they are.”

Video of the exchange is available here.

Whitehouse also asked Gorsuch about disclosure of political spending in the wake of Citizens United.  “Do you think there’s a public interest in disclosure of political funds in a democracy?” asked Whitehouse. 

Gorsuch replied, “Senator, what I’m prepared to say is I recognize that as a matter of First Amendment interests, the Supreme Court has validated the proposition that disclosure serves important functions in a democracy.”

Over the last three Congresses, Whitehouse has introduced the DISCLOSE Act, a bill to require covered entities spending $10,000 or more during an election cycle to file a report detailing the amount and nature of each expenditure over $1,000 and the names of all of its donors who gave $10,000 or more.  Transfer provisions in the bill prevent donors from using shell organizations to hide their activities.

Video of the exchange is available here.

In another exchange, Whitehouse pushed back against Gorsuch for his refusal to provide substantive answers to any questions from the Committee.

“That just doesn’t do, Judge Gorsuch,” Whitehouse replied.  “There are going to be questions that you will be asked to decide on the United States Supreme Court that are going to be dependent on the values you bring to this.  I don’t think you can avoid talking about those values here.”

Video of the exchange is available here.

Full video of Whitehouse’s questions for Gorsuch at the hearing today is available here.


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