January 17, 2024

Whitehouse Urges Supreme Court to Reject Industry-Driven Campaign to Dismantle Agency Regulations

Modern regulatory structure set up by Congress protects Americans from unchecked corporate interests. Whitehouse filed amicus brief in September calling out Koch-backed effort to concentrate power in the hands of right-wing justices.

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Courts Subcommittee, today urged the Supreme Court to reject an industry-driven campaign to dismantle core functions of the federal government.  Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, which ask the Court to overrule decades of settled precedent to curtail federal administrative agency authority at the behest of corporate special interests.  Whitehouse filed an amicus brief in September exposing how the case was propped up by the oil-funded Koch apparatus, and The New York Times reported yesterday that lawyers representing the petitioners work for Americans for Prosperity, a cornerstone of the Koch political operation. 

Loper is the latest offshoot of a well-coordinated, anonymously funded, industry-driven campaign to dismantle administrative agencies,” said Whitehouse.  “Billionaire right-wing forces resent the Chevron framework that holds corporations accountable for the harms they inflict, so they’ve cooked up and laundered fringe legal theories to try to strike it down.  The Court should reject the false narratives pushed by a flotilla of industry-funded amici curiae and keep the American regulatory system intact, even if such a ruling enrages the donors who built this Court — some of whom we’re investigating for huge secret gifts to right-wing justices.”

In Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the Supreme Court established a framework that requires federal courts to defer to a federal executive agency’s reasonable interpretation of broad policy statutes that are passed by Congress.  This decades-old framework allows an agency’s scientists or experts who are well-versed in the technical aspects of complex regulatory decisions to implement policy guided by congressional intent.

The petitioners in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo ask the Court to overrule the Chevron framework, which would shift the balance of power toward the largely unaccountable judicial branch at the expense of the democratically elected legislative and executive branches.

Whitehouse’s amicus curiae brief in this case was filed with fellow senators and counsel of record, University of California, Berkeley School of Law Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.  The senators’ brief exposes how the petitioners in Loper are participating in a “decades-long effort by pro-corporate interests to eviscerate the federal government’s regulatory apparatus, to the detriment of the American people.”

“The assault in this case on the regulatory system is not an isolated effort.  For years, regulated interests have funded a full-scale campaign to delegitimize and dismantle federal regulations,” wrote the senators in their amicus brief.  “The Court should proceed cautiously before contributing to their sought-for degradation of our American regulatory system.”

One of the biggest funders of this industry-funded operation is the Koch political network.  Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the lawyers representing the petitioners work for Americans for Prosperity, a cornerstone of the Koch political operation.  In September, ProPublica reported that Justice Clarence Thomas has “served as a fundraising draw” at Koch events, including at a “top-tier” dinner for Koch donors.  The senators’ brief also documents multiple amici in Loper that received funding from the Koch family foundations.

Full text of the brief is available here.

Meaghan McCabe, (202) 224-2921

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