March 24, 2014

Tomorrow the US Supreme Court will hear arguments in the Hobby Lobby case, which seeks to have the court grant it personhood for the purpose of exercising religious freedom. Yes, that's right. Under the guise of an objection to the Affordable Care Act's requirement to cover contraceptives, Hobby Lobby has cried out to the courts for relief, because somehow covering such things violates a corporate right to religious freedom.

If you believe that religion is at the heart of this case, think again. It is a component, to be sure. As Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress notes, the signers of the odious Manhattan Declaration would view victory in this case as a mandate to undo everything from divorce laws to LGBT rights to women's right to vote.

But the real motive and movers behind this case are free marketeers, who lust for the opportunity to expand corporate personhood to something greater than individual personhood.

RhRealityCheck investigated:

The documents consist of emails between dozens of anti-choice and free-market groups, and high-level state employees in Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, and West Virginia. They reveal that the role of air traffic control in the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga litigation was played by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based nonprofit with just over $40 million in assets, according to its most recent auditor’s report.

“My name is Anna Hayes, and I’m a legal assistant at Alliance Defending Freedom working with Matt Bowman and Greg Baylor on the HHS Mandate cases,” read one email dated August 16, 2013. The “mandate” refers to the health law’s requirement that insurance policies cover a range of primary preventive care, including contraception, without a copay. The inclusion of contraception in policies—irrespective of who pays the premiums—is at the center of the Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Supreme Court cases. “Greg asked me to contact you letting you know that he will be coordinating the amicus efforts for the Conestoga Wood case.”

Hayes sent her email to senior government staff in three states—Ohio, Alabama, and Michigan—and kick-started a chain of correspondence that culminated in Ohio and Michigan taking the lead in submitting briefs, along with 18 other states, in opposition to the contraception mandate.

The Alliance Defending Freedom is run by Alan Sears out of Arizona. In 2012, they reported expenditures of over $20 million on litigation, including grants to other allied organizations of nearly $3.5 million for litigation.

Donors to Alliance Defending Freedom include the Templeton Foundation, Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation, Huizenga Foundation, and the Anschutz Foundation. Additionally, funds have flowed to them via Vanguard Charitable Trust and Donors' Trust, two vehicles commonly used by allied groups to the Kochs and Bradley Foundation.

In return, grants were made to groups affiliated with the free marketeers for litigation expenses associated with the filings of 88 amicus curiae, or "friend of the court" briefs in support of Hobby Lobby's cause.

But it didn't stop with coordination between outside groups. The Alliance Defense Fund was also the primary recruiter for state participants:

The email from Anna Hayes—the Alliance’s legal assistant—was sent to Frederick Nelson, Andrew L. Brasher, and Eric Restuccia, senior officials in the offices of the attorneys general or solicitor general in Ohio, Alabama, and Michigan, respectively.

Nelson—who is the senior advisor and director of major litigation for Ohio’s attorney general, Mike DeWine—replied:

Thanks. We had talked with Matt [Bowman] about Ohio and Michigan taking the lead on the cert amicus regarding this issue that we’ve briefed in a variety of other cases; Eric and I will follow up with Andrew, too, and get a sense as to what his thoughts are as well. We look forward to moving ahead.

By “cert,” Nelson was referring to a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case—that type of petition is known as “certoriari,” or “cert” for short.

As indicated in that email, Ohio and Michigan did take the lead; the names of those states are at the top of the amicus brief submitted along with 18 other states.

Ohio and Michigan's position as point for the other groups and states serves the strategic and political goals of free marketeers and Republicans. Never mind that taxpayers are footing the bill for their efforts in this area, because they see far more to gain by pushing cases into the Supreme Court than they do actually working to enforce the laws of the land, especially when it fires up the base in those two states as a political benefit.

Here are some of the other groups who filed amicus briefs. You'll recognize their primary benefactors pretty easily, too:

Cato Institute
Ethics & Public Policy Center
American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ)
Rutherford Institute
American Civil Rights Union
Thomas More Law Center
Liberty Institute
Judicial Watch, Inc.
Beverly LaHaye Institute
Liberty University
Eberle Communications

Eberle Communications, for example, is a right-wing public relations firm serving myriad conservative clients in the Beltway, including the top Koch-funded groups.

Cato Institute is the flagship Koch nonprofit. Liberty University and the Beverly LaHaye Institute represent the Southern Baptist contingent, but the ACLJ and Judicial Watch are funded by the more libertarian free marketeer branch.

Bottom line: Everyone has a reason to want Hobby Lobby and Conestoga to prevail, but no one more than the free marketeers who would like to simultaneously destroy the ACA, cement their partnership with extreme religious right organizations and expand corporate personhood to pad their bottom lines even more than they already do.

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