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Sen. Whitehouse: Dark Money Behind GOP Judges Is Now Behind Voter Suppression

Sen. Whitehouse is not thinking about headlines. He is thinking about getting dark money out of the courts and voting booths.

Normally I resent finding out where my husbands are from other women, but since this time it was my boss who informed me Sheldon Whitehouse was on Lawrence O'Donnell's show, I'll let it slide.

That's right, Sen. Whitehouse chairs a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that deals with oversight of the federal courts, and now that the Democrats are in charge, he is taking full advantage of it. He held a hearing on Thursday aimed at pulling back the curtain on the role dark money has played in the placement of judges at all levels.

"Courtrooms ought to be open places where you know who is present, not a place where powerful players can come masked behind front groups hiding both their own identity and their interconnections," Whitehouse said at the hearing. "The Supreme Court should not be a place that has a special interest-controlled fast lane bringing certain special interest-chosen cases before the court at high-speed, without the trappings of a real case or controversy," he insisted.

O'Donnell reminded us just how hard Mitch McConnell worked to grease the wheels for the Federalist Society to slide their obscenely conservative lawyers into judgeships, totaling 231 in all during the former guy's reign. "Many of those judges were unqualified, and all were the result of a right-wing screening process funded by dark money, contributed by people in corporations who want the courts to serve them," he said, warning that since those judges are now in their positions for life, Biden has a lot to do to balance the scales. He asked Whitehouse to tell the story of "how they got there and who put them there."

Whitehouse didn't name names, but said the "same donors, the same entities, the same operatives, the same machinery that, in the Trump administration, was driving the court capture operation," is now behind the voter suppression effort we are seeing in so many Republican states. "[I]f we don't show the American people what this dark money operation is, and try to dig at who's behind it, then we're doing a real disservice to the American people," he said.

O'Donnell pointed out that these special interest-appointed judges are now going to be deciding these voter suppression cases, brought by the very same people who put them into their positions of power — all the way up to the Supreme Court. (Looking at you, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.)

My husband agreed. "With litigants in the courtroom with bogus names, like the 'Honest Elections Project,' which is run right now by the same person who led the project that put these judges on the bench. So they'll be in the courtroom when these voter suppression cases are litigated to remind the judges, 'Yes, I am the one who got you there. Now it's pay back time.'"

I'll save you the Google search, and just let you know that the Honest Elections Project is funded by the DeVos family and the Kochs. Sheldon's just being coy.

When O'Donnell asked him how much HR1 would help solve these problems of dark money in corrupt appointments of judges, Whitehouse was unequivocal.

"Enormously. Enormously," he insisted. "It would do two things. First of all it makes government money a thing of the past for contributions over $10,000. And second, it takes the money spent on judicial confirmations and treats them as what they are, which is a political advertising expense that has to be disclosed also. It would make an enormous difference."

Whitehouse even has confidence (more than I do, honestly) that the public, once informed, would actually care. "As soon as the American public, as citizens sees who the players are on the stage, they get the plot right away. And that's why these nasty big dark money players love to hide behind masks and try to fool the American public, and deny them the knowledge of who's on the political stage. And in this case who's in the courtroom," he said.

It certainly explains why the GOP is so viscerally opposed to HR1. Transparency is not their friend, though they've shown they care less and less about hiding their true motives.

O'Donnell thanked Whitehouse for being "one of the people in the Senate who's always doing the thinking about the issue that isn't on the front page, today, that we do have to be thinking about." In other words, voting matters, and elections have consequences. No one is feeling the pain of that more than the GOP, right now, and Whitehouse is helping to dish out the punishment.

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