Two more leftwing front groups
The left, for reasons that are unclear to me, appears bent on making the Koch brothers a campaign issue for 2012. The billionaire brothers who head Koch Industries have been major donors to free-market and other conservative causes. So rather than run against the real 2012 Republican nominee, the left would like to run against the Koch duo. Sound a little weird?
Well, Ben Smith of Politico explains:
"The focus by key Democratic Party surrogates like the Center for American Progress on the Koch brothers is driven partly by the fact that they're less likable figures than, say, Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty.
So don't be surprised to see Obama running in 2012 against David Koch, and if there are any pictures of the Kochs standing beside the actual nominee, expect to see a lot of them."
That explains how it was that a left-wing prankster chose to impersonate David Koch, rather than, say Roger Ailes or Rush Limbaugh, in the call to Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.). Ailes and Limbaugh are yesterday's bogeymen; today's and tomorrow's and the day after tomorrow's will be the Koch brothers.
The degree to which the left is obsessed with Koch brothers is something to behold. This time the left-wing front group spearheading the effort isn't CREW but an outfit with an innocuous sounding name: Common Cause.
The Post reported this month:
"[S]uddenly Common Cause is manning the barricades, leading a rowdy campaign by liberal groups decrying the outsized role of big money in U.S. politics.
The main targets of the campaign are billionaires Charles and David Koch of the Koch Industries energy-and-paper conglomerate, who have spent tens of millions of dollars over the years on conservative issues and candidates. Liberal activists led by Common Cause staged noisy protests last month outside a private political gathering held by the brothers in Rancho Mirage, Calif."
This effort extends to challenging Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, claiming two justices should have recused themselves because they appeared at a conference hosted by the Kochs. It's not that the Kochs had a case before the Supreme Court, mind you; no, they helped finance the Citizens United case, in which the court struck down portions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law. (No, this isn't a basis for recusal, and, yes, it's a bit mind-numbing but stick with me.)
Common Cause, however, got its timing a bit wrong in its complaint, as Politico reported.
The Post editorial board sniffed out what Common Cause was up to a few days ago, calling its recusal maneuver "far-fetched." Moreover, the editorial board pointed out that liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor snagged a free vacation from the ACLU, which filed a brief in the Citizens United case and regularly litigates before the Supreme Court. But that doesn't draw Common Cause's attention.
So what is Common Cause? It sounds so chummy, and its Web site sounds so wholesome and nonpartisan:
"Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.
Today, Common Cause is one of the most active, effective and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America. Common Cause strives to strengthen our democracy by empowering our members, supporters and the general public to take action on critical policy issues."
But this group is yet another hyper-partisan outfit funded by the same leftwing players that back CREW. The Post noted, "Common Cause reported about $4.8 million in revenue in fiscal 2009, down from $6.6 million the year before, tax records show. The group's supporters have included the Open Society Institute, headed by liberal financier George Soros." And from Soros's Open Society Institute we know it was a the mechanism for defending campaign finance reform in the very same Citizens United case.
It's hard to figure out Common Cause's finances since it doesn't reveal all its donors. In fact, under an Orwellian-named "Donor Transparency Policy" it makes clear that it keeps some donors anonymous. Still, you can glean some information. The Web site Capital Research Center lists OSI and other left-wing funders (OSI, the Joyce Foundation, Arca Foundation) among those who've given hefty gifts over multiple years.
That brings us up to yet another leftwing front group: Alliance for Justice. I was surprised to read in The Post on Feb. 24 a story that began:
A group of more than a hundred law professors from across the country has asked Congress to extend an ethical code of conduct to the Supreme Court - for the first time - and clarify when individual justices should step away from specific legal cases.
The group's appeal on Wednesday, in a letter to the House and Senate Judiciary committees, comes after recent controversies involving travel and appearances at political events by several Supreme Court justices, including Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Rep. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.) said he plans to introduce legislation that addresses the issue."
Whoa, this sounds awful familiar. I imagined that this was Common Cause at it once again. So I went looking for the letter on the Hill and obtained a copy. Oddly, the letter itself doesn't mention Citizens United or the two justices at all, although the Post story made the connection. The letter merely asked the committees to hold hearings on the topic of Supreme Court recusals. I looked through the list of signatories, spotting Professor Alan B. Morrison. I'd written a lengthy piece on Citizens United, and a quick check confirmed that he had signed one of the amicus briefs in Citizens United seeking to overturn the law.
Now, this was getting interesting. I contacted Morrison, who was forthright in his answers to my questions (his answers via email were provided in caps):
1. What group solicited your signature? How did you learn about the letter? ALLAINCE FOR JUSTICE SENT ME AN E-MAIL WITH A COPY OF A DRAFT LETTER ATTACHED.
2. Was the letter intended as a follow-up to inquiries about Justices Thomas and Scalia on Citizens United? I DON'T KNOW WHAT THE INTENT OF THE DRAFTERS WAS. MY CONCERN WAS THAT THE JUSTICES DID NOT HAVE A CODE APPLICABLE TO THEM, AND I THINK THAT IS WRONG. I AM LESS CONCERNED WITH THE DETAILS OF WHAT SHOULD BE DONE THAN CALLING ATTENTION TO THIS ISSUE.
3. I believe you signed an amicus brief in Citizens United urging McCain-Feingold be upheld. Do you think it was important for the committees to know that you were a litigant in that case? NO. THE MERITS OF THAT CASE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GENERAL ISSUE OF RECUSAL, AT LEAST IN MY MIND. IN CASE YOU DO NOT KNOW THIS, I WAS THE LAWYER WHO MOVED TO HAVE JUSTICE SCALIA RECUSED IN THE CHENEY ENERGY TASK FORCE CASE, AND I DID NOT THINK THAT WAS RELEVANT TO DISCLOSE EITHER. AND GIVEN THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO SIGNED ON AND THE MANY POSSIBLE DISCLOSURES THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THOUGHT TO BE DESIRABLE, I RATHER DOUBT THAT THE SPONOSRES WOULD HAVE WANTED THE LETTER WEIGHTED DOWN WITH THAT ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.
4. Justice Ginsburg went to a conference hosted by the ACLU, which was a party to Citizens United and is a litigant in many other cases before the Court. Should she recuse herself as well from all cases in which the ACLU is involved? I DO NOT KNOW THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF JUSTICE GINSBURG'S CONFERENCE WITH THE ACLU AND SO WILL NOT COMMENT ON IT. IT IS HARD TO IMAGINE THAT ANY DISQUALIFICATION BASED ON ONE CONFERENCE WOULD BE NECESSARY FOR ALL ACLU CASES FOREVER. BUT WHATEVER THE RIGHT ANSWER IS TO THOSE QUESTIONS, IT SHOULD BE BASED ON A CODE TO WHICH ALL JUSTICES SUBSCRIBE.
I followed the trail to the Alliance for Justice (AFJ) Web site. And there it was, all laid out:
"Alliance for Justice today announced its support for common-sense reforms of the ethical rules governing the Supreme Court, as expressed in a letter to the Senate and House judiciary committees signed by 107 ethics professors from 76 law schools around the country.
The letter was spurred by recent media reports of questionable activities of several Supreme Court justices that give the appearance of partisanship, and points out that alone among federal judges, "Justices of the United States Supreme Court have not adopted and are not subject to a comprehensive code of judicial ethics." The professors call on Congress to apply the Code of Conduct that already governs district court and circuit courts of appeals judges to the nation's highest court. The Code, among other provisions, prevents federal jurists from participating in partisan political activity, as well as any fundraising event. This issue has become relevant as reports have surfaced that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas apparently participated in a political strategy and fundraising meeting in 2008 sponsored by the billionaire Koch brothers."
The Post's Feb. 24 story did not explain that the letter had been the brainchild of AFJ. (It didn't provide any reference to Common Cause, which had been manning a nearly identical campaign.) But there it was: the same storyline about the Koch brothers and the attendance of Justice Thomas and Scalia at a Koch event. Moreover, the head of AFJ repeated the Koch storyline to The Post. "Nan Aron, director of the liberal group Alliance for Justice, said that if these rules were extended to the Supreme Court, none of the justices could attend 'overtly political meetings or events' like those sponsored by the Kochs." The Post report never identified her as head of AFJ, the author of the letter.
And so we have the second liberal front group in this scheme, AFJ. AFJ didn't identify itself on the letter to Congress, and I wouldn't have known it was behind the latest round of "get-the-Kochs" except for my work on Citizens United and Morrison's forthright answers.
In a subsequent post I'll look at what AFJ is and who funds them. But if you've been paying attention, you probably know all that, right?
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