July 17, 2024

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Capturing the Courts – Sheldon Whitehouse – UncommonThought

Capturing the Courts – Sheldon Whitehouse – UncommonThought

[Photo:  The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Jennifer Mueller]

By Rowan Wolf

I am bringing the work of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Jennifer Mueller to your attention. They have a recently published book –  The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court – that details a number of actions taken by the far right to capture the courts and other governmental bodies. They start with the 1971 “Powell Memo” written by Lewis F. Powell, associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1972-1987. Yes, his grand scheme was written before he took his place on the court. Another conservative luminary, Leonardo Leo, has helped funnel over $1B in dark money donations through the backroom laundry of the Federalist Society.

I offer the information and videos here as an assignment in civics. It is a BIG assignment, but it provides critical foundational information. It is information that has largely facilitated the fascism that is swallowing us whole. It contains multiple pieces of the puzzle. Yes, going through these -whether reading or via the videos – will take some time. However, I believe it is a critical investment in understanding the scope and depth of what is going on. If we do not understand how we have been manipulated and herded into this insanity, we can never counter it effectively and maybe (just maybe) craft the diverse democracy many of us have struggled for. I have not stood up for the Pledge of Alliiegence since I was 12 years old for one major failure of our nation “liberty and justice for all.” When we can accomplish that, I will welcome embracing the Pledge. Until then, it is my responsibility as a citizen of this country to help make her the best that she, and we, can be.

I encourage you to watch this video of Senator Whitehouse speaking on the Senate floor about the corrosive power of dark money on our politics and institutions:

There have been seven important decisions by the Supreme Court that have led to the unfettered power of money in our political spectrum (including shaping the Supreme Court itself). Citizens Take Action has a good summary of those cases on its site. From opening the door to Political Action Committees (PACs, Buckley v Valeo. 1976), to Citizens United which ruled that money equals free speech and removed limits on campaign financing, to ruling that campaign donors do not need to be disclosed (Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Bonta), and others along the way, have all brought more big money into the system and more power to the extremely wealthy and their surrogates – corporations.

This is just one part of a bigger puzzle, but it also has tentacles into many others – as a reading of the Powell Memo (included at the end of this post) details.

Below is the youtube series that mirrors the book – The Scheme: How the Right Wing Used Dark Money to Capture the Supreme Court.

1. The Powell Report

2. Powell Groundwork

3. The Latent Virus

4. A New Constitutional Right for Dark Money

5. The Federalist Society

6. The Judicial Crisis Network

7. The Kavanaugh Operation

8. Tu Quoque (You Too)

9. Amicus Flotillas

10. Climate Obstruction and the Scheme

11. The Faculty Lounge Report

12. JCN’s Opening Salvo

13. “Auditioning” for the Supreme Court

14. Attacking Roe

15. The Hothouse and the WV vs EPA pt. 1

16. West Virginia v EPA pt. 2

17. The Captive Court

18. Leonard Leo’s $1.6 Billion Payday

Scholarly Commons has the Powell Memo and background documents. Here is the 35-page memo Powell wrote that details how to take over the Supreme Court, and this is the plan that the Republicans have used. If you are short on time, I would suggest skipping the prefatory propaganda and jumping to page 10. It is here that Powell starts his appeal to “business leaders” and the Chamber of Commerce. While not discussed explicitly, this looks like the underpinnings of another part of the reconstruction of government to meet corporate interests rather than those of the people – ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). ALEC has provided boilerplate legislation at the state level since 1973. I recommend checking out ALEC Exposed.

Returning to the Powell Memo, he then focuses first on intervening in higher education, and then the k-12 system including faculty, subject matter, and textbooks. He notes that educational intervention is part of long-term change. For short-term changes, one must focus on the public – including the media. This is followed by a discussion of gaining political power and going after the courts. All of this is largely funded by business and calls for business, especially big business, to take a more aggressive and hands-on role in recrafting America to its interests.


Rowan Wolf, PhD

rowanbeach-thumb-220x328-436I am a sociologist, writer and activist with life long engagement in social justice, peace, environmental, and animal rights movements. My research and writing include issues of imperialism, oppression, global capitalism, peak resources, global warming, and environmental degradation. I taught sociology for twenty-two years, was a member of the City of Portland’s Peak Oil Task Force, and maintain my own site Uncommon Thought Journal. I may be reached by email at [email protected]. On a personal note, I am also a survivor of pulmonary hypertension by the gift of a donor’s lungs in 2011. I do my best to honor that gift by trying to be my best self and give to the world what small gifts I have. Among those is a deep passion for life, and the lives of all those with whom I share the planet.