Republicans at Judge Jackson’s hearing feigned concern over dark money

“Dark money” has featured prominently in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Courtroom affirmation hearings. However a few of these complaining loudest about dark money are uniquely chargeable for the deluge of secret political spending that has corrupted U.S. politics.

On the day President Joe Biden introduced Jackson’s nomination, Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell declared she “was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups.” Through the first day of Jackson’s affirmation hearings, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, feigned concern concerning the “troubling role of far-left dark money groups” within the judicial choice course of.

Politicians who rail towards dark money whereas refusing to help laws to scrub it up are a part of the issue.

Exterior of the hearing room, Judicial Disaster Community — which pioneered dark money spending on judicial nominations — has dropped at least $2.5 million on advertisements attacking the “dark money” it claims is behind Jackson’s nomination. (These assaults are largely centered on Demand Justice, which fashioned in 2018 as a liberal counterweight to JCN, however whose spending up to now has been dwarfed by that of JCN.) As The Washington Put up’s Reality Checker and others have identified, it’s definitely ironic for a outstanding dark money group to critique dark money.

However the hypocrisy from Republican senators — McConnell specifically — is on one other degree: They’re critiquing a system that they themselves haven’t solely labored to guard, however to assemble.

In reality, simply final yr, McConnell, Grassley and their colleagues had an opportunity to do one thing concerning the dark money flooding judicial nominations. However as an alternative, these Republican senators used their energy to maintain dark money dark.

In 2021, the Home handed the For the Individuals Act, which, amongst many different issues, had strong provisions to shine a highlight on dark money, together with dark money spent on judicial nominations. When the invoice reached the Senate, a few of its voting rights and ethics protections have been jettisoned, however the transparency provisions remained intact.

McConnell, Grassley and each different Republican senator blocked the laws. In the event that they hadn’t, then dark money teams like Demand Justice on the left and Judicial Disaster Community on the best would have been required to reveal the rich donors who had given $10,000 or extra. There would’ve been little “dark money” at the moment for these politicians to complain about.

McConnell’s new assault on dark money is especially cynical. He not solely blocked the laws, however expressly critiqued its anti-dark money measures and proposed an modification that will’ve stripped out the invoice’s transparency provisions, arguing that preserving rich donors secret was mandatory to guard “associational privacy.” When the Home handed the invoice, McConnell issued an announcement declaring that it “tramples on citizens’ privacy,” echoing a speaking level he has used to argue towards extra donor transparency. (That’s on high of the amicus transient he filed with the Supreme Courtroom final yr urging it to strike down California’s charity disclosure legal guidelines.)

He made it his private mission to maintain the dark money spigot open. In a recording obtained by The New Yorker, a high McConnell aide instructed quite a lot of highly effective dark money teams that McConnell was “not going to back down” in his opposition to the invoice, particularly its “donor privacy” provisions.

However the recording revealed one other perception, one that could be related to the GOP’s newest messaging: Inner polling carried out by one Koch-run advocacy group confirmed that ending dark money is common with voters throughout the political spectrum. “There’s a large, very large, chunk of conservatives who are supportive of these types of efforts,” a consultant of the Koch group mentioned on the decision, in response to The New Yorker.

Given the general public’s broad, bipartisan opposition to secret political spending, McConnell and different rich particular pursuits have apparently given up on attempting to persuade voters that dark money really stands for “donor privacy” and that transparency is admittedly an “attack on speech.”

As an alternative, they’re going to cynically muddy the waters and try and confuse the general public about who’s spending dark money — and who’s working to maintain dark money dark.

The general public is true to be involved about dark money. When judicial affirmation battles are dominated by tens of millions of {dollars} in secret political spending, the general public and lawmakers can not know who’s attempting to affect them or how the rich particular pursuits who’re secretly bankrolling these campaigns could stand to learn from the Supreme Courtroom’s opinions.

Because the 2022 midterms method, we’re sure to see tens of millions extra in dark money spent by each Democrats and Republicans to affect our votes. When tens of millions of {dollars} in dark money are spent on elections, voters can not know what secret donors may be getting in return from the politicians they’re backing.

Candidates of all political stripes are critiquing the position of dark money in politics, however voters ought to demand extra than simply speak. Politicians who rail towards dark money whereas refusing to help laws to scrub it up are a part of the issue.

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