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

“Dark money” has featured prominently in Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court affirmation hearings. But a few of these complaining loudest about darkish cash are uniquely accountable 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 Leader Mitch McConnell declared she “was the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups.” During the primary 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 in opposition to darkish cash whereas refusing to help laws to scrub it up are a part of the issue.

Outside of the listening to room, Judicial Crisis Network — which pioneered darkish cash spending on judicial nominations — has dropped no less than $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 shaped in 2018 as a liberal counterweight to JCN, however whose spending up to now has been dwarfed by that of JCN.) As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker and others have identified, it’s definitely ironic for a distinguished darkish cash group to critique darkish cash.

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

In truth, simply final 12 months, McConnell, Grassley and their colleagues had an opportunity to do one thing concerning the darkish cash flooding judicial nominations. But as an alternative, these Republican senators used their energy to maintain darkish cash darkish.

In 2021, the House handed the For the People Act, which, amongst many different issues, had sturdy provisions to shine a highlight on darkish cash, together with darkish cash 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. If they hadn’t, then darkish cash teams like Demand Justice on the left and Judicial Crisis Network on the precise would have been required to reveal the rich donors who had given $10,000 or extra. There would’ve been little “dark money” immediately for these politicians to complain about.

McConnell’s new assault on darkish cash is especially cynical. He not solely blocked the laws, however expressly critiqued its anti-dark cash measures and proposed an modification that may’ve stripped out the invoice’s transparency provisions, arguing that conserving rich donors secret was needed to guard “associational privacy.” When the House handed the invoice, McConnell issued a press release declaring that it “tramples on citizens’ privacy,” echoing a speaking level he has used to argue in opposition to extra donor transparency. (That’s on prime of the amicus transient he filed with the Supreme Court final 12 months urging it to strike down California’s charity disclosure legal guidelines.)

He made it his private mission to maintain the darkish cash spigot open. In a recording obtained by The New Yorker, a prime McConnell aide informed numerous highly effective darkish cash teams that McConnell was “not going to back down” in his opposition to the invoice, particularly its “donor privacy” provisions.

But the recording revealed one other perception, one which may be related to the GOP’s newest messaging: Internal polling carried out by one Koch-run advocacy group confirmed that ending darkish cash is fashionable 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, based on 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 darkish cash really stands for “donor privacy” and that transparency is absolutely an “attack on speech.”

Instead, they’re going to cynically muddy the waters and try to confuse the general public about who’s spending darkish cash — and who’s working to maintain darkish cash darkish.

The public is correct to be involved about darkish cash. When judicial affirmation battles are dominated by thousands and thousands of {dollars} in secret political spending, the general public and lawmakers can’t know who’s attempting to affect them or how the rich particular pursuits who’re secretly bankrolling these campaigns might stand to learn from the Supreme Court’s opinions.

As the 2022 midterms method, we’re sure to see thousands and thousands extra in darkish cash spent by each Democrats and Republicans to affect our votes. When thousands and thousands of {dollars} in darkish cash are spent on elections, voters can’t know what secret donors is perhaps getting in return from the politicians they’re backing.

Candidates of all political stripes are critiquing the function of darkish cash in politics, however voters ought to demand extra than simply discuss. Politicians who rail in opposition to darkish cash whereas refusing to help laws to scrub it up are a part of the issue.

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