Est. 1995

Tag: Koch Brothers

“America has the best politicians money can buy.” Best judges too.

The humorist Will Rogers once noted that “America has the best politicians money can buy.” It appears that we have the best judges too.

The humorist Will Rogers once noted that “America has the best politicians money can buy.” It appears that we have the best judges too.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America, a lawsuit filed by predatory payday lenders seeking to strike down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) independent funding mechanism—and by extension, the Bureau itself. The case, in which the agency is appealing a far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling last October, could have catastrophic impacts if the Roberts Court sides with the payday lender plaintiffs. As the Prospect’s David Dayen has noted, the Fifth Circuit’s ruling “threatens the functioning of daily life,” as its radical interpretation of the Constitution’s Appropriations Clause would gut not only the CFPB (triggering a 2008-like mortgage market meltdown), but also many other regulatory agencies and federal programs without traditional appropriations—including Medicare, Social Security, and the Federal Reserve.

An obvious backdrop to this high-stakes case is the mounting ethics scandals of the Court’s conservative justices. Take Justice Samuel Alito, for example. Hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer—who took Alito on a luxury Alaska fishing trip—holds at least $90 million in financial companies overseen by the CFPB. Alito has thus far failed to recuse himself from the case.

The ethics conflicts are even worse for Justice Clarence Thomas, who has also failed to recuse. According to ProPublica, Thomas has secretly attended at least two donor events for conservative billionaire Charles Koch’s political advocacy organization and is seen as a “fundraising draw” for the Koch network. Americans for Prosperity Foundation, one of the Koch empire’s many advocacy arms, has filed an amicus brief in CFPB v. CFSA calling the Bureau a “threat [to] liberty” and “mockery of the separation of powers.” Another anti-CFPB amicus filer in the case is none other than John Eastman, a former Thomas law clerk who is currently facing disbarment proceedings and a criminal indictment for trying to help Donald Trump overturn the 2020 election results. Eastman has previously tried to leverage his connections with Thomas to his benefit, corresponding with Thomas’s wife Ginni (a notably unhinged electoral fraud conspiracy theorist) in the run-up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

On top of all these egregious violations of elementary judicial ethics, our research revealed another ethics controversy surrounding Thomas and CFPB v. CFSA that has thus far escaped close scrutiny. It concerns Thomas’s central role in the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive circle of wealthy business elites that gave Thomas lavish undisclosed gifts. In return, Thomas has granted the Alger Association rare annual private use of the Supreme Court chambers for its new-member induction ceremony—an event that Thomas personally hosts every year. The Alger Association has publicly promoted the Thomas-hosted Supreme Court ceremony in its fundraising materials, an act frowned upon by Court officials. According to a review of the Alger Association’s members conducted by the Revolving Door Project, at least 18 Alger members have either previously expressed an interest in weakening the CFPB or stand to gain from the Court gutting the Bureau. These wealthy elites span multiple sectors overseen by the CFPB and include some of its most prominent recurring opponents.

Though we at the Revolving Door Project called for Thomas’s and Alito’s recusal from this case in light of these ethics scandals, the Court’s well-established contempt for accountability and integrity offers little hope they will heed our advice. Should both of them persist in hearing CFPB v. CFSA on Tuesday despite their glaring conflicts of interest, the case for their impeachment and for rebalancing the Court to create an ethical majority will become even stronger.

The corporate elites and right-wing ideologues who populate the Alger Association’s membership roster clearly have a lot to gain from gutting the CFPB. Clarence Thomas has enjoyed the comically elitist connections and lavish undisclosed gifts of the Alger Association for over 30 years.  Are we really to believe that Thomas never once discussed issues of financial regulation and corporate law enforcement during decades of hobnobbing with America’s top bankers, investors, and lenders behind closed doors? Please. The fact that Thomas did not fully disclose his Alger activities and gifts from the very beginning, or the other Caligula-esque largesse he has received from other billionaire patrons—all while carefully constructing an aw-shucks persona as a guy who prefers to hang out in Walmart parking lots in his RV—speaks for itself.

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Clarence Thomas Has Yet Another Huge Conflict of Interest

Republicans are “this close” to ending Social Security

 

Republicans are “this close” — just a matter of months away — from ending Social Security, a goal they’ve worked toward ever since 1935. They hope to use six Republicans on a corrupted Supreme Court to get there.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse points out, in his book The Scheme and his YouTube series about the same, that American oligarchs launched a campaign to seize control of the Supreme Court — and, thus, the American government — over 40 years ago, and they are now close to their goal of turning America back to the 1920s.

“This case is the product of a decades-long effort by pro-corporate interests to eviscerate the federal government’s regulatory apparatus, to the detriment of the American people.” Said Senators Whitehouse, Hirono, Feinstein, and Warren

Recently we learned from ProPublica reporting that Clarence Thomas has been the featured attraction at several multi-million-dollar fundraising events by the Koch brothers to marshal resources that could apparently be used, in part, to bring cases before the Supreme Court. In previous years, the late Antonin Scalia often joined him at these events.

Now that the billionaires have succeeded in packing the Court with six hard-right justices who are perfectly willing to ignore federal law about ethics on federal courts and enthusiastic to dance to their benefactors’ tunes, we’re getting close to the point that David Koch envisioned in 1980 when he ran for Vice President on the Libertarian ticket.

His platform was clear, calling for the end of the EPA and other regulatory agencies, and the privatization of the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public schools, libraries, and all the nation’s roads and rivers, among other things.

With two cases that the six corrupt Republicans on the Court will be hearing this fall, David could be getting his wish.

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How the Billionaire Corruption of SCOTUS Could End Social Security – and America

The Crisis of Monopoly

Cell phone service that costs $15 a month in France or $12 a month in Australia bills out at an average of $61.85 per month in the United States. High-speed broadband that’s a bit over $31 a month in France or $36 in Germany (for higher speeds and better reliability than almost anywhere in the United States) averages nearly $70 per month in the US. Similar metrics are found with pharmaceuticals, airfares, and medical costs, among dozens of other product and service categories. Why is this? Monopoly.

The average American family pays an annual “monopoly tax”—in additional costs for pretty much everything—of around $5,000, according to economist Thomas Philippon. And things are steadily getting worse as monopolistic concentrations continue to tighten their grip on every American industry from banking to telecom to food.

Monopoly (using the term in its broadest sense, to include everything from a single company controlling a market to a half dozen companies working in a cartel-like fashion) is why working people’s pay hasn’t gone up since 1982 when President Ronald Reagan’s Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice stopped enforcing the anti-monopoly laws. The rich have gotten fabulously richer since then. Consumers, when harmed or ripped off, have largely been stripped of their legal powers to hold businesses accountable. America now lags behind other countries in innovation, which is why (as one small example) we have the highest pharmaceutical and healthcare costs in the world.

The crisis of corruption is deep and covers every known strain from political, media, business, sexual, moral, and economic. Whatever particular variant is eroding the American way of life, the common denominator is that all serve as a marker of collapse, decay, and rot within the systems, institutions, and organizations that are vital to the sustainment of American society.  ~Steve Schmidt

Our streets are filled with guns, our schools have been stripped of books and school supplies, and our food is so deficient in nutrients (vegetables today have about half the nutrients they did in 1950) that we are experiencing a malnutrition-induced obesity epidemic.

Because of monopolies, billionaires pay lower tax rates than you do, and the nation’s largest companies not only usually pay no taxes at all but also get billions every year in subsidies funded with your tax dollars. So many families have fallen out of the middle class that this country is experiencing epidemics of suicide, opioid addiction, and divorce. Our defense budget is bloated, while our returning soldiers find it harder and harder to get jobs or services.

Although it’s almost never discussed in our highly monopolized media, monopoly is why right-wing radio and TV are found in every nook and cranny, every town small and large across America, while progressive media is marginalized. It’s why our politics are broken and foreign governments have been able to manipulate our elections and seize control of so many of our politicians.

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Cancer and Monopoly

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