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Gorsuch Will Give Big Donors More Power in Elections, a Key Reason to Oppose His Confirmation

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s troubling record on money in politics and concern that he’ll tilt our elections even more toward the wealthy and powerful is a key reason to oppose his lifetime confirmation to the Supreme Court, at least 20 U.S. Senators have said in their statements opposing him.

Citing his Hobby Lobby ruling that extends the “corporations are people” logic of Citizens United, his belief that contribution limits deserve a higher level of scrutiny than is usually afforded to voting rights, and his general history of siding with the wealthy and powerful, these Senators believe Gorsuch will give big donors more power in our elections and make it harder for everyday people to be heard.

  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer referenced Gorsuch’s decision in the Hickenlooper casesaying, “I saw a Judge who, on the issue of money in politics, seems to be in the same company as Justices Thomas and Scalia —willing to restrict the most common-sense contribution limits.”
  • Announcing his opposition to Gorsuch ahead of the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on his nomination today, Judiciary Committee member Sen. Pat Leahy said Gorsuch, “misstated the holding of Citizens United in an attempt to evade my question about Congress’s ability to enact campaign finance legislation.”
  • Sen. Maggie Hassan said, “Judge Gorsuch’s history of siding with corporations and his vague responses on the Citizens United decision suggest that he would rule to continue allowing unlimited, dark money to overwhelm our political system and the voices of everyday Americans.”
  • Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “I cannot and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections.”
  • Sen. Jon Tester said, “With Judge Gorsuch on the bench, I am deeply concerned that dark money will continue to drown out the voices and votes of citizens.” He continued, “And, according to Judge Gorsuch’s opinion in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, he believes campaign contributions deserve First Amendment protections. Montanans know: money is not speech.”
  • Sen. Mark Warner noted Gorsuch’s evasiveness during his confirmation hearing, “even refusing to answer questions regarding his views of cases like Roe v. Wade and Citizens United.”
  • Sen. Gary Peters said, “[Gorsuch] has also failed to acknowledge how deeply the Citizens United decision has corrupted our government by opening the floodgates for special interest money to pour into our elections.”
  • Sen. Chris Van Hollen said, “In Citizens United, we watched the Court trample over statutes and ample Supreme Court precedent to empower corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to elect representatives who will do their bidding.”
  • Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said, “I was also disheartened by his evasive answers to questions regarding the Citizens United decision, which has dramatically increased the amount of secret money in politics.”
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar said, “I also focused on the judge’s approach to campaign finance law. Since Citizens United, hidden super-sized PAC money has had an outsized influence in our politics, distorting our representative democracy. In a concurring opinion in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, Judge Gorsuch went out of his way to suggest that the Court should apply strict scrutiny to laws restricting campaign contributions. If the Supreme Court adopted that view, it could compromise the few remaining campaign finance protections that are still on the books.”
  • Sen. Chris Murphy said, “Citizens United remains as one of the worst decisions of the Supreme Court in my lifetime, as it flooded our democracy with unlimited, secret, special interest and billionaire money.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders opposes Gorsuch because, “We cannot stand by while the court dismantles the Voting Rights Act and lets cowards in statehouses erect roadblocks to voting. We must keep campaigns free of the corrupting influence of big money and not go further down the dangerous path that began with the disastrous Citizens United ruling.”
  • Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said he will not support Gorsuchbecause he “gave him every chance” during his hearing but Gorsuch did not give recognize as legitimate the concern that “the flood of money into politics after Citizens United has had an evil effect on our democracy.”
  • In her statement opposing Gorsuch, Sen. Patty Murray said, “His testimony before the Judiciary Committee regarding Citizens United, in which he incorrectly stated that the Court left Congress the ability to enact commonsense campaign spending limits, strengthens my decision.”
  • Sen. Tom Udall says Gorsuch’s failure to answer basic questionson a variety of issues–including “dark money in our elections”–was a reason to oppose him.
  • Sen. Bob Casey noted, “It is little wonder that corporate special interests on the right placed Judge Gorsuch’s name on a list of litmus-tested judges from which they demanded the President choose his nominee.”
  • Sen. Kamala Harris worries that Gorsuch will preserve the institution that “gutted the Voting Rights Act” and “empowered corporations to pollute our political system with secret, unaccountable money.” She wrote, “Judge Gorsuch’s record also shows he’s willing to favor corporations over the American people.”
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley, said in his statement opposing Gorsuch’s nomination, that appointing him would “threaten fundamental rights in America” including “the rights of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard in elections rather than being drowned out by the corrupting influence of dark money from the richest Americans.”
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren while explaining her opposition on Facebook wrote, “We don’t need another justice who spends his time looking out for those with money and influence.”
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement, “The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court Justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests — and Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test. I cannot support any nominee who does not recognize that corporations are not people.”

If Gorsuch is unable to reach the 60 vote threshold during his confirmation process, something seven of the eight sitting Justices were able to do, President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans should change the nominee, not the rules.  Trump should pick a mainstream, consensus nominee more in line with the majority of Americans who oppose decisions like Citizens United and believe the wealthy already have too much influence in our elections.

This piece was originally published on the Every Voice blog.