Heritage Foundation

Revealed: The Right-Wing Movement’s Agenda For Trump’s First 180 Days

The Conservative Action Project is a network of more than 100 right-wing leaders created in 2008 as “an offshoot” of the secretive far-right Council for National Policy, making it part of an array of conservative coalitions that bloomed around and after the election of Barack Obama. Originally chaired by Edwin Meese, the Conservative Action Project is now headed by Becky Norton Dunlop, Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. It includes leaders of all of what are often described as the three legs of the conservative movement: social, economic, and national security conservatives.

The Washington Post reported in 2010 that the Conservative Action Project was helping fuel closer coordination across the multifaceted conservative coalition with its weekly Wednesday morning meetings at the Family Research Council. The group also promotes shared messaging and strategy with its “Memos for the Movement.” Now this collection of right-wing leaders has identified its policy priorities for the first 180 days of a new administration.

At a forum organized by the American Conservative Union Foundation at the Republican National Convention, participants were given of a set of pocket cards containing policy proposals, quick facts and “market tested messages” on the one dozen highest priorities selected by Conservative Action Project leaders. The 12 priorities are divided into four categories: Constitutional Issues and the Judiciary; Preserving and Protecting Our Culture; Freeing Our Economy so Everyone Can Win; and Defending Our Freedoms.

The package provides a clear picture of the ideas that right-wing organizations are pushing Trump to embrace. Some are vague, like, “The President should revive Public Diplomacy,” but others are quite specific. Taken together, they’re a pretty good indication of what we’d have in store on the policy front with Trump in the White House. 

Among the proposals, which signal the intense desire of right-wing organizations to infuse their priorities throughout the federal government’s executive branch agencies:

  • Immediately rescind all Obama Executive Orders consistent with recommendations by Constitutional and trusted advisors such as The Federalist Society, The Heritage Foundation, and other conservative advisors and transition committees.
  • Terminate all executive branch individuals still within their probationary period and freeze hiring for all regulatory positions.
  • The President should eliminate taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood using executive action and seek a permanent legislative solution.
  • The President should freeze and withdraw all regulatory activity on the Obama energy and climate agenda.
  • Submit legislation to repeal Obamacare in its entirety.
  • The President should support the rule of law and reject amnesty proposals and fully enforce and strengthen interior enforcement measures in the United States.

The policy proposals listed under “Restore Religious Freedom” include calls for the president to ensure passage of the First Amendment Defense Act, which carves out exceptions from nondiscrimination laws for people who claim anti-LGBT religious beliefs, and to “issue an Executive Order requiring that the Executive branch respect the 1st Amendment and provisions of the First Amendment Defense Act.”

The package proposes a new tax code that is “simpler, fairer, flatter and stimulates growth,” insisting that all tax reform “should lower individual and business tax rates, particularly the top marginal rates, to encourage saving and investing.”

It says senators “should vigorously question judicial nominees about their intent to remain faithful to the original meaning of the Constitution and laws.”

On education, the movement’s priority is to “Advance School Choice,” and it calls on the president to appoint “a movement conservative” as secretary of education. It wants the president to “champion the policy of dollars following the children,” language used by advocates for private school vouchers and other forms of public school privatization.

The Conservative Action Project’s “memos for the movement” provide a further sense of the group’s worldview.  For example, it responded to last year’s marriage equality decision by the Supreme Court in apocalyptic terms, saying, “The Court’s abuse of power is of such historic proportions that the conservative movement, and indeed every American who cherishes liberty must now address the serious damage done to the cause of freedom and the very foundation of our civil society.”

The group has intensely opposed efforts to expand disclosure requirements for political “dark money,” portraying conservatives as “a persecuted class” who are “bullied to either conform or suffer retribution.”

Among its 2016 releases was a March memo urging Senate Republicans to be resolute in refusing to consider a nominee from President Obama to fill the Supreme Court seat that became vacant with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Here’s an excerpt from the group’s thoughtful and rational rhetoric:

The president and his liberal allies know what is at stake and so do we.  It is nothing short of their intent to eradicate precious constitutional rights. These leftists have made clear their first target is our 1st Amendment right to political speech and the silencing of conservative voices. They mock the 2nd Amendment right of the people to protect themselves and their families and are determined to take away our constitutional right to bear arms. They welcome the prospect of unleashing unaccountable federal agencies like the IRS and EPA to impose a liberal policy agenda that will harm Americans and punish any who dare to disagree with their worldview. And not least of all, they vow to use the Court’s power to impose an “unconditional surrender” in their cultural war against our fundamental institutions of faith, family, marriage, home, and school — and will wipe out any pro-life protections, instead imposing abortion on-demand, up to the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers.

 

Senate Confirms Librarian Of Congress Over Absurd Conservative Opposition

The Senate today confirmed Carla D. Hayden to be the librarian of Congress after a campaign of obstruction that’s unusual for such a nonpolitical post. Hayden seemed to run up against a combination of Senate gridlock and a campaign by an influential conservative activist who claimed that the fact that she would be the first African American and the first woman to hold the position was a concession to “political correctness.”

Last week, Zach Graves of the libertarian-leaning R Street Institute summarized the campaign that Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky launched against Hayden. Dismissing Hayden’s accomplishments, von Spakovsky declared that the head of the Library of Congress must be a “man of letters”:

To start off, von Spakovsky suggests Obama chose Hayden because she’s a black woman and “his administration has an unofficial quota system.” A remarkable sentiment, considering Hayden’s qualifications as a librarian: She has a doctorate in library science from the University of Chicago; taught at the University of Pittsburgh; served as CEO of the City of Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, one of the oldest public library systems in the nation; served as president of the American Library Association; and was named National Librarian of the Year.

Despite her accomplishments, and a favorable Senate confirmation hearing, von Spakovsky insists Hayden is “unqualified.” She may be a fine librarian, he argues, but she’s “neither a scholar nor a historian” and the Library of Congress is an institution that must be run by a “man of letters” …

Von Spakovsky repeatedly suggested that Hayden had been picked for the job just because of her race and would be unable to be a keeper of “American cultural greatness,” writing, “The Librarians of Congress have been keepers of American memory, and public advocates for American cultural greatness. This is not a sinecure — like the post of United States treasurer — to be doled out to members of a politically favored demographic.” He warned that Hayden’s confirmation would make the Library of Congress a “monument to political correctness.”

The Senate Rules Committee approved Hayden’s nomination in April, but an anonymous senator placed a hold on the nomination, preventing it from coming to a vote. Astonishingly, even when Hayden’s nomination did come up for a vote today, 18 senators voted against her. Unless those senators explain their votes, it will be impossible to tell if they were swayed by von Spakovsky’s offensive arguments or were merely participating in the Senate GOP’s blanket obstruction of executive branch and judicial nominees.

Stephen Moore: Climate Change 'One Of the Greatest Propaganda Campaigns In World History'

Stephen Moore, a visiting fellow at the Heritage Foundation who was formerly the conservative organization’s chief economist, told radio host Janet Mefferd last week that the “dingbat” idea of climate change is “one of the greatest propaganda campaigns in world history.”

He told Mefferd:

… I have to tip my hat to the left, this has been one of the greatest propaganda campaigns in world history that the left has pulled off. I mean, they’ve taken this dingbat idea of global climate change and they’ve put it in the schools, they’ve put it in the movies, they’ve put it in the media and the churches — you know, I’m Catholic, even the pope talks about climate change. So it’s very alarming how this propaganda campaign, that they made this stuff out of, almost completely out of thin air and they’ve convinced millions and millions of thought leaders that this stuff is real.

Moore added that the idea of climate change is “very Stalinistic” and is “a religion,” adding, “They’d put me in jail if they could.”

Moore, unsurprisingly, is advising Donald Trump, who thinks climate change is a hoax “created by and for the Chinese,” on economic policy.

The Movers Behind The Anti-LGBT 'Religious Liberty' Movement

In the first few months of this year, for the second year in a row, more than 100 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in state legislatures, many of them promoted under the banner of protecting religious liberty.  A new report by People For the American Way Foundation, “Who is Weaponizing Religious Liberty?,” explains that “it takes a right-wing village to turn a cherished American principle into a destructive culture-war weapon.”

The report makes clear that the wave of anti-equality legislation promoted in the name of religious liberty is not an outgrowth of local conflicts but the latest step in a long-term campaign by national Religious Right legal and political groups to resist legal equality for LGBT people. As Americans have come to know and embrace their LGBT family members and friends, harsh anti-gay rhetoric has become less effective, says the report, leading social conservatives to try to reclaim the moral and political high ground by reframing debates over marriage equality and nondiscrimination protections as questions of religious liberty.

These efforts are being promoted by “a network of national Religious Right organizations that oppose legal recognition for the rights of LGBT people,” notes the report, which profiles some of the leading organizations while noting that they “represent the tip of the iceberg of a much larger movement that is trying to eliminate legal access to abortion and roll back legal protections for LGBT people, couples, and families — and trying to do so in the name of religious liberty.”

The groups covered in the report include:

·         Family Research Council and FRC Action

·         Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action

·         National Organization for Marriage

·         Alliance Defending Freedom

·         Liberty Counsel

·         American Family Association

·         Becket Fund for Religious Liberty

·         American Principles Project

The report includes links to additional resources on the organizations behind the Right’s use of religious liberty as political strategy for resisting equality. 

Trump Releases Supreme Court List, Including Conservative Dream Justices

Donald Trump, faced with conservative jitters over whom he would name to the Supreme Court if he were elected president, has promised to release a list of names from which he would promise to pick nominees. Today, according to the Associated Press, he released that list.

According to the Daily Beast, all of Trump’s 11 picks are white. Just three are women.

Trump’s list includes two possible picks whom he has frequently mentioned on the campaign trail: federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes. It also includes three additional people whom the Heritage Foundation recommended for Supreme Court posts after Trump said he would consult with the conservative group on his list: Raymond Gruender and Steven Colloton, both federal appeals court judges, and Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willet.

Also on Trump’s list are Thomas Lee, a Utah Supreme Court justice and brother of Republican Sen. Mike Lee; Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen, a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia; David Stras, who serves on the Minnesota Supreme Court; and federal appeals court judges Thomas Hardman and Raymond Kethledge.

It looks like Trump has, true to his promise, picked potential justices who would advance the conservative efforts to skew the federal courts far to the right. The libertarian publication Reason, for instance, has gushed over Willett for his willingness to overthrow government regulations.  (Willett, for what it’s worth, does not seem to return Trump’s admiration.)

We profiled Pryor, Sykes and Colloton last month:

William H. Pryor

One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.

Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.

Diane Sykes

Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though one of the jurors did not understand English, that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years, and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

Steven Colloton

The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.

Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue n ow being considered by the Supreme Court.

Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.

Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.

This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.

Can Religious Right Leaders' Disgust For Trump Be Overcome By Future Of Supreme Court?

Religious Right leaders believed this was their year. In Ted Cruz they had a candidate unquestionably committed to their agenda. Cruz was anointed the movement’s candidate at a secret endorsement meeting in Texas, followed by a wave of public endorsements by movement leaders. With only a couple of notable exceptions like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Phyllis Schlafly, Cruz had the overwhelming backing of the Religious Right’s institutional leaders. 

But it wasn’t to be. David Gushee, a Christian ethicist and author who has ruffled a lot of feathers with his move to an LGBT-affirming stance, calls the Trump victory “a major defeat” for “the Christian Right agenda.” Indeed, many Religious Right leaders and activists are bitter that Republican primary voters, including many self-described evangelicals, chose Trump over Cruz, and some have declared that they have no intention of backing Trump now that he is the presumptive GOP nominee.

The Wilks brothers, leaders of a billionaire fracking family that poured millions into a pro-Cruz super PAC, are planning to sit out the presidential race, reported Bloomberg. A family spokesperson called Trump a liar whose “despicable statements and actions” are too numerous “to count in a reasonable amount of time.”

Anti-gay activist Matt Barber is in the same camp, tweeting with the hashtag #NeverTrumpOrHillary and asking, “But what about when neither of the two evils is lesser?” On Friday, Barber tweeted, “I don’t oppose #Trump because I’m Republican & he’s not. Nor because I’m conservative & he’s not. I oppose Trump because I follow #Christ.”

A contributor to Barber’s BarbWire website, history professor Alan Snyder, wrote in piece titled “The Republican Obituary” that he “cannot, in good conscience, support Donald Trump.” Snyder slammed Republican voters for choosing “a man who rejects nearly every line in past Republican platforms.”

In an angrily bitter diatribe against Trump supporters at Charisma, Bert Farias of Holy Fire Ministries wrote that Cruz’s defeat “exposes the corruption of the American soul.” Maybe, he says, exposing the “corruption of the American soul and lukewarm church” is what God raised up Cruz to do. “While many celebrate the apparent victory of their amoral candidate, the darkness grows and moves in yet closer.” Faris even recalled, “Benny Hinn prophesied on New Year's Eve 1989 that a woman would one day be president of America and would destroy this nation.” Adds Faris, “It seemed like a far-fetched prophecy then, but not so much anymore.” Kevin Swanson, the anti-gay pastor who says the government should execute gays, suggested that God may be raising up Trump to be president as part of a divine plan to destroy America for its disobedience.

“Don’t blame us,” writes Napp  Nazworth, an editor at Christian Post. “Evangelicals led the opposition to Trump.”

Trump has already been a disaster for the Republican Party, essentially dismantling the Reagan coalition and undermining its efforts to retain control of Congress. A Trump presidency would be a disaster for the entire nation, given that he is entirely unfit, in character and experience, to be president.

For those reasons, it's important to set straight the historical record — evangelicals led the opposition to Trump.

Trump has won a lot of votes from people who call themselves evangelicals, but there’s evidence that the most frequent church-goers, probably the same people most likely to listen to Religious Right political leaders, have been much less likely to support Trump.

In February, the Christian Post editorialized against Trump, the first time ever it had taken a position on a political candidate:

"As the most popular evangelical news website in the United States and the world, we feel compelled by our moral responsibility to our readers to make clear that Donald Trump does not represent the interests of evangelicals and would be a dangerous leader for our country," they wrote.

Republican voters have concluded that morality, integrity, the rule of law, and the Constitution must be discarded in their headlong dash into an angry reaction against all politicians, even someone like Ted Cruz who has fought the good fight for Biblical and constitutional principles all his life.

In doing so, they have brought this nation to the brink of near-total collapse. No matter who wins in the fall, Republican or Democrat, Christian values will be subjected to even greater governmental suppression. No matter how Trump fares in the general election, the very fact of his nomination is a dismal indication that whatever honor and principle remained in the Republican party is now in the past.

Some high profile right-wing pundits remain in the #NeverTrump camp, like Erick Erickson. Iowa talk radio host Steve Deace reacted to Cruz’s withdrawal by resigning from the Republican PartyJerry Bader, conservative talk radio host in Wisconsin, is with him:

“I do not want to see Hillary Clinton as president; however, I do not see Donald Trump as a better choice. Important point: There is no lesser of two evils," Mr. Bader said. "I have no reason to believe his Supreme Court nominees would be any more palatable than hers because I have nothing to go on but his word, and that don't mean much to me."

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska is probably the highest-ranking Republican official who has made it clear that Trump will not get his support. He said recently that he is resisting calls from “party bosses and politicos” telling him he has to support Trump. Sasse is trying to generate support for a third-party or independent candidate to enter the race.

The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, a strong supporter of Cruz, is among those hedging their bets, saying evangelicals “won’t necessarily fall in line” with Trump as the nominee. While he has made his disappointment clear, he says he is “waiting to see the substance of a Trump administration and the vision he has for America.” Anti-gay activist Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage is also taking a wait-and-see approach. And Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference has criticized Trump's anti-immigrant rhetoric but says Hispanic evangelicals “are still up for grabs.” Religious Right activist Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association told The Hill that Cruz should “keep his powder dry and not do anything right now” while waiting to see how Trump behaves in the general election.

Of course, the most intense focus going forward will fall on Ted Cruz, the Religious Right’s anointed candidate. As runner-up and as a GOP senator, he would normally be expected to endorse the victor. But the ugly personal tone of Trump’s attacks, and the refusal of some Cruz backers to go along with the party’s ultimate choice, might make this year an exception.

Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is more enthusiastic than many of his fellow Religious Right activists: “Donald Trump broke the code, owned the media, and inspired the masses. I will be all in to help him defeat Hillary Clinton and I call upon all fellow Republicans to unite in defeating Hillary and abandoning and repudiating the hapless ‘Never Trump’ nonsense.”

The Washington Times reports that party officials are using the prospect of future Supreme Court nominations to cajole #NeverTrump people into getting on board the Trump train.  As Miranda has reported, the Supreme Court is the main reason that anti-abortion activists are reluctantly lining up with Trump. Perkins said this week, “We can live with bad trade deals or high taxes, but we cannot live with bad judicial nominees.”

Indeed, Trump has already said that he will let the Heritage Foundation, the conservative group led by Religious Right icon Jim DeMint, draft a list of potential justices.

Right-wing activist Grover Norquist thinks Cruz should make a deal, reports The Hill. “Norquist said Cruz will stay aloof for a while but ultimately back Trump, perhaps in exchange for a promise to be appointed to the Supreme Court.”

 

Jim DeMint: Voter ID Helps Elect 'More Conservative Candidates'

Jim DeMint, the former South Carolina senator and Tea Party firebrand who is now the president of the Heritage Foundation, became the latest in a string of conservatives to admit that restrictive voting laws such as voter ID requirements are an attempt to help Republicans win elections, telling a St. Louis radio host yesterday that voter ID laws help elect “more conservative candidates.”

Talk radio host Jamie Allman asked DeMint about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s move to restore the voting rights of people in the state who had served time for felonies, a draconian restriction that disproportionately affected African-Americans by design. DeMint responded that McAuliffe’s action was “awfully suspicious” and tied it to what he claimed was a Democratic plan to get votes from “illegals” and through “voter fraud.”

“Well, it’s awfully suspicious coming into a big election in a state where it’s actually pretty close,” he said. “I mean, states can decide who votes, but the governor themselves without legislative action, that seems over the top to me. I haven’t seen an complete analysis here, but the left is trying to draw votes from illegals, from voter fraud, a lot of different things, so this kind of fits right in to trying to find another group that they can basically count on to vote their way.”

“So it’s really a bigger issue,” he added, “and that’s why the left fights voter ID or any kind of picture ID to know that it is actually a registered voter who’s voting. And so it’s something we’re working on all over the country, because in the states where they do have voter ID laws you’ve seen, actually, elections begin to change towards more conservative candidates.”

Gay People Don't Need Marriage If You Invite Them To Thanksgiving

Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has become a popular speaker at social conservative events because of his ability to voice opposition to marriage equality in a kinder, gentler and more reasonable-sounding way. He perfectly illustrated this tone in a speech to a Cleveland Right to Life convention last month, in which he urged audience members to invite gay people into their homes and families … as a way to show them that they don’t need marriage rights.

Holding up the model of “crisis pregnancy centers,” which attempt to dissuade women from seeking abortions, Anderson asked what “the functional equivalent” would be “for people with same-sex attractions.”

“The question is going to be, if we’re not in favor of same-sex marriage, what are we in favor of for people with same-sex attractions and how are we helping them live out their vocations?” he asked.

He noted the work of groups like Courage, the Catholic organization that counsels gay people to remain chaste, but said that individuals also have a role to play.

“There’s a universal human desire for friendship, for companionship,” he said. “We all have a need for relationships that matter. So when Thanksgiving comes around, when Christmas comes around, are you inviting a same-sex attracted colleague or friend or member of your church who isn’t married and doesn’t have a family of his or her own, are you inviting them into your family to share Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner? Are you having them be big brother or big sister, godfather or godmother to your children if they’re not going to be married and have children of their own? Are there ways in which we can show that there are other forms of community that matter, that are important, that are meaningful, without having to redefine marriage?”

Referring to the last lines of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion in the Obergefell marriage equality case, Anderson said, “This is now an opportunity for people who believe the truth about marriage to show that Justice Kennedy is wrong, that we can meet people’s real needs without redefining what marriage is.”

If Republicans Get Their Wish On The Supreme Court, What Would Trump Or Cruz Do?

By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman

Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench.

Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican presidential nomination, looking at both men’s past statements gives us an idea of the kind of justices that Republicans are hoping for.

Trump and Cruz have both signaled that they would appease their base by nominating justices who would shift the court far to the right. Cruz has lamented that some justices nominated by Republican presidents have strayed from the party line on issues like abortion rights and has vowed that he would appoint “rock-ribbed conservatives” who have a “long paper trail” to demonstrate their “conservative” bona fides.

Trump, dogged by worries among movement conservatives that he would betray them when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, has promised to pick any Supreme Court nominees off a list he develops in partnership with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.

Both candidates have indicated that they would nominate judges who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark abortion rights and marriage equality decisions. Trump, although he appears not to understand the central legal issue of Roe, has said that the decision “can be changed” through the right judicial nominations since “you know, things are put there and are passed but they can be unpassed with time.” Cruz has warned that unless a true conservative like him picks the next justice, the Supreme Court will soon be “mandating unlimited abortion.” Trump has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided, while Cruz has called the decision “fundamentally illegitimate” and said it can be ignored by the president.

Cruz has made the future of the court a centerpiece of his campaign, while Trump may not actually understand how the Supreme Court works. But both have made clear that as president they would work to shift the court even farther to the right on the issues important to social conservatives and to the corporate Right.

What would a court shaped by a President Trump or a President Cruz look like? Looking at a few of the possible judicial nominees whose names have been dropped by candidates or who have been recommended by the Heritage Foundation, we can get an idea of the kind of ideological conservatives whom Republicans are hoping to put on the bench.

William H. Pryor

One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.

Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.

Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.

Diane Sykes

Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.

She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”

She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.

Steven Colloton

The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.

Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue now being considered by the Supreme Court.

Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.

Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.

Mike Lee

Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate and Cruz has said that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Lee also made the Heritage Foundation’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court justices.

Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the 10th Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.” Among the areas that Lee has suggested it is unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

  • Social Security,
  • Medicare and Medicaid,
  • child labor laws,
  • food safety,
  • disaster relief,
  • food stamps,
  • the Violence Against Women Act,
  • and, of course, the Affordable Care Act.

Lee has criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality, calling Roe v. Wade an “unconscionable decision” that “defied the spirit and the letter” of the Constitution and responding to Obergefell by introducing a measure that would protect anti-LGBT discrimination.

Ted Cruz

While we don’t expect Cruz to name himself to the Supreme Court, as recently as December Trump was receptive to the idea of extending an olive branch to his main Republican presidential rival in the form of a Supreme Court nomination.

A Justice Cruz would certainly align with Trump’s stated priorities of reversing the Obergefell marriage equality decision and making sure Roe v. Wade is “unpassed.” Cruz, who served as the solicitor general of Texas before his election to the U.S. Senate, has gone so far as to call for the U.S. government to defy Obergefell and to claim that Congress could ban abortion without overturning Roe. Before running for the Senate, Cruz proposed an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act; last year, he said that a Supreme Court ruling rejecting a clearly meritless challenge to the ACA was the “lawless” work of “rogue justices.” Cruz is known for having politicized the Texas solicitor general’s office, filing dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs defending conservative positions on hot-button issues such as gun rights and abortion. On the campaign trail, he frequently boasts of his work as an attorney fighting church-state separation.

If Cruz were to become a Supreme Court justice, however, we wonder if he would stick with his idea of subjecting justices to retention elections.

This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.

Heritage List Gives Glimpse Of Far-Right Justices Sought By Trump And Cruz

One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)

Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.

Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.

Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.

In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:

… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”

Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.

Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.

Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:

Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:

Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”

Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.

Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:

Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.

In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.

Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.

Trump Turns To Far-Right Heritage Foundation For Future Supreme Court Nominees

While many Americans grimly wonder which would be worse for the country, President Donald Trump or President Ted Cruz, one issue isn’t providing much help: Both candidates are making it clear that their potential nominations to the U.S. Supreme Court would be terrible.

We reported yesterday on Cruz’s suggestions that he would nominate his best friend in the Senate, Utah’s Mike Lee. Under his extreme views of the Constitution, much of what the federal government does is unconstitutional, including Social Security and Medicare.

What about Trump? Last year, Trump called Clarence Thomas his favorite justice. This year, he declared Justice Antonin Scalia’s death a “massive setback” for the conservative movement and joined right-wing conspiracy theorists in raising suspicions that Scalia had been murdered.

Last month Trump tossed out the names of two right-wing appeals court judges, William Pryor and Diane Sykes, as two potential nominees from a Trump administration. Pryor calls Roe v. Wade and Miranda v. Arizona, two landmark cases protecting the rights of women and criminal defendants, respectively, “the worst examples of judicial activism.” Sykes, like Pryor, has upheld damaging voter ID laws. She also argued that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to receive government subsidies regardless of whether they engage in discrimination.

Now, Trump is pledging to release a list of seven to 10 potential justices from which he commits to choosing a nominee – and that list is being put together with help from the far-right Heritage Foundation. Heritage is a massively funded right-wing powerhouse that is home to, among others, anti-marriage-equality activist Ryan Anderson, who is urging social conservatives to resist the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

Heritage and its more explicitly political arm Heritage Action have demanded even greater obstructionism from congressional Republicans. Even before Scalia’s death, the group had urged the GOP to refuse to confirm any executive branch or judicial nominations except for appointments dealing with national security. Heritage senior fellow Hans von Spakovsky has even demanded that Scalia be allowed to “vote” – even though he is dead – on a case that right-wing activists were hoping the court would use to destroy public sector unions.

Trump met in Washington yesterday with congressional Republicans, and at a press conference he pushed back against accusations by Cruz that he couldn’t be counted on to name a conservative to the court. “Some people say maybe I’ll appoint a liberal judge,” he said. “I won’t.” He promised that his nominee would be “pro-life” and “conservative.”

Trump also explicitly warned (or taunted, depending on your view) Republicans opposed to his nomination that if they support a third-party candidate against him, they will allow a Democrat to name Supreme Court justices who “will never allow this country to be the same.”

Among the Republicans huddling with Trump? Heritage Foundation president and former Sen. Jim DeMint.

More than 50 Conservative Catholics Back Ted Cruz

The latest announcement in the Ted Cruz presidential campaign’s ongoing rollout of endorsements from right-wing leaders is a group of more than 50 “Catholic influencers” led by Robert George, the intellectual muscle for the Religious Right, and Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and failed gubernatorial candidate. The campaign announced the endorsement of Robert George yesterday; some others on the list have also been announced previously.

Not surprisingly, the list of Catholics for Cruz is heavy on culture warriors who have been fighting to criminalize abortion and resist legal equality for LGBT people and same-sex couples. Although Cruz is not Catholic, he made a reference to the Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis, saying “we have an opportunity to protect the most vulnerable and safeguard the truth revealed through Scripture and the tradition of millennia.”

One eyebrow-raising name on the list is Anne Schlafly Cori, president of Missouri Eagle Forum and daughter of Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly, who endorsed Donald Trump last week

Also on the list:

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

Who’s Driving The GOP’s Supreme Court Blockade?

Almost immediately after the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last month, Republican senators started vowing to block the nomination of whomever President Obama appoints to succeed the conservative jurist. They were egged on in this kneejerk obstructionism by outside conservative groups who quickly circled the wagons in an effort to shut down any Supreme Court confirmation process.

Now, a few key conservative groups are leading the effort to pressure Republican senators to stay in line and to make it politically difficult for vulnerable Democrats to cooperate in a confirmation process. These groups have unified around a message that “the American people should decide” who the next Supreme Court justice is by waiting until the next president can nominate him or her — never mind that Americans did decide who they wanted picking Supreme Court justices when they reelected Obama in 2012.

This “let the people decide” message belies the true goals of the groups pushing it — not some idealistic belief in good governance, but an effort to shape a Supreme Court that favors business interests at the expense of workers and consumers and that helps to turn back the clock on women, LGBT people  and religious minorities.

A new report from People For the American Way looks at four of the conservative groups driving this strategy, outlining their history and their goals for the federal judiciary. It includes:

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson, often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

Read the full report here.

PFAW

New PFAW Report Examines Groups Fighting to Block SCOTUS Confirmation

Today, People For the American Way released a new report examining the role of right-wing groups pushing GOP senators to refuse giving fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, no matter who the nominee may be.

The report profiles four of the most influential groups representing the Religious Right and business interests who have come together to mount a public pressure campaign to convince senators to block whomever President Obama nominates.

  • The Judicial Crisis Network was founded during the George W. Bush administration as the Judicial Confirmation Network with the goal of pushing through the nominations and confirmations of far-right judges to the federal bench.
  • The American Center for Law & Justice, founded by televangelist Pat Robertson often acts as a legal arm for the Religious Right’s attempts to deny liberties to LGBT people, Muslim Americans and others.
  • The Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action have become forces for obstructionism as they pressure Republicans to abandon any attempt at bipartisan cooperation or simple governance.
  • The Family Research Council is working to turn back the clock on social advances for women, LGBT people and religious minorities — something that it hopes a friendly Supreme Court will accelerate.

“Americans expect their senators to do their job and give fair consideration to President Obama’s nominee,” said Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way. “Instead, we’re seeing GOP senators follow the lead of right-wing groups and politicians like Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. That might win favor with Republicans’ right-wing base, but it also highlights the party’s campaign of obstruction and gridlock.”

Read the report here.

For questions about the report or to schedule an interview, please contact Laura Epstein (lepstein@pfaw.org).

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and defend constitutional values including free expression, religious liberty, equal justice under the law, and the right to meaningfully participate in our democracy.

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'School Choice' Just Part of DeVos Family's Far Right Agenda

Members of the DeVos family, which made billions with the Amway direct marketing company, have long been funders of far-right causes and Republican politicians. Over the years, they’ve appeared in PFAW and PFAW Foundation reports like Buying a Movement and Predatory Privatization. This week Inside Philanthropy has taken a  look at DeVos funding, which has been instrumental in driving anti-public education efforts all across the country.

The story’s author, Rick Docksai, writes that the DeVos family’s success at pushing “school choice” reflects its “remarkable talent for moving money by the truckload into socially conservative causes and putting it to work to shift voters’ and lawmakers’ mindsets in a rightward direction.”

Among the right-wing groups DeVos has funded are the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Federalist Society, Council for National Policy, Traditional Values Coalition, the Acton Institute, and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. But education policy is a top priority.

Betsy DeVos is quite the political ringleader in her own right. She formerly chaired the Michigan Republican Party. And she's been called "the four-star general of the voucher movement," for her activism on this issue, which includes her present-day gigs as a board member of Advocates for School Choice and as head of All Children Matter, a group that has been pumping contributions into state elections since its inception in 2003. Conservative education reforms—school vouchers, in particular—are its rallying cause, and the organization claims a "win/loss record" of 121 to 60...

Docksai contrasts the DeVos family’s commitment to Religious Right and and social conservative causes with the Koch brothers’ more libertarian leanings. But, he notes, the DeVos family is just as far-right as the Kochs on economic policy:

DeVos' influence helped turn Michigan into a "right-to-work" state (e.g., no company in the state can obligate its employees to pay dues for union representation), for example. And they firmly back opponents of affirmative action: The Center for Individual Rights received funding from Dick and Betsy DeVos in 2001 after it challenged the University of Michigan's race-based admissions process in court, a lengthy legal fight that resulted in new court-imposed restrictions on the use of race as an admissions factor.

Inside Philanthropy says that Jeb Bush’s failed presidential campaign got “a significant share of its funding from Richard DeVos,” but says that’s a departure from the DeVos’s political win-loss record: “The family has been a major shaper of policymaking at the state and national levels and will surely remain so for years to come.”  

Another Phony Supreme Court 'Precedent'

A couple of days after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Heritage Foundation fellow Hans von Spakovsky declared that the Supreme Court still had an “obligation” to count the votes Scalia had cast in preliminary conferences on pending cases, even though those votes aren’t always final.

He was particularly interested in Friedrichs, an important labor case that some observers believe will, without Scalia’s vote, end up in a tie that will preserve a lower court decision favorable to unions.

It turns out that von Spakovsky mentioned this idea again in a National Review article last week, even presenting evidence of a “precedent” for counting the votes of deceased justices:

One final note on the terrible tragedy of Justice Scalia’s untimely death: what to do about the pending cases in which the Supreme Court justices already had cast their internal vote on how they would rule on the case. Everyone is assuming that Justice Scalia’s votes have to be discarded because the decisions have not yet been publicly released. But there is precedent for Chief Justice John Roberts to give effect to those votes.

In D. A. Schulte, Inc. v. Gangi (1946), the dissenting opinion by Justice Felix Frankfurter, and joined by Justice Harold Burton, specifically says that the “late Chief Justice [Harlan Stone] participated in the hearing and disposition of this case and had joined in this dissent.” Stone died on April 22, 1946; the date of the Gangi decision is April 29, 1946. Likewise, Justice Joseph Story noted the agreement of the late Chief Justice John Marshall in his dissent in New York v. Miln (1837), writing, “I have the consolation to know that I had the entire concurrence, upon the same grounds, of that great constitutional jurist, the late Mr. Chief Justice Marshall.”

Von Spakovsky’s “precedent” for counting the preliminary vote of a deceased justice is two cases in which the authors of dissents mentioned that a late colleague had been on their side of an issue. In the first, the dissenters mention the views of the late Chief Justice Harlan Stone, but do not appear to count him as an official joiner of the dissent. In the second, the dissenters cite the views of Chief Justice John Marshall, who had died more than a year before the opinion was issued and had already been replaced by Chief Justice Roger Taney — again, apparently citing his approval to make a point rather than as an official vote in the case.

In neither case was the vote of the deceased justice being counted. And in neither case would the vote of the deceased have changed the outcome of the case, as von Spakovsky seems to hope Scalia’s vote would in the Friedrichs case.

It’s almost as if conservatives are pulling Supreme Court “precedents” out of thin air.

'Voter Fraud' Alarmists Claim Obama Wants Noncitizens To Vote

Frank Gaffney, the head of the Center for Security Policy, and the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky, one of the country’s most vocal advocates for restrictive voting laws, agreed in an interview on Gaffney’s “Secure Freedom Radio” yesterday that the Justice Department under President Obama has been pushing back against voter registration restrictions because the president “wants noncitizens to vote.”

The Obama administration’s Justice Department is siding with voting rights groups that are trying to stop a move by the director of the Election Assistance Commission that would make it harder to register to vote in three states by including those states’ “proof of citizenship” requirements on federal voter registration forms.

Such a step would have a damaging impact on voter registration: MSNBC reports that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who pushed through one of the most restrictive voter registration laws in the country, has provided documentation that just “seven non-citizens registered in the decade before the state’s proof of citizenship law went into effect in 2013,” while “voting rights groups have said over 40,000 registrations have been thrown out or suspended because of the law.”

To Gaffney and von Spakovsky, this is all proof that President Obama wants noncitizens to commit voter fraud.

“Would it be fair to say … that the government, starting with Barack Obama, actually wants noncitizens to vote and is doing its level best to bring more of them here, among other reasons, for that purpose?” Gaffney asked.

“Oh, I think so,” von Spakovsky responded, “because, look, this isn’t the only instance of this. A few years ago when Florida started trying to clear noncitizens off their voter registration rolls, and they found thousands of them, this very same Justice Department under Eric Holder actually went to court to try to stop them from doing that, making the absurd claim that it violated the National Voter Registration Act … So they actually went to court to try to stop them from taking noncitizens off the voter rolls.”

The Florida incident he was referring to was a planned voter roll purge that the Justice Department contended used out-of-date information and gave voters too little time to correct the record if they were incorrectly identified as noncitizens.

Heritage Fellow: Scalia's Vote Should Still Count From Beyond The Grave

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former George W. Bush administration Justice Department official, said last week that the Supreme Court should count the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s votes on pending cases in which the justices have already cast preliminary votes.

Von Spakovsky mentioned in particular Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that would deal a blow to unions and in which Scalia was likely on the anti-union side.

In an interview with American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios on February 15, von Spakovsky said that Chief Justice John Roberts has “an absolute obligation” to count Scalia’s vote in Friedrichs and other cases in which justices have already held conferences.

“After oral arguments before the court, the justices leave the courtroom and they go to a conference room in the Supreme Court building and they take a vote,” he said. “So that’s the point at which they know how a case is going to be decided and the chief justice then makes assignments of who will write the majority opinion and etc. I think the chief justice has an absolute obligation to give credit to Scalia’s vote in those cases that have already been decided, even if he didn’t write his opinion yet, because they know how he would have voted.”

“So on particular cases like the Friedrichs case … that case was argued on January 11, so they know how Justice Scalia cast his vote in that case and I think the chief justice should give credit to it,” he said.

Von Spakovsky is correct that justices cast votes in a private conference after hearing cases … but those votes sometimes change as the justices work on their opinions. Shortly after Scalia’s death, veteran Supreme Court attorney Roy Englert told ABC that the “vote of a deceased justices does not count.”

We can’t help but point out the irony that von Spakovsky has been one of the primary drivers of the myth that massive voter fraud requires suppressive laws that make it harder to vote. One of the voter-fraud specters he has raised is that of people casting votes on behalf of people who have died.

Heritage Demands SCOTUS Blockade As Part of Scorched-Earth Obstructionism

As the New York Times explained earlier this week, the Senate GOP’s promises to block anyone who President Obama nominates to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court amounts to a ratcheting up of a campaign of obstruction on nominees that has lasted throughout Obama’s time in office.

This is in part thanks to the lobbying of conservative groups who, even before Scalia’s death, were urging Senate Republicans to block nearly every Obama nominee in his final year in office.

A particularly influential force behind this effort has been the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank that has in recent years become a bludgeoning arm for the Tea Party as it pressures GOP lawmakers away from allowing the government to function in any sort of bipartisan manner.

Heritage, under the leadership of former Sen. Jim DeMint, and its more explicitly political arm Heritage Action, headed up by Michael Needham, have worked to pressure the GOP to be an immovable agent of obstruction in a divided government. One House Republican accused Heritage Action last year of insisting on “an unachievable standard” of conservativism that actually “hurts” the party’s goals by preventing reasonable action and compromise.

Heritage Action’s version of conservativism is so far out of the mainstream that even Senate Republicans score an average of just 60 percent on its legislative scorecard. The two senators who have perfect scores from group are Sen. Mike Lee and Sen. Ted Cruz, who has been boasting of his bridge-burning obstructionism as he runs for the Republican presidential nomination. (Sen. Marco Rubio, a supposedly mainstream rival to Cruz, ranks an impressive fourth in Heritage’s ranking of senators.)

Heritage Action’s single-minded focus on attacking the Affordable Care Act infamously helped lead to the 2013 government shutdown. One fellow ACA opponent slammed Heritage and Cruz for the ordeal, writing that the “entire affair was bungled by a few narcissistic conservative groups and senators” and ended up actually hurting the cause they were claiming to support.

Heritage and Heritage Action have applied the same scorched-earth tactics to Obama judicial nominations, urging the GOP to shut down all executive branch and judicial confirmations even before the death of Scalia.

Politico reported in January that in advance of a GOP retreat in Baltimore, Heritage Action circulated a document among lawmakers declaring, “Given the Obama administration’s disregard for Congress’s role in our constitutional system of government, the Senate should refuse to confirm the president’s nominees unless those nominees are directly related to our national security.” This echoed previous calls from Heritage’s favorite senators, Lee and Cruz, to completely shut down the judicial confirmation process.

Later that month, Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky and American Family Association governmental affairs director Sandy Rios agreed that Republicans should oppose all future Obama judicial nominees because, in von Spakovsky’s words, they would all share Obama’s “radical left-wing views.”

On January 26, Heritage Action announced that it would “continue to oppose all judicial nominees and reserve the right to key vote against any and all judicial nominees retroactively,” meaning that it would count support for any Obama judicial nominee against members of Congress in its scorecards — even, apparently, in votes that had already taken place. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid specifically called out Heritage Action for pressuring GOP senators against action on judicial nominees.

Unsurprisingly, Heritage Action and the Heritage Foundation are now pressuring GOP senators to hold Justice Scalia’s seat open until the next president takes office. Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, who, as a Republican senator, built a reputation as a “warrior for purity” within the party, wrote on Tuesday that the Senate “can and should withhold its consent” from any Obama nominee.

In another interview with Rios on Monday, von Spakovsky offered a barely veiled threat to Republican senators contemplating considering an Obama nominee.

“I think they understand that if they were to confirm a liberal Obama nominee this year, it would be an absolute election disaster,” he said. “I mean, I’ve already heard from folks in the conservative community saying that if any Republican senator works to confirm an Obama nominee, they’re going to be a massive target of people trying to get them out of office because they’ll be so upset about that.”

Now that a Supreme Court seat is at stake, the conservative movement is converging on this line of thinking, inventing bogus new “traditions” in an attempt to justify keeping a Supreme Court seat open for more than a year.

There are plenty of conservative groups that are promising an all-out campaign to keep an Obama Supreme Court nominee off the bench — the Times says that the American Center for Law and Justice, the right-wing legal group founded by Pat Robertson, started opposition research on potential nominees “moments” after Scalia’s death was announced. But Heritage’s commitment to keeping any Obama nominees off the federal bench speaks to the real motivations behind the effort to stop any Supreme Court nominee: turning the Congress into a force of obstruction, not of governing.

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