After the U.S. Supreme Court this week crippled labor unions, sided with anti-choice health clinics, upheld President Donald Trump's Muslim ban, and preserved GOP gerrymandering, Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, which will enable Trump to nominate a far-right replacement—and the billionaire Koch Brothers' political network plans to pour millions into promoting the president's choice.
Once Kennedy's departure was made public, a spokesperson for the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) told NPR about plans to spend "seven figures" to support a forthcoming nominee.
Koch network ready to spend a million dollars plus on SCOTUS nominee:
"We're prepared to commit seven-figures to support a nominee in the mold of Gorsuch - someone who will interpret the law as written and not legislate from the bench."
-Americans for Prosperity Spox
— Tim Mak (@timkmak) June 27, 2018
As the Huffington Post noted, the Koch network—which includes the groups AFP, Freedom Partners, and Concerned Veterans for America—dropped millions on "waves of direct mail, canvassing, digital ads in a dozen states, town halls, and more than 500,000 phone calls" in support of Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch, who filled the seat left vacant by Antonin Scalia following a choice by Senate Republicans to block former President Barack Obama's efforts to appoint a justice to the position.
Sarah Field, the vice president for judicial strategy at Americans for Prosperity, told the Post the network is "impressed with the whole list" of Trump's 25 potential nominees—noting that "the president has a great record of picking judges with a fidelity to the Constitution"—and plans to back whichever candidate he ultimately chooses.
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As Washington Post reporter Michelle Ye Hee Lee pointed out, the billionaire brothers has been salivating over the chance to use their vast wealth and political power to shift the court even further to the right:
The Koch network has been gearing up for this moment -- the next Supreme Court vacancy. My story from earlier this year: https://t.co/GnMK0vR7Yp
— Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@myhlee) June 27, 2018
While Field said, "faced with a vacancy on the highest court, we encourage President Trump to build on that success by nominating a Supreme Court Justice in the spirit of Justice Neil Gorsuch—a nominee who will respect the rule of law, interpret the Constitution as written, and not seek to advance a political agenda," adding to the court a justice who subscribes to that form of judicial interpretation would likely mean a series of victories for a far-right political agenda.
Although Kennedy has had a hand in forcing through 5-4 decisions that pleased Republicans, he also has been a key vote on cases involving reproductive and LGBTQ rights. The court cannot simply overturn past decisions without a case to weigh in on, but after Kennedy's annoucement Wednesday, critics expressed concerns about future rulings on cases pertaining to abortion, marriage equality, or affirmative action if the president can get a nominee through the Senate before the midterms.
Critics slammed the Koch network's plans to invest heavily in backing Trump's nominee as "one more example of big money attempt to establish a society governed by the rich," and declared, "This is not democracy."