A Second Thought:Corporate Power And The Court
Now that the dust has settled on the news of the John Roberts nomination, and new information and new thoughts start to settle in, some new realizations are taking place for me.
With only two years experience on his current court bench, Roberts was not chosen for his legal experience or even his supposed "conservatism" , as much as his dependable background as a corporate lawyer who was part of the coal industry lobby. Well qualified female judges really had little chance they would be nominated by the procorporate Bush Administration.
The Bush Administration is the most corporately driven administration in the history of the United States. 42 members of this administration are either former oil company executives, paid consultants or major stockholders in oil company stocks. And an additional 32 members of this administration are former defense contractor executives, paid consultants or major stockholders in defense contractor firms. And for the first time in American history, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force all are former defense contractor executives or consultants.
Big money is the mother's milk in politics. And big corporations have found that their lobby efforts pay huge dividends in this current administration. While both parties are a party to the big money and corporate influence cycle and campaign financing addiction, in the current Bush Administration it drives major policy such as Iraq, or White House policy to limit lawsuits, to change bankruptcy law, or other legal changes meant to benefit single industries rather than the larger public good.
Government and the power of corporate lobbyists cannot be understated in Washington. At least 250 former congresspersons have allowed corporate lobbies to have so much influence in their offices, that after leaving congress they have become members of corporate lobbies themself. This is the revolving door in Washington; lobbies exert so much influence on the offices of politicians, with either political donations, paid vacations or trips for politicians, or even donations to pet charities that politicians support, and politicians become so involved with the lobbies that they often eventually become part of the lobby itself, and begin to lobby and influence other politicians, who in turn eventually become part of a lobby. This revolving door of corporate lobby influence to alter policy cannot be understated.
In the EU for example, 150 large corporations have had tremendous success at altering environmental law, labor and workplace safety regulations, consumer law, and other areas where corporate influence can alter policy and save big business vast sums of money.
John Roberts background was in legal efforts on behalf of the coal industry. He was paid by the coal industry to attempt to weaken clean air laws and to allow more strip mining by coal companies. It was ironic that Roberts brought his four year old son to the announcement event of his nomination with Bush, as it has been the efforts of Roberts to make air less clean and healthy for children such as his son to breathe.
Some will become distracted into groundless "conservative vs. liberal " discussions on the Roberts nomination. And Roberts may well be a "conservative", for whatever that is supposed to mean. But more importantly, Roberts is part of the corporate lobby world. Roberts is most likely being placed on the court as a political favor to the big corporations and their lobby efforts as a "thankyou" from the Bush Administration. The lobby efforts for a justice favorable to corporate interests was probably one of the most less understood forces influencing the judicial nomination process. The entire philosophy of the Bush Administration is not so much ideologically "conservative", as it is procorporate in nature. A few half hearted efforts to pander to social conservatives to draw their votes at election time such as a few words against "gay marriage" play far better than leveling with voters that the goals of the administration are to promote corporate goals.
Politics is an expensive business. Millions of dollars in donations from corporations also mean that corporations have tremendous influence. In fact, world corporations are such strong international influences that of the 100 largest world economies, only 49 of these are nations, the other 51 are corporations.
In the long run, neither conservatives nor liberals will be very happy with the Roberts nomination to the court. He will be very procorporate, and will decide decisions very much in favor of business rather than consumer or public interests. The term "conservative" to characterize Roberts is probably more true in the sense of being corporate minded and concerned, rather than meaning socially concerned like some conservatives.
Some may even be distracted of the role that Roberts once had in the antitrust action by the Justice Department against Microsoft, however remember that in 1998, corporate lawyers and lobbyists for Sun Microsystems, Netscape, IBM, Oracle and AOL were involved in lobby efforts at the Justice Department to limit the role of their competitor, Microsoft. Roberts role as an advocate of big corporate interests is nearly a flawless record. Even Chrysler and Toyota used Roberts legal efforts to promote their corporate agendas at one time.
The Republican Party's candidates have long had a relationship with corporate interests that best serves those interests, yet many rank and file social conservative Republican voters fail to realize that all but two Supreme Court members nominated since 1968 have been by Republican Presidents. Since this time abortion was made legal in the 1973 Roe v.Wade decision and other decisions that fail to make social conservative Republicans happy, yet social conservative voters have failed to catch on that using social conservative isues is merely an election-time ploy that plays out year after year to get their votes, and major change on issues to satisfy their social conservative agenda is actually unlikely. And until Bill Clinton, which only nominated two judges to the Supreme Court, all nine members of the court were registered Republicans.
Roberts will disappoint social conservatives with his procorporate rather than social conservative agenda on the bench. But liberals won't be disappointed because they have no reason to expect all that much in Roberts. At 50, Roberts may stay on the court for 20 or more years, or maybe less if a more lucrative corporate lobby job opens up.