Nominations & Appointments

Issues ››› Nominations & Appointments
  • As Polls Show Rising Support To Confirm SCOTUS Nominee, Wash. Post Lauds "Remarkably Successful" Opposition

    ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    The Washington Post credulously called the efforts by the discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) to prevent the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland "remarkably successful." But polls show the general public is increasingly at odds with JCN's position. Indeed, just last week the Post reported that the results of a new poll was evidence that "Democrats are winning the message war over Garland." The Post promoted the notion of JCN's success in an interview with chief counsel Carrie Severino, who was given a platform to rehash debunked smears about Garland's judicial record on guns and government regulations.

  • NBC News Describes Trump As “One Of The More LGBT-Friendly” Republicans, Despite His Anti-LGBT Positions

    Trump’s Support For State-Sponsored Anti-LGBT Laws Does Not Make Him LGBT Friendly

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    In a segment discussing North Carolina's discriminatory anti-LGBT "bathroom bill" legislation, NBC's Hallie Jackson claimed that Donald Trump "is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates." Jackson’s misleading description of Trump as LGBT friendly comes as the Republican front-runner attempts to re-brand himself as a more moderate candidate heading into the general election and ignores Trump’s long-standing position as an opponent of marriage equality.

    While Jackson described Trump as “one of the more LGBT friendly Republican candidates,” a closer look finds his stance in line with supporters of the law. During an April 21 interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, Trump said "local communities and states" should be able pass discriminatory legislation barring transgender people from using a bathroom associated with the gender they identify with. Trump’s stance that states should be allowed to pass these discriminatory laws is in line with North Carolina’s passing of the state-sponsored anti-LGBT law:

    HALLIE JACKSON: Ted Cruz, in a new online video, taking aim at Donald Trump's criticism of a transgender bathroom ban in North Carolina.

    TED CRUZ: This is not a reasonable debate over public policy. This is political correctness run amok.

    JACKSON: Cruz, using Trump's comments to try to boost his own conservative credentials, while hitting his rivals with a new online polling showing 64 percent of Republicans support the ban. But some of Trump's backers aren't bothered by it.

    [...]

    JACKSON: A top Trump aide, dismissing Cruz's criticism, telling NBC News the senator is simply trying to stay relevant. Trump himself, not backing down.

    DONALD TRUMP: Local communities and states should make the decision. And I feel very strongly about that.

    JACKSON: While Trump is considered one of the more LGBT-friendly Republican candidates, he hasn't talked much about those issues on the campaign trail. Not a typical part of his stump speech, and not mentioned tonight at his rally here in Delaware.

    Jackson's NBC Nightly News report ignores Trump's history of bigoted and extreme positions on LGBT issues, including his support for the anti-LGBT "First Amendment Defense Act," Trump's promise to "strongly consider" appointing Supreme Court justices to overturn its recent ruling in support of marriage equality, and his previous support for Kim Davis, a Kentucky County clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

    Furthermore, the NBC segment plays into comments made by Trump’s new campaign manager, Paul Manafort. During an April 21 meeting of Republican leaders, Manafort attempted to assure those assembled that Trump’s outrageous rhetoric was the candidate simply “projecting an image” and that “the image is going to change.”
     

  • Scalia Opinion Further Undermines Koch-Backed Group's Attack That Merrick Garland Is Anti-Business

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    Following the release of a misleading “scorecard” from the Koch-backed National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) -- which dishonestly represented Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit as too deferential to government agencies -- the Alliance for Justice explained that Justice Antonin Scalia took “precisely the same view” as a dissent Garland joined. The dissent was related to an EPA case that the NFIB cited to criticize the nominee.

    The “judicial scorecard” released by NFIB on April 12 omitted important context to smear Garland as anti-business and overly deferential to federal government agencies. A Media Matters analysis of the 35 cases cited by NFIB, concerning Garland’s judicial opinions on the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Labor, and the National Labor Relations Board, found that one or more judge appointed by a Republican was on the same side as Garland in 28 out of 35 -- or 80 percent -- of the cases.

    Contacted by Media Matters about NFIB’s “scorecard” claiming that Garland's judicial record indicates he is anti-business, top legal experts derided the organization’s claims as “silly” and “nonsense.” While purporting to represent the interests of small businesses, NFIB has in fact campaigned against environmental, labor and health care policies that most small businesses support.

    An April 21 blog post by the Alliance for Justice’s director of justice programs, Kyle Barry, further demonstrated that NFIB’s attacks against Garland’s rulings lack merit. Barry explained that when American Trucking Association v. EPA -- one of the cases cited in NFIB's scorecard -- reached the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia's majority opinion adopted the same legal reasoning seen in a dissent that Garland joined, calling for the case to be reheard before the full D.C. Circuit.

    As Barry explained, Garland's position in the case “was dictated not by ideology or bias toward special interests, but by adherence to precedent that he swore a judicial oath to uphold”:

    Among the cases NFIB cites is American Trucking Association v. EPA, which held that the Clean Air Act’s requirement that the Environmental Protection Agency set air quality standards violates the “nondelegation” doctrine—in other words, that Congress impermissibly delegated legislative power to the EPA. Judge Garland didn’t participate in the panel decision, but he did vote to rehear the case with the full D.C. Circuit, and he did join Judge David Tatel’s dissent when rehearing was denied.

    Based on Judge Tatel’s dissent, NFIB concluded that Judge Garland “would have voted for the EPA,” and in this instance that’s totally fair. (This situation is very different from when a judge votes on a petition for review but doesn’t write or join any opinions, in which case the judge’s views are unknown.) Judge Tatel made clear that the Clean Air Act is in line with years of binding Supreme Court precedent. He wrote that the statute limits EPA discretion in ways “far more specific than the sweeping delegations consistently upheld by the Supreme Court for more than sixty years,” and complained that “[n]ot only did the panel depart from a half century of Supreme Court separation-of-powers jurisprudence,” it “stripped the [EPA] of much of its ability to implement the Clean Air Act, this nation’s primary means of protecting the safety of the air breathed by hundreds of millions of people.”

    The problem for NFIB—and all those who wish to portray Judge Garland as a lawless anti-business radical—is that, on appeal in the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia wrote a unanimous opinion taking precisely the same view. Overturning the D.C. Circuit panel, Justice Scalia wrote that the Clean Air Act “is in fact well within the outer limits of our nondelegation precedents.” He explained that “a certain degree of discretion, and thus of lawmaking, inheres in most executive or judicial action,” and that the Supreme Court has “almost never felt qualified to second-guess Congress regarding the permissible degree of policy judgment that can be left to those executing or applying the law.”

    In other words, Judge Garland’s position was dictated not by ideology or bias toward special interests, but by adherence to precedent that he swore a judicial oath to uphold.

  • Law Experts Shoot Down "Silly" "Nonsense" Attacks On Merrick Garland As Anti-Business

    Blog ››› ››› JOE STRUPP

    Conservative claims that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland’s rulings prove he is anti-business are "silly" "nonsense," according to administrative law experts who spoke with Media Matters.

    Earlier this month, the Koch-backed National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released a “scorecard” of Garland’s rulings as a judge on the D.C. Circuit. The group claimed its scorecard proved Garland “is quantifiably biased in favor of regulatory agencies and against private sector businesses” because he often ruled in favor of several government agencies.

    But as Media Matters previously explained, the scorecard is misleading and not evidence that the nominee is somehow outside of the legal mainstream. In fact, many of the decisions NFIB highlighted for criticism were rulings in which Garland was joined by Republican-appointed judges, and the conservative group’s attempt to provoke outrage over Garland’s record ignores crucial legal context.

    Top legal experts who spoke with Media Matters pointed out that in most federal appeals cases involving governmental agencies, the court sides with the agency under the Chevron Deference doctrine, which “raised the issue of how courts should treat agency interpretations of statutes that mandated” agency action, where the “Supreme Court held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of such statutes unless they are unreasonable.”

    “If you look at cases involving direct regulation by government agencies, his pattern of voting in those cases is entirely standard,” said Laurence Tribe, a professor at Harvard Law School. “It’s the common approach because ever since the Chevron decision the idea has been that Congress can’t always address all of the details that arise in the regulatory state so they give a lot of leeway to expert agencies in deciding how best to carry out the underlying purpose that Congress had in enacting statutes. Therefore, the idea is when agencies resolve those ambiguities in ways that are at least rational and don’t cross any boundaries that are laid down, federal judges usually defer.”

    Joseph Landau, associate professor at Fordham Law School, agreed.

    “The Supreme Court has said that if the statute is unclear, courts should defer to the agency’s interpretation of the federal law as long as the agency’s interpretation of the statute is reasonable,” he said. “If the statute is unclear, and the agency is interpreting the statute, courts have generally held that the agency gets deference. There are exceptions, but deference is the presumption.”

    Jon Michaels, a UCLA Law School professor and a former clerk for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, pointed out that the man Garland is seeking to replace, Justice Antonin Scalia, was a strong supporter of the "Chevron Deference" doctrine.

    He also said the D.C. Circuit Court usually rules in favor of the government agencies because it cannot turn down cases and must review even the most unlikely claims.

    “The court is limited in what it can overturn,” Michaels added. “The court is not supposed to substitute its preference on questions of an agency’s interpretation of law, fact or policy.”

    William H. Simon, Arthur Levitt Professor of Law at Columbia Law School, called the NFIB attack “silly.”

    “It's silly to conclude that he is 'biased,'” Simon said. “The law says judges are supposed to defer to the agencies on many issues. A reluctance to overrule the other branches is a defining characteristic of a judicial 'moderate', which is what many in both parties say they are looking for.”

    Osamudia James, a law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, said, “When Judge Garland or any judge comes in and says they side with the agency, they are saying that based on the statute that Congress set up, what the agency is doing is reasonable.”

    She also cited that many Republican-appointed judges agreed with Garland. “That is an interesting part of this to see who sided with him,” she added. “Other Republican judges are in agreement with him. That undercuts attacks that Garland is excessively pro-regulatory.”

    For Daniel Selmi, professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, the criticism of Garland is “nonsense.”

    “The court reviews what the agency has done based on the administrative record and in doing it, it exercises the standard of review,” Selmi explained. “Which is favorably inclined toward the public agency. They win a majority of the cases. That wouldn’t be abnormal and it wouldn’t tell you anything about bias, it would tell you he is following the law.”

    Joseph A. Grundfest, a law professor at the Stanford Law School, added that Garland’s opinions are “entirely unremarkable and reflect no bias either for or against regulatory agencies or private sector entities.”

  • Koch-Backed NFIB Smears Merrick Garland As A Radical With Dishonest “Scorecard” Attacking His Judicial Rulings

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) -- a Koch-backed front group that is opposing the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court -- released a misleading “scorecard” on Garland’s rulings as a judge on the D.C. Circuit, claiming that Garland is not “moderate” because he supposedly sides too often with federal agencies to the detriment of business interests.

    But what NFIB fails to mention in its “scorecard” is that many of the decisions involving federal agencies that NFIB has selected for criticism -- namely the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Labor (DoL), and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) -- were unanimous rulings where Garland was often joined by fellow D.C. Circuit judges appointed by Republicans.

    While claiming to speak for small businesses, NFIB is actually a front group that has received millions of dollars from the Koch brothers network and other large corporate interests, and its opposition to Garland is part of a campaign against environmental, labor, and healthcare policies that most small businesses support.

    On April 12, NFIB released a “judicial scorecard” purporting to analyze Garland’s career as a judge on the D.C. Circuit. The group promoted its “scorecard” with a press release that asserted Garland’s judicial record indicates he “would overwhelmingly rule in favor of the government, unions, and environmental groups at the expense of small businesses.” According to an NFIB official quoted in the press release, “When you look at Judge Garland’s record on the bench, it is absolutely impossible to conclude that he is anywhere near a moderate."

    But NFIB’s attempt to scandalize Garland’s record, which is widely viewed as moderate, dishonestly omits important context.

    According to a Media Matters analysis of the 35 cases cited by NFIB concerning Garland’s judicial opinions on the EPA, DoL, and the NLRB -- issues highlighted as the most important in NFIB’s press release and classified as “wins” for the government by the NFIB -- judges appointed by Republicans were on the same side as Garland in 28 out of 35 -- or 80 percent -- of the cases.

     

    In fact, in 17 of the 35 EPA, DoL, and NLRB cases NFIB complains about in its scorecard, Garland wrote the majority opinion for three-judge panels that were composed of him and two judges appointed by Republicans. In only one of the 35 cases did Garland write a majority opinion for a panel composed entirely of judges appointed by Democrats.

    NFIB’s attempt to scandalize Garland’s judicial opinions for siding with government agencies more often than not also ignores the longstanding Chevron Deference doctrine, which “raised the issue of how courts should treat agency interpretations of statutes that mandated” agency action, where the “Supreme Court held that courts should defer to agency interpretations of such statutes unless they are unreasonable” -- meaning that there is nothing unusual about agencies often prevailing against challenges to their interpretation of law.

    Below, Media Matters provides the context to the cases NFIB attempts to scandalize with its scorecard, demonstrating how a strong majority of the EPA, DoL, and NLRB cases NFIB cites to claim Garland is not “moderate” involved Garland’s agreement with Republican appointee judges:

    Environmental Protection Agency

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the EPA by claiming that the agency “wins 94% of cases” before Garland, citing eight EPA “wins” versus one “split decision.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in six of the EPA’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican-appointed judge. NFIB’s scorecard also doesn’t tell the full story or misleads on the other two cases it cites.

     

    The NFIB scorecard includes the 1999 decision American Trucking Ass'n v. EPA. Garland did not actually participate in the ruling in this decision, so it does not merit inclusion in NFIB’s scorecard. Instead, Garland later joined several judges in voting in favor of rehearing the case en banc before the entire D.C. Circuit. Legal scholars have said a vote to rehear a case en banc is not a ruling on the merits of the case, and as a matter of law, does not signify a “win” for the EPA, although the NFIB scorecard baselessly claims that “Garland would have ruled for EPA.”

    The scorecard also includes the 2002 decision American Corn Growers Ass'n v. EPA. Garland issued an opinion concurring and dissenting in part with the majority opinion, which was issued per curium on behalf of a panel with two Democratic appointees and one Republican appointee. In his opinion, Garland noted that his concurrence applied to “most of” the majority opinion, which included the Republican-appointed judge.

    Of the six cases cited by NFIB that could actually be reasonably characterized as EPA “wins," Garland was joined in his opinion by at least one Republican appointee every time:

    • In Allied Local and Regional Manufacturers Caucus v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In Appalachian Power Co. v. EPA, a per curium opinion authored by Garland and Judge Wald (Carter appointee) was joined by Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Chamber of Commerce of U.S. v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Brown (W.Bush appointee).
    • In National Association of Home Builders v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Rogers (Clinton appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Rogers (Clinton appointee) and Kavanaugh (W. Bush appointee). Kavanaugh also filed a separate concurring opinion.

    Department of Labor

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the DoL by claiming that the agency “wins 87% of cases” before Garland, citing eight DoL “wins” versus two “losses.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in six of the DoL’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican appointee judge.

     

    Here are the Republican appointees who joined Garland’s opinions in favor of DoL in six of cases cited by NFIB:

    National Labor Relations Board

    The NFIB scorecard suggests that Garland has been overly deferential to the NLRB by claiming that the independent agency “wins 78% of cases” before Garland, citing 19 NLRB “wins” versus five “losses” and one “split decision.”

    The scorecard does not mention that in 16 of the NLRB’s “wins,” Garland was in agreement with at least one Republican appointee judge. In the other three cases, FedEx Home Delivery v. NLRB, Northeast Bev. Corp v. NLRB, and Ross Stores, Inc. v. NLRB, the NFIB scorecard doesn’t tell the full story -- in all three cases Garland only partially dissented, agreeing in part with his Republican-appointed colleague's majority ruling.

     

    Here are the other 16 cases cited by NFIB where at least one Republican appointee agreed with Garland’s decision in favor of the NLRB:

    • In Assoc. of Civ. Tech., Puerto Rico Army v. FLRA, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Tatel (Clinton appointee) and Griffith (W.Bush appointee).
    • In Antelope Valley Bus Co., Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Tatel (Clinton appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Ark Las Vegas Restaurant Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Bally’s Park Place, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Ginsburg (Reagan appointee).
    • In Ceridian Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Griffith (W. Bush appointee).
    • In Dean Transportation, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Flying Food Group, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Kavanaugh (W.Bush appointee).
    • In Halle Enterprises, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In ITT Industries, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judge Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee) and Judge Roberts -- a Bush appointee who is now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
    • In Lee Lumber and Bldg. Material Corp. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Sentelle (Reagan appointee) and Rogers (Clinton appointee). Sentelle also filed a separate concurring opinion.
    • In Mohave Elec. Co-op, Inc. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee).
    • In Pacific Bell v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Ginsburg (Reagan appointee) and Williams (Reagan appointee).
    • In Pacific Coast Supply, LLC v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Griffith (Bush appointee) and Kavanaugh (Bush appointee).
    • In Shamrock Foods Co. v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Tatel (Clinton appointee).
    • In Spectrum Health -- Kent Community Campus v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Henderson (H.W. Bush appointee) and Griffith (Bush appointee).
    • In Spurlino Materials, LLC v. NLRB, Garland issued a unanimous opinion on behalf of a three-judge panel that also included Judges Williams (Reagan appointee) and Randolph (H.W. Bush appointee).

    Charts by Oliver Willis. 

  • SCORECARD: National Federation Of Independent Business vs. Small Business

    Blog ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) claims that it is speaking for the small business community in its opposition to Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination. In reality, NFIB is a front group that has received millions of dollars from the Koch brothers network and other large corporate interests, and its opposition to Garland is part of a campaign against environmental, labor and healthcare policies that most small businesses support.

    NFIB has released a scorecard criticizing Garland for allegedly having “ruled against private parties and especially private businesses with striking regularity.” But here is how NFIB rates on Media Matters' small business scorecard:

     

  • The Familial Ties That Bind The Anti-Garland Judicial Crisis Network To Its Dark Money Funder

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ & ZACHARY PLEAT

    A Media Matters investigation of the discredited right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), the main source of baseless smears against, and false characterizations of, Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, reveals a familial web of self-dealing between the organization, a major dark money funder of JCN called the Wellspring Committee, and a third nonprofit that also receives funding from Wellspring.

    Judicial Crisis Network and Wellspring Committee

    Video by John Kerr, image by Sarah Wasko.

    JCN Has Emerged As Right-Wing Media's Primary Source Of Supreme Court Misinformation

    The Judicial Crisis Network Rebranded Itself To Whitewash Its Lack Of Credibility. In the weeks following the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) re-emerged as a major source of misinformation about potential nominees rumored to be under consideration by the Obama administration. JCN was founded as the Judicial Confirmation Network during the second Bush administration; its aim was to obfuscate the often-far-right records of that administration's judicial nominees in a push to guarantee an "up or down vote" on "every nominee." During the Obama administration, JCN pivoted to smearing nominations for the Supreme Court as well as nominees for other federal and state-level openings. [Media Matters, 3/18/16]

    JCN Has Falsely Characterized Merrick Garland's Record On Guns. On March 11, after the news broke that Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland was one of President Obama's likely choices to fill the court vacancy, JCN chief counsel and discredited right-wing legal analyst Carrie Severino published a column in National Review falsely claiming that Garland has a "very liberal view on gun rights." She also claimed that he upheld an "illegal Clinton-era regulation" that would have created a registry of gun owners. Numerous judicial experts noted that JCN and Severino had mischaracterized Garland's past decisions, but the false accusations were still promoted by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Fox News hosts Bret Baier and Bill O'Reilly, and used as talking points on ABC's This Week and Fox's Fox News Sunday. [Media Matters, 3/21/16]

    Dark Money Group Wellspring Committee Is A Major Funder Of JCN

    The Wellspring Committee Has Been Directly Funding JCN Since 2010. A March 23, 2015, Daily Beast story explained that a dark money group called the Wellspring Committee, created by political operatives tied to the industrialist Koch brothers for the purpose of "pumping funds to other dark money Koch-backed groups," has been a major source of JCN's funding, directly funding the organization since 2010. [The Daily Beast, 3/23/15]

    Wellspring Was Reportedly Founded By The Koch Brothers. A March 29 Daily Beast story reported that Wellspring was founded "in 2008 by none other than the infamous Charles and David Koch, together with their political Svengali, Richard Fink." The article cited Politico investigative reporter Kenneth Vogel in reporting that "Wellspring raised $10 million from attendees at the Kochs' donor seminars, right after it was founded." [The Daily Beast, 3/29/16]

    JCN Received Over $9 Million In Grants From Wellspring Between 2012 And 2014. Wellspring's Form 990 financial disclosure documents show that from 2012 through 2014, Wellspring granted over $9 million to JCN. According to the forms, Wellspring granted $1.155 million to JCN in 2012, $1.435 million in 2013, and $6.665 million in 2014. In each of those years, JCN was by far the largest grantee of the Wellspring Committee, receiving 53 percent, 40 percent, and 80 percent of Wellspring's granted funds, respectively. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Grants Represented 30 Percent Of JCN's Revenue In 2012 And 25 Percent In 2013. JCN's 990 financial disclosure forms show that the grants reported in Wellspring's 990 forms comprised approximately 30 percent of JCN's revenue in 2012 ($4.99 million total) and 25 percent ($5.775 million total) of its revenue in 2013. JCN's 2014 Form 990 was unavailable. [Foundation Center, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Received All Of Its 2014 Revenue -- $7.8 Million -- From Just Three Undisclosed Donors. A November 24 article from the Center for Responsive Politics on Wellspring's $6.6 million grant in 2014 to JCN explained in part how Wellspring is funded: "Wellspring received all of its 2014 revenue of $7.8 million from just three contributions -- one of which was a transfer of $6.95 million, according to the annual form 990 it filed this month. Like other (c)(4) organizations, Wellspring is not required to disclose the identities of its donors." [Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org, 11/24/15]

    Wellspring, And JCN Have Family Ties Among Officers And Through Another Wellspring Recipient, The Catholic Association Inc.

    Wellspring's President Helped Launch JCN And Is Married To JCN's Treasurer. The November 24 article from the Center for Responsive Politics reported on Wellspring and JCN's family ties, explaining, "Wellspring was founded and is still headed by Ann Corkery, a lawyer who for years has been involved in conservative fundraising and also helped launch JCN. Her husband, Neil, is JCN's treasurer. Their daughter, Kathleen, is on Wellspring's board. [Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org, 11/24/15]

    JCN Paid Wellspring President's Husband $98,000 In 2011-13. JCN's financial disclosure forms show that between 2011 and 2013, it paid $98,000 in compensation to Neil Corkery, the treasurer of the organization, who is married to Wellspring's president Ann Corkery. [Foundation Center, accessed 3/30/16]

    Wellspring Granted Over $1 Million To Catholic Association Inc. Between 2012 And 2014. Wellspring's 990 financial disclosure forms show that from 2012 through 2014, Wellspring granted more than $1 million to the Catholic Association Inc. According to the forms, Wellspring granted $440,000 to the group in 2012, $60,000 in 2013, and $650,000 in 2014. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

    Wellspring Secretary And Treasurer Michael Casey Is Son Of JCN Board Member And Catholic Association Inc. Officer Dan Casey. Michael Casey, who is listed on Wellspring's 990 financial disclosure forms as its secretary and treasurer, is the son of Republican operative Dan Casey, who is a member of JCN's board and is reportedly "the political and PR brains" of the organization. Dan Casey is also listed on the Catholic Association Inc.'s 990 financial disclosure forms as its secretary and one of its directors. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16; The Daily Beast, 3/23/15]

    Catholic Association Inc. Paid Wellspring President's Husband And JCN Treasurer Neil Corkery $50,000 Over 2013 And 2014. The Catholic Association Inc.'s 990 financial disclosure forms show that in 2013, it paid $20,000 in compensation to Neil Corkery, and in 2014 it paid $30,000 in compensation. Neil Corkery was listed as the Catholic Association Inc.'s treasurer and one of its directors. [GuideStar.org, accessed 3/21/16]

  • Conservative Media Smear Merrick Garland: Benghazi Edition

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Conservatives are now trying to smear Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland with a myth about the 2012 terror attacks on the United States' diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

    In a March 31 article, the Daily Caller claimed that Garland "falsely blamed the YouRube [sic] video 'Innocence of Muslims' for the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens during the Benghazi attacks, court transcripts show." Right-wing media outlets have consistently claimed that the Obama administration deliberately lied by linking that anti-Islam video to the attacks.

    In fact, the leader of the 2012 attack has confirmed that the video -- which had been spurring sometimes-violent protests throughout the Middle East at the time of the attack -- did inspire the perpetrators to assault the United States' Benghazi diplomatic compound, ultimately leading to the death of four Americans.

    The Caller article, citing a press release from discredited conservative group Judicial Watch, claimed Garland repeated a Benghazi falsehood during a January 10, 2013, hearing over Judicial Watch's attempt to force the Obama administration to release images of Osama bin Laden's body. (The court ultimately rejected Judicial Watch's challenge.)

    While discussing national security concerns over the release of sensitive images during oral arguments, Garland said, "And we do know of examples where in this country we would think that the release of certain things would not have lead to this, and yet there were, not very long ago a video was released that did lead to death of an American ambassador, of other people, of riots in other cities."

    Garland was right. Although conservative media have endlessly claimed that the Obama administration sought to deceive about the nature of the Benghazi attacks by citing the influence of the "Innocence of Muslims" video, the claim is baseless. Numerous news reports at the time of the attack -- reporting on the best intelligence available -- said the video played a role. The New York Times reported in December 2013, "There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers," citing witness accounts of those attackers mentioning the video during the assault.

    And as the Times reported in 2014, the alleged ringleader of the attack "told fellow Islamist fighters and others that the assault was retaliation for the same insulting video, according to people who heard him."

  • Meet The National Federation Of Independent Business, The Corporate Front Group Claiming It's The Voice Of Small Business

    ››› ››› DENISE ROBBINS

    Media outlets are adopting the National Federation of Independent Business' (NFIB) claim that it is speaking for the small business community in its opposition to Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination. In reality, NFIB is a front group that has received millions of dollars from the Koch brothers network and other large corporate interests, and its opposition to Garland is part of a campaign against environmental, labor and healthcare policies that most small businesses support.

  • One Of The NRA's Top Attorneys Has A Very Different View Of Merrick Garland Than The NRA

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    As the National Rifle Association (NRA) smears Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland as a threat to the Second Amendment by misrepresenting his judicial record, one of the NRA's top constitutional litigators is heaping praise upon Garland and his judicial temperament.

    The NRA began its false attacks on Garland moments after he was nominated, repeating smears from the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) -- a discredited right-wing group spending millions of dollars opposing Garland -- that dishonestly distorted Garland's involvement as a judge on the D.C. Circuit in two gun-related cases.

    Running with JCN's smears, the NRA has baselessly claimed that Garland joining the Supreme Court "would mean the end of the fundamental, individual right of law-abiding Americans to own firearms for self-defense in their homes" and that the "fight over the confirmation of Judge Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court represents what could be a life-or-death decision for the right to keep and bear arms in this country."

    Although widely viewed as a moderate whose disposition as a judge was routinely praised by conservative jurists, the NRA has unconvincingly claimed that Garland's nomination "could be the most divisive -- and to the Second Amendment, most dangerous -- appointment to the Court in history."

    The NRA's dishonest and fiery rhetoric on Garland is at odds with the views of one of the organization's top constitutional litigators, conservative lawyer Charles J. Cooper.

    Cooper, "a longtime stalwart of the Federalist Society" who often represents the NRA and other conservative interests in his private appellate litigation practice, praised Garland in a March 28 interview, saying his respect for Garland has only grown since he supported Garland's nomination to the D.C. Circuit in 1997.

    In a 1997 letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Cooper noted that his legal philosophy differed from Garland's, but also wrote, "Not only is Merrick enormously gifted intellectually, but he is thoughtful as well, for he respects other points of view and fairly and honestly assesses the merits of all sides of an issue," and that should he be confirmed, "He would comport himself on the bench with dignity and fairness."

    Asked about the letter by The Washington Post, Cooper said his "high opinion of Judge Garland has not changed -- indeed, it has only strengthened -- over the course of the 19 years since I wrote these words." (Cooper, however, does support Senate Republicans in obstructing Garland's nomination for political reasons.)

    Cooper is one of the top conservative Second Amendment litigators in the country. In fact, the same day the Post published its interview with Cooper, he filed a brief on behalf of the NRA in a case involving a legal challenge to a Florida law that prevents doctors from asking patients certain questions about gun ownership. 

    He was involved in the landmark Second Amendment decision District of Columbia v. Heller, the opinion that the NRA baselessly claims Garland would overturn. Cooper is listed as the counsel of record for an amicus curiae brief filed on behalf of former employees of the Department of Justice in support of the conservative legal argument that the Second Amendment is an individual right. After Heller was decided, with a conservative majority finding the existence of an individual right, the NRA called Cooper's brief "especially worthy of note" when describing the "debt of gratitude" the NRA owed to other participants in the case.

    Cooper continues to represent the NRA and NRA state affiliates in some of the group's most high-stakes litigation -- cases that have advanced to U.S. courts of appeal -- including the NRA's constitutional challenges to post-Newtown gun laws in Maryland and New York, cases involving challenges to age restrictions on gun ownership and carrying guns in public , and NRA challenges to states' use of discretion in issuing permits to carry concealed guns.

  • Bush Judicial Nominee Miguel Estrada Dismantles Conservatives' Smear That Merrick Garland Is A Threat To The Second Amendment

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Republican lawyer Miguel Estrada dismissed the claims from discredited right-wing organization Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) that Supreme Court nominee Judge Merrick Garland's judicial record indicates a "bias against Second Amendment rights."

    In a March 27 NPR story that refuted activists' criticisms of Garland's judicial record, Estrada -- who was nominated by President George W. Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia -- explained that "the evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent."

    The "evidence" dismissed by Estrada as "thin to non-existent" originated from the Judicial Crisis Network, which has been making this false charge against Garland since March 11, before he was nominated by President Obama, claiming that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case on handgun restrictions indicates he "has a very liberal view on gun rights."

    However, Garland was joined in his vote by the very conservative Judge A. Raymond Randolph, and legal scholars have explained that reading anti-gun bias in this vote by Garland is a "dangerous" assumption.

    As Estrada explained to NPR, voting to rehear a case does not indicate a judge's view of the merits of the case, but rather "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.'"

    Like several journalists who cover the courts and legal issued for national media outlets, Estrada dismissed the evidence presented by the JCN that Garland is anti-gun:

    [C]onservative activists see Garland's record as tilting distinctly to the left. The Judicial Crisis Network has already spent $4 million on TV and radio advertisements in 10 states insisting that he "would be the tie-breaking vote for Obama's big government liberalism."

    Proving some of these assertions, however, can be difficult.

    "The evidence that is being cited for the accusation that Judge Garland has some bias against Second Amendment rights is from thin to non-existent," says Miguel Estrada, a conservative Republican lawyer whose own nomination to the D.C. Circuit was stalled by Democrats during the George W. Bush administration.

    Estrada notes that the charge that Garland is hostile to gun rights stems from a case challenging the District of Columbia's ban on handguns. In 2007, a three-judge panel -- not including Garland -- ruled for the first time that there is a constitutional right to own guns for self-defense. Afterward, Garland was one of four judges, including a conservative Reagan appointee, who voted for the full court to rehear the case.

    Estrada explains that "the rules say that the full court may wish to rehear the case itself when the case raises a question, and I quote, 'of exceptional importance.' "

    The gun rights case certainly was of exceptional importance, he said, since no court of appeals had ever before ruled that there was an individual right to own a gun. Ultimately, Estrada notes, the Supreme Court, too, thought the case was of exceptional importance, since it agreed to review the lower court decision and, in a landmark opinion, sustained it.

  • Right-Wing Media Have Been Following Their Deceptive SCOTUS Nominee Playbook To A T

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    supreme-court

    On March 16, President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Before the nomination, Media Matters explained how right-wing media would respond: by following their deceptive conservative playbook against the nominee, regardless of who it was. And that's exactly what they did. Right-wing media resurrected the same tired tactics they've used before to oppose Obama's judicial nominees -- distorting the nominee's record to push alarmist rhetoric, purposefully taking past statements out of context, and lobbing attacks based on the nominee's race, gender, or religion. In the last week, we've already seen many of these plays put into action, with conservative media predictably propping up dishonest talking points and false claims dedicated to obstruction.

    Judicial Crisis Network Has Led The Pack In Pushing Debunked Misinformation On Garland's Record Into Media Coverage

    The discredited conservative group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) -- known as the Judicial Confirmation Network during the Bush administration, but now committed to opposing Obama judicial nominations -- has led the way in fearmongering around "one more liberal justice," attempting to re-cast Garland's record as that of an anti-gun, job-killing judicial extremist.

    JCN began its misinformation campaign well before Garland's March 16 nomination, pushing myths about the records of several potential nominees at the National Review's Bench Memos legal blog, in press statements and attack ads, and in media appearances by JCN chief counsel Carrie Severino. On March 11, Severino authored a post on the Bench Memos blog attempting to smear Garland as "very liberal on gun rights" by grossly distorting actions he took on two cases pulled from his nearly two decades of judicial service, one of which did not even concern the Second Amendment. Severino cited Garland's 2007 vote to rehear a case on D.C.'s handgun ban and his 2000 ruling in a case related to the national background check system for gun purchases to draw this baseless conclusion. But she failed to note crucial context -- voting to rehear a case in what's called an en banc review does not indicate how a judge might theoretically rule, and in both cases, Garland either acted in agreement with colleagues or other courts across the ideological spectrum. Veteran Supreme Court reporters and numerous legal experts quickly and summarily debunked these misleading claims, but other right-wing outlets have further distorted them, and JCN has pushed the myths in subsequent attack ads and media appearances.

    Following Garland's formal nomination, JCN released a series of "topline points" outlining its opposition, further misrepresenting Garland's guns record to falsely suggest he had "voted to uphold" D.C.'s handgun ban and "demonstrated a remarkable level of hostility to the Second Amendment," as well as contending Garland was "the sole dissenter in a 2002 case striking down an illegal, job-killing EPA regulation." Like its earlier attacks on Garland's supposedly "very liberal" guns record, JCN's newer claims about Garland's ruling in the 2002 EPA case also grossly distorted the facts.

    Some mainstream outlets have uncritically echoed JCN's debunked "topline points" and attack ads on Garland's record, and these reports -- in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, and on National Public Radio -- lend an air of undeserved legitimacy to the group's misinformation campaign against Garland.

    National Review Has Served As The Right-Wing-Media Source For Misleading Talking Points

    National Review's Supreme Court coverage to date has continued its tradition of injecting context-free talking points into mainstream reporting on the nominee. Its legal blog, Bench Memos, has served as a testing ground for new smears against Garland, hosting several misinformation-filled posts from JCN's Severino that eventually made their way into mainstream reporting and broadcast coverage. In giving space for JCN and other right-wing legal pundits like contributor Ed Whelan to distort Garland's record, Bench Memos quickly made it clear that a lack of evidence is no reason to avoid making sweeping claims about the nominee.

    Before Garland was nominated, National Review featured posts from both Severino and Whelan that attempted to smear several potential nominees. On March 7, Whelan questioned the intelligence of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson absent any evidence to suggest the accomplished federal judge was anything but qualified. That same day, Severino attempted to smear Judge Jane Kelly for fulfilling her constitutional duty of providing legal representation for an unsavory client while working as a public defender. In subsequent posts, Severino attacked Judges Sri Srinivasan and Paul Watford in a series aimed to undermine their reputations as "moderates" by misrepresenting a handful of their past decisions as "extremist."

    Attacks on Garland, too, began before the March 16 nomination announcement; Severino's March 11 post on Bench Memos first floated what have since become widespread and false conservative talking points on Garland's record on guns. In the post, Severino claimed that Garland's vote to rehear a 2007 case related to the D.C. handgun ban and his joining of a ruling in a 2000 case related to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System for gun purchases together indicated "a very liberal approach" to the Second Amendment and a desire to overturn the 2008 Heller Supreme Court decision on the Second Amendment. These attacks, which legal experts quickly and repeatedly debunked, continue to pervade media coverage of opposition to Garland's nomination.

    Fox Figures Have Parroted Debunked Claims, Reporting Misinformation As Fact To A Wider Audience

    Fox News figures have predictably latched onto conservative talking points to oppose Garland, broadcasting already debunked claims about Garland's record.

    On March 16, Bret Baier, host of Fox's Special Report With Bret Baier, claimed in an interview with White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest that Garland "opposed Justice Scalia's take on the Second Amendment in the Heller case," misrepresenting both Garland's 2007 vote to rehear the D.C. handgun case and the case's relationship to a Supreme Court decision issued the following year. On Fox's The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly further distorted JCN's talking point, incorrectly stating that Garland had "voted to keep the guns away" from private citizens in D.C., another claim about the Supreme Court nominee that PolitiFact labeled false.

    The NRA Has Launched An Opposition Campaign Based On These Recycled Talking Points

    As Media Matters warned, the National Rifle Association (NRA) quickly began pushing these right-wing media claims to justify its involvement in obstruction efforts and to fearmonger about Garland.

    Immediately following Garland's nomination on March 16, the NRA declared him "bad on guns." In a series of tweets reacting to the nomination, the NRA linked to the debunked March 11 Severino post on Bench Memos to claim that Garland would "vote to reverse" the Heller decision, and a Washington Times article pushing the same discredited claims with quotes from Severino, a spokesperson from the opposition research group America Rising Squared, and the extremist group Gun Owners of America.

    Later that day, the NRA formally announced its opposition to Garland's nomination. The move predictably mirrored the NRA's efforts to distort Sonia Sotomayor's record and to launch an unprecedented and largely ineffective ploy to threaten senators' records over their votes to confirm Sotomayor to the Supreme Court in 2009. Days later, the executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action explained the group's opposition in an op-ed in The Washington Post, regurgitating JCN's dishonest claims about Garland's 2007 en banc vote in the Parker case to fearmonger about the moderate judge.

    The NRA's opposition to Garland helped elevate JCN's long-debunked talking points on Garland all the way to Senate Republicans leading the obstruction efforts. In a March 20 appearance on Fox News Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explicitly cited the NRA's opposition to Garland as a sticking point for ongoing Senate obstruction, explaining that he "can't imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association."

  • TIMELINE: The Evolution Of Conservatives' Smear Of Judge Merrick Garland's Record On Guns

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    False characterizations of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland's judicial record on gun-related cases pushed by discredited right-wing group Judicial Crisis Network (JCN) were echoed by conservative media and the National Rifle Association following Garland's nomination. These smears ultimately formed the basis for the continued refusal of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to allow a hearing.