Heritage Foundation

Heritage Foundation

The best-known and most influential right-wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation owes much of its success to savvy marketing and PR and the generous donations of right-wing benefactors, foundations and wealthy corporations. The foundation boasts about its influence on Capitol Hill yet insists that it does not "lobby."

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.

'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.

Pat Robertson: Bernie Sanders' Youth Supporters 'The Kids Who Want To Do A Panty Raid In The Fraternity'

Today on “The 700 Club,” Pat Robertson sat down with Stephen Moore, the former chief economist of the Heritage Foundation, to discuss the results of last night’s New Hampshire primaries, and particularly Bernie Sanders’ success in the Democratic contest.

After gloating that Hillary Clinton “is not going to be president” and commending Donald Trump’s “phenomenal,” “patriotic” and “pro-America” victory speech, Moore lit into Sanders and Clinton for proposing “big spending programs” and trying to “raise taxes on the middle class.”

Robertson, before repeating the myth that Sanders is seeking a 90 percent marginal tax rate, said he was confused as to why young voters overwhelmingly backed Sanders in New Hampshire. “Is that like the kids who want to do a panty raid in the fraternity?” he asked.

“It’s an indictment of our education system in America,” Moore said. “When these college graduates think that socialism is an economic model that works, I mean, show me anywhere in the world, Bernie Sanders, where socialism has worked.”

Congressional Republicans Promote 2016 'Ideas' Strategy, Warn Against Trump At Heritage 'Conservative Policy Summit'

The Heritage Foundation’s political advocacy affiliate, Heritage Action for America, held an all-day “Conservative Policy Summit” on Wednesday, during which Heritage staff and supporters heard from nearly two dozen conservative Republican members of Congress. Heritage's president, former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, reaffirmed one of the organization’s longstanding principles — that you can’t legitimately call yourself an economic conservative if you aren’t also a social conservative.

The morning consisted of speeches on “conservative policy pillars” – House Speaker Paul Ryan on leadership, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on defense, Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina on social policy, and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska on economic policy. The afternoon was built around panel discussions on the House Freedom Caucus, the freshman class, differences in the workings of the House and Senate, and the state of the conservative movement. What was meant to be a closing debate on the filibuster between Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen. Mike Lee turned into a moderated conversation with Lee — who defends the filibuster against frustrated right-wing House members — when Goodlatte didn’t show.

Ryan’s opening speech set a mostly high-minded tone, saying conservatives must address Americans who are hurting and convince them that a conservative pro-growth agenda offers them more promise than “failed” liberal policies. He called for a “clarifying election” that would, like Ronald Reagan’s 1980 victory, come with a mandate to enact conservative policies. Ryan warned that with one more progressive presidency “liberals will lock in all their gains” — and that Democrats’ refusal to deal with entitlement reform would ensure monetary and fiscal crises.

In remarks that may have been intended for his Heritage Action hosts and members of the Freedom Caucus, Ryan urged conservatives not to engage in a “circular firing squad” or waste time fighting over tactics or impugning one others’ motives. “We can’t let how someone votes on an amendment to an appropriations bill define what it means to be conservative, because it’s setting our sights too low,” he said.

Ryan also said Republicans must not be merely oppositional. He suggested that conservatives who promised to repeal Obamacare while Obama was still in office were merely setting themselves up for failure. He said House Republicans are putting together a five part ideas-based agenda that will define the year in the areas of national security, jobs and the economy, healthcare, poverty and opportunity, and restoring the Constitution.

Rep. Mark Walker, a Southern Baptist minister, was introduced by Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall as a champion of the right-wing social agenda on marriage, abortion and religious liberty. Walker said the country was founded on traditional values, but that decades of liberal policies have led to the “undoing” of communities: “The federal government has hijacked the American Dream and the family has been decimated.”

Walker said Congress must “eliminate every taxpayer dollar that goes to Planned Parenthood,” saying, “There is no other freedom-robbing, opportunity-destroyer and life-killer that is more intentional than Planned Parenthood.”  Walker did not directly address the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling or the resistance to the ruling being pushed by some social conservatives. In a question about how to make marriage fashionable, he said the church has to do its job in teaching the truth about family.

Walker said people are right to be angry about some things, like classrooms indoctrinating students with “progressive secularism,” and said that anger can be a powerful motivator if properly targeted. He urged people to be discerning and compassionate in order to more effectively make the conservative case. “It’s okay to be a loud voice as long as you’re doing more than just making noise,” he said.

Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a former college president tasked with talking about economic freedom, said that the American idea of limited government and conservatives’ commitment to the free market are grounded in “an anthropological claim about human dignity.” Like other speakers, Sasse denounced what he described as regulatory overreach. He disputed the characterization by former Democratic Rep. Barney Frank that government is “another word for the things we choose to do together.” No, said Sasse, government is not community, but compulsion, power and force.

Sasse seemed to criticize Donald Trump’s campaign without mentioning the candidate by name (something Ryan had also done), saying it was wrong to think that government power or a single election can fix things.

A lot of what is happening in the Republican electorate right now is the downstream effects of the tribalism of race, class and gender identity politics on the left, that some of the right have decided, well, if they’re going to have an identity politics, maybe we should have an identity politics. And that is an abandonment of the American idea. We already have one post-constitutional party in this country; we don’t need a second one. And so the idea that there is a strongman that can save us isn’t true. It’s understandable why it can be attractive, but it isn’t true. And so if you pretend that if only we gave more power to one guy in Washington, but he was the right guy, everything would be fixed, I submit to you that that act is the act of saying everything is already lost in the American experiment. Because what America needs is a constitutional recovery, not a Republican Barack Obama.

A panel with members of the House Freedom Caucus — what moderator Fred Barnes referred to affectionately as the “Bomb-thrower Caucus” — included Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. A common theme of their remarks was that Republicans in Congress have lost the trust of the American people by overpromising and under-delivering because too many of them get to D.C. and get talked into being a “team player.” Members of the Freedom Caucus and panel of House freshmen all seemed optimistic that the House would function more effectively under the speakership of Paul Ryan than it did under deal-maker John Boehner.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia talked about the new Article I project that has been launched by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and others, which is designed to limit the regulatory power of federal agencies and the discretionary power of the president. (Lee and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas described the Article I project in National Review this week.) Later in the day Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona also mentioned the project, saying he hoped it would reinvigorate the constitutional balance between the legislative and other branches.

But in spite of the perils they said face America, panelists were positive about the state of the conservative movement. Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama noted that the conservative movement today has many assets that Ronald Reagan didn’t, including a national network of state-level think tanks and advocacy organizations, political groups devoted to candidate recruitment and training and grassroots mobilization, and GOP control in most statehouses and legislatures. Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia, who waged the right-wing insurgent campaign that defeated former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary, predicted a conservative wave election. And Rep. Bill Flores of Texas said the conservative movement is strong, as reflected in the success of “outsider” candidates in the Iowa caucuses and the majorities in the House and Senate — there’s just “one big step to go.”

Six GOP Hopefuls Vow To Enshrine Anti-Gay Discrimination Into Law

In the wake of the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, anti-gay Religious Right groups rallied around a piece of legislation known as the First Amendment Defense Act, which would prohibit the federal government from "taking discriminatory action against a person on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that: (1) marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or (2) sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage."

In essence, the law would give individuals and businesses a license to openly discriminate against gay people and others in the name of "religious liberty," so naturally anti-gay groups have lined up in support of the legislation.

Today, several of these groups — the American Principles Project, Heritage Action for America, Family Research Council Action — announced that six GOP presidential hopefuls have all signed a pledge to, if elected to the White House, push for the passage of the FADA within their first 100 days in office:

American Principles Project has joined together with Heritage Action for America, the action arm of the Heritage Foundation, and FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of the Family Research Council, to invite each of the candidates running for President to sign the following pledge:

“If elected, I pledge to push for the passage of the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) and sign it into law during the first 100 days of my term as President.”

So far, six candidates have signed the pledge:

•   Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

•   Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida)

•   Dr. Ben Carson

•   Carly Fiorina

•   Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania)

•   Former Governor Mike Huckabee (R-Arkansas)

...

Maggie Gallagher, Senior Fellow at American Principles Project, released the following statement:

“It has become clear that the First Amendment Defense Act is rapidly becoming a signature issue that unifies the GOP. Three out of the four top contenders for the nomination — Carson, Cruz, and Rubio — have pledged to prioritize passing FADA in their first 100 days of office. Additionally, Bush, Graham, Paul, and now for the first time, Donald Trump, have publicly expressed support for FADA. Real, concrete protections for gay marriage dissenters appear to be just one election victory away.”

Ryan Anderson Takes Break From War On Marriage Equality To Target Nondiscrimination Laws

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson is one of the leading voices of the movement opposed to full legal equality for LGBT people. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling, he rushed out a book designed to be a road map for a continuing culture war to resist and overturn marriage equality.

This week, he published another broadside against the LGBT movement — this one a Heritage Foundation “backgrounder” making the case that laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are unnecessary and “threaten freedom.” Given that Anderson is actively arguing for a generational culture war against marriage equality, it is somewhat difficult to take seriously the concern stated in his new paper that nondiscrimination laws “risk becoming sources of social tension rather than unity.”

Echoing the language of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Anderson starts by saying, “All citizens should oppose unjust discrimination,” adding, “but sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws are not the way to achieve that goal.” His claimed opposition to unjust discrimination may sound promising but, like the bishops, Anderson suggests that moral judgments about homosexual behavior are always legitimate justifications for discrimination.

Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities that people should accept instead of resist. Such views are inherently reasonable, even as people continue to disagree about them.

SOGI laws, he says, “do not protect equality before the law” but “grant special privileges.”

Anderson makes a libertarian anti-regulatory argument, charging that SOGI laws “expand state interference in labor markets, potentially discouraging economic growth and job creation,” though he offers no evidence that nondiscrimination laws have that economic impact.  (A 2015 study by a Colorado-based think tank found no evidence that anti-discrimination laws hurt small business growth.) Anderson says such laws “chip away at the at-will employment doctrine that has made the American labor market so much stronger than European labor markets.”

Anderson argues instead for “liberty under law,” saying employers should be allowed to fire employees for virtually any reason, and insists that nondiscrimination laws make that harder to do by making employers subject to legal action for violating those laws. Under Anderson’s conception of liberty under law, businesses as well as charities and civic associations “would be generally free to operate by their own values.” He argues that the free market will take care of problems with unjust discrimination:

Any business in the United States that posted a “no gays allowed” sign would soon find the power of public opinion expressed in the marketplace intolerably costly, without any need for the government to weigh in.

While that might be the reaction in gay-friendly locales, it is not hard to imagine pressure being applied the other way in some conservative communities, especially those where local churches and anti-marriage-equality activists have taken up Anderson’s charge to wage a long-term campaign to “bear witness to the truth” within a culture that he says has been told a lie about marriage.

Anderson’s 15-page paper summarizes its key points thusly:

  • Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) laws pose serious problems for free markets and contracts, free speech and religious liberty, and the health of our culture and pluralism.
  • SOGI laws threaten Americans with liability for alleged “discrimination” based on subjective identities, not objective traits.
  • SOGI laws mandate bathroom and locker room policies that undermine common sense in the schoolhouse and the workplace. They expand state interference in labor, housing, and commerce.
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity are radically different from race and should not be elevated to a protected class in the way that race is.
  • Government should never penalize people for expressing or acting on their view that marriage is the union of husband and wife, that sexual relations are properly reserved for such a union, or that maleness and femaleness are objective biological realities.
  • Market competition can provide nuanced solutions that are superior to coercive, one-size-fits-all government SOGI policy.

Anderson describes SOGI laws, including the proposed federal Equality Act, as if they are a secretive, nefarious plot by the LGBT movement:

Activist groups such as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—an influential, sophisticated, and lavishly funded LGBT -activist organization—are pushing SOGI laws on unsuspecting citizens at the federal, state, and local levels.

First, it takes brass for Anderson to describe HRC as “lavishly funded” from his perch at the Heritage Foundation, whose 2013 income topped $112 million, with its political arm Heritage Action bringing in another $8.8 million — together more than double the combined income of HRC and its educational arm. Heritage has assets of well over $200 million and its already massive complex on Capitol Hill is in the midst of a major expansion. Lavishly funded, indeed.

Second, laws protecting people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity are not being pushed invisibly “on unsuspecting citizens.” They are the result of decades of hard-fought advocacy by LGBT people and their allies. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have laws against discrimination in housing or on the job and almost as many have bans on discrimination in public accommodations. Protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity are also in place in dozens of cities and counties.

Anderson, of course, does not mention that more than two-thirds of Americans – 69 percent – support laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination in workplaces, housing, and public accommodation, according to a 2015 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Even 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants support workplace nondiscrimination laws. “In fact,” reports PRRI, “fully three-quarters (75 percent) of Americans incorrectly believe workplace discrimination laws are already on the books.” In addition, 60 percent of Americans oppose allowing a small business owner to refuse products or services to gay and lesbian people, even if doing so violates their religious beliefs. 

Nevertheless, nondiscrimination protections are being actively fought by opponents of equality. Anderson praises Houston voters who recently overturned the city’s equal rights ordinance after a brutally bigoted campaign centered on the groundless, inflammatory charge that the law would give child molesters an open door to attack children in public bathrooms. Anderson’s paper raises similar “privacy and safety” concerns and says that allowing transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms would defy “common sense.” What actually defies common sense is legislation that has been proposed in some states requiring transgender people to use only bathrooms designated for the gender they were assigned at birth, which would mean requiring bearded trans men to use women’s restrooms.

Anderson devotes substantial time to criticizing what he calls a “false analogy” between same-sex marriage and interracial marriage, wrongly claiming that such analogies are the primary justification for SOGI laws. In reality, advocates for LGBT equality have been pushing for legal protections against discrimination for many years, well before the organized marriage equality campaign of the past decade or two.  Anti-discrimination laws protect people on many grounds other than race, including religion, gender, disability, and marital status. They are not grounded in an analogy to the brutal history of race in America but in the principles of constitutional and civic equality.

Anderson repeatedly claims that nondiscrimination laws are vague and overly broad and do not make clear what actions might constitute discrimination. But in many, if not most, cases, sexual orientation and/or gender identity protections are added to existing civil rights laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and a range of other characteristics. Anderson does not explain why there should be any greater confusion about what constitutes discriminatory actions when applied to sexual orientation or gender identity.

 

Seven Times Conservatives Have Admitted They Don't Want People To Vote

Earlier this week, GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said that he didn’t want “stupid” people — i.e. people who won’t vote for him — to vote at all. Then a Republican state representative in Florida was caught suggesting that the party beat Rep. Corrine Brown by redrawing her African-American-majority district to include a large population of prisoners, who are not allowed to vote in Florida.

These are just two of the instances of Republican lawmakers admitting that their electoral strategy hinges not just on winning votes, but on suppressing the votes of people who they think will oppose them.

Paul Weyrich

More than 30 years ago, an influential conservative leader explained why his movement shouldn’t “want everybody to vote.”

Paul Weyrich, an operative considered to be the “founding father of the conservative movement” because of his hand in founding the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, the Council for National Policy and other influential conservative groups, laid out the GOP’s voter suppression strategy in a 1980 speech in Dallas.

"I don't want everybody to vote,” he said. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."

Phyllis Schlafly

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers pushed through a package of voter suppression bills , including restrictions on early voting, something that many African American voters had taken advantage of the previous year.

Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly rejoiced in the news , saying that the early voting restrictions were “particularly important” because early voting had tended to help Democrats:

The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”

Franklin County, Ohio, GOP

In 2012, Republican officials in Ohio repeatedly attempted to cut back early voting hours , fighting off legal challenges from President Obama’s reelection campaign.

Doug Preisse, the chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party (whose area includes the city of Columbus), put his party’s case frankly in an email to the Columbus Dispatch:

I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine.

Mike Turzai

Before the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai declared that a new voter identification law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”

Greg Abbott

In 2013, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott — who has since become the state’s governor – responded to the Justice Department’s accusation that recent redistricting had discriminated against minorities by explaining that the goal was just to discriminate against Democrats and “effects on minority voters” were merely “incidental”:

DOJ’s accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party’s electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan districting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.

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Heritage Foundation Posts Archive

Miranda Blue, Wednesday 05/18/2016, 2:46pm
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... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 05/06/2016, 4:36pm
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-... MORE >
Miranda Blue, Thursday 04/28/2016, 10:45am
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... MORE >
Miranda Blue, Friday 04/15/2016, 4:09pm
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... MORE >
admin, Wednesday 04/06/2016, 6:20pm
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... MORE >
Miranda Blue, Thursday 03/31/2016, 1:37pm
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... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Tuesday 03/22/2016, 1:53pm
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... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Friday 03/18/2016, 3:13pm
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... MORE >