The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to Rule the Nation and World When a brave soul in the 1990s publicly said that there was a “vast right-wing conspiracy” at work, she wasn’t making a wild accusation. Even though she made the allegation in the wrong context, her allegation was true.
There is indeed a vast right-wing conspiracy at work. That is, it was begun by those on the political Right. However, for the purposes of this article, it must be pointed out that gradually over the last several decades the definition of "Right" has come to mean "the wealthy powers that be," and those powers are represented by politicians on both sides of the isle.
More and more Americans have become politically aware of this situation. In fact, long ago many Americans realized who both Republicans and Democrats served above all, and simply voted for the presidential candidate who they thought was "the lesser of two evils."
However, most Americans do not know how this pervasive conspiracy favoring the wealthiest few crept up on us so successfully and has almost completely taken over America, regardless of who is in the White House. The majority of those who control all three branches of government are in on it in one way or another, and there are few politicians who do not go along with it despite the fact that the government should be for the people, ensure justice for all, and promote the general welfare.
It was not that way when the conspiracy was begun in the 1950s by an extremist Republican Right-Wing that rose up against the progressive Democratic ideals that President Roosevelt's New Deal had instilled in the country.
However, the extremist Right pretended that it was about something else. They knew it would not be popular to speak against Roosevelt or his New Deal, because he was loved by the great majority. Therefore, the agenda of the right-wing extremism of "McCarthyism" was to start the second "red scare" and accuse progressives of being "socialists" and "communists" simply because they were advocates for social justice and for the working poor and the poor.
That was the beginning tactic --- one that had been used earlier and has been used many times since (especially by Libertarians and "Tea Party" zealots since President Obama was elected).
However, the conspiracy of the Right took on other aspects and tactics, and one of the motivating factors was the old Hamiltonian idea that was adopted by the McCarthyites and later by the Reaganites, that the wealthiest few in the “upper” class who profess to be patriotic Christians deserve to rule in a "Meritocracy," and that lower classes and the poor simply deserve their lot.
That idea, as is discussed thoroughly in other articles (like Poverty: America's Greatest Shame), is essentially based on a couple of sentences from the New Testament of the Christian Bible. And even though those sentences are taken out of context and misinterpreted, they have been used by many of the rich to justify themselves and the right-wing partisan politicians in America who do their bidding.
It is true, as the saying goes, that God helps those who help themselves. However, it is not true that Jesus said that the rich deserve more and the poor deserve less. In fact, he said the poor are blessed and the souls of the rich are in jeopardy. And the Founders of the United States of America said that government should "promote the general welfare" in order to ensure domestic tranquility and justice for all.
But, in spite of the truth, wealthy Reaganites have been enabled by Reaganism to proudly claim they are both "patriotic and religious."
Now granted, there's nothing wrong with being rich. Also granted, most of them actually believe they are patriotic and religious, and many of them think they are doing the "right" thing. But greed and selfishness are wrong. And those who are greedy and motivated by self-interest to the detriment of others unwittingly perpetuate the same false doctrines that have made "Christian" emperors, monarchs and aristocrats extremely rich at the expense of the vast majority since the fourth century.
However, even though the vast right-wing conspiracy actually started many centuries ago, here we are talking about the one that began in the 1950s. It is particularly significant because it mainly targeted the regulations, reforms and New Deal programs (like Social Security) established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s.
Of course, the right-wing forces have other, related goals as well, like getting rid of organized labor unions. You see, many wealthy industrialists and corporate executives believed, and no doubt still believe, that workers should not get more than they "deserved," and that they should be grateful to their superiors who "gave" them jobs. That is the aristocratic mind set of the wealthy who think they are entitled to rule.
Therefore, other related goals were to eliminate government regulation of banks and corporations, cut or eliminate government human services, and try to destroy the idea that government should "promote the general welfare" (even though that is what America's Founders intended).
In spite of the fact that it was Roosevelt's New Deal and labor unions that saved America from the Great Depression and made America and its middle class great, those who began the right-wing conspiracy saw those things as being against the interests of the “greatest” Americans -- that is, rich Americans who believed their great wealth entitled them to rule meritoriously.
Consequently, in the 1950s, mostly due to the slanderous activities of Senators Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon, along with their "red-baiting" Hollywood cohort Ronald Reagan, they succeeded in silencing and even destroying the lives of many progressives and New Deal Democrats.
In the 1960s, though, most Americans realized the evils of McCarthyism, along with many other related evils. Thus it was difficult for the greediest of the richest Americans to carry out their agenda in the 1960s, since there was a very active “New Left” hard at work trying to establish worker’s rights, civil rights, women’s rights, peace, and justice.
However, by 1979, the greediest of the giant corporations and the wealthiest few found their champion – Ronald Reagan – and because they had groomed him well as a very charming television pitch man, and because they had planned very effective organizations to execute their agenda, Reaganism has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.
ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council
Most Americans have never heard of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, but it is the most financially powerful and influential corporate-funded political force in America. And ALEC, like The Federalist Society – two of the largest and most influential right-wing organizations in America – were founded by Reaganites.
Such organizations grew from the same roots nourished and cultivated in the 1980s by Reaganism, and those roots grew from the seeds planted originally in the 1950s by the John Birch Society, which spawned Libertarianism and McCarthyism.
One of the main founders of ALEC was Paul Weyrich, who gained prominence in the early 1980s as a Reaganite on the “Religious Right.” Weyrich was a Fundamentalist Christian Dominionist who believed that only well-to-do Christians deserved to rule and govern --- which is thinking on the lines of the banker Alexander Hamilton's idea of a "Christian Meritocracy," the idea to which Ronald Reagan also subscribed even though it is not actually a Christian idea, but one established by those who serve Mammon and only claim to serve God.
Weyrich was a vehement partisan political activist. He also co-founded the “Heritage Foundation” and the “Free Congress Foundation,” both of which are right-wing conservative think tanks that are not only closely aligned with ALEC, but with many other right-wing organizations like the Libertarian Cato Institute, the Hoover Institution, the Federalist Society, and others with similar right-wing ideological agendas.
Ronald Reagan enthusiastically endorsed ALEC, and most of its members are Reaganites. But members of ALEC would like us to believe it is a “nonpartisan public-private partnership,” and perhaps that is what its members like to think it is. However, the truth is that it is actually a national consortium of state and federal politicians and powerful corporations that support them, and it has built a vast network of corporate lobbying and right-wing political action groups, all of which aim to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge.
The great investigative journalist Bill Moyers and Company has produced a very informative documentary on The United States of ALEC, as well as a June 21, 2013 followup, expansion and update of that great video story. The original was broadcast on public TV in September 2012, and the improved and updated version has revealed numerous further examples of corporate influence on state legislation and lawmakers. It exposes ALEC’s huge corporate agenda that favors the wealthiest few and their corporations to our detriment, and reveals the emerging public concern and protest against ALEC’s agenda, and the expanding internal tactics ALEC is using to further hide its actions and intentions from the public rather than address public concerns.
Thank God for Bill Moyers and Company, because they are moderate progressives and true and honest investigative journalists providing much need information. For the public needs to know that the ALEC network wants to operate without the public knowing about it, because it operates mainly to influence and even create legislation in state governments all over the country.
ALEC creates hundreds of boilerplate pieces of legislation that are proposed, and often enacted, that are designed to dilute collective bargaining rights, make it more difficult for poor and low income Americans to vote, limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers, and decrease corporate regulations. And it’s all done without public knowledge of who’s behind it.
This is undemocratic. It smacks of greed-driven conspiracy behind closed doors, and of influence peddling and bribery of legislators. It is simply wrong. People should know where their laws originate, and why. And Americans elected legislators to legislate. Our legislators are not supposed to be paid stooges and puppets who introduce and pass bills of legislation that actually came from a national corporate-funded and corporate driven organization that wrote, voted on and approved the bills because they stand to profit by their passage. That is not fair or democratic, and it is not acceptable.
The problem is that most Americans don’t even know about ALEC, just as they don’t know about many other clandestine right-wing organizations that subvert democracy, equity and justice.
For example, most Americans don’t know about the right-wing American Action Network (ANN), which has paid for all the slanderous, misleading and often false attack ads on television against Democrats in all the elections that have taken place since the right-wing dominated U.S. Supreme Court enabled the ultra wealthy and their corporations to spend more money than ever influencing elections. That suited ANN’s board perfectly, because like ALEC, ANN is run by right-wing Republican politicians and millionaire and billionaire businessmen, corporate executives, industrialists and financiers who believe their wealth entitles them to rule.
They’ve been able to do that since, January 2010, when in deciding the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case, the right-wing dominated U. S. Supreme Court ruled (in a 5 to 4 decision) that the 2002 the McCain–Feingold Campaign Reform Act was unconstitutional and that wealthy people and corporations could spend as much money as they wanted on political campaigns and political ads on television. That’s why Republicans won the House in the 2010 election, and it's why since 2010 we’ve been barraged by attack ads, most of which have been bought by right-wing groups like ANN.
The forces behind right-wing organizations like ALEC and ANN have virtually won their war against the New Deal, the middle class, the working poor, labor organizers, and labor unions. And, consequently, money rules in America more than ever before.
Furthermore, while they have taken over the political and legislative systems, The Federalist Society has effectively ensured that the judicial system serves their interests as well.
The Federalist Society:
A Right-Wing Conservative Power Base Controlling the Legal and Justice Systems
Not many Americans know about The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, but they should because it is actually one of the most powerful parts of the power base of the right-wing neo-conservative movement in America. And it too was established, not coincidentally, shortly after Ronald Reagan and the Reaganite Neo-Conservatives and the “Religious Right” rose to political power in 1981.
The Federalist Society is an organization with membership that includes politicians, attorneys, judges and law school faculty members and students of like mind regarding the legal system. They claim to be experts on the U.S. Constitution, and they claim that “the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
That assertion is problematic, though, because the judiciary is supposed to interpret the Constitution and the law, and lawyers and judges can and do differ in their interpretations. The divided U.S. Supreme Court is an example of that, and it is not by coincidence that four right-wing justices on the Court (Scalia, Roberts, Thomas and Alito) are Federalist Society members who believe they “know what the law is.”
That has led to abuses of power, and one example of that involves the National Security Agency (NSA), which has come under fire recently for its overzealous spying. That has become a problem because of the eleven member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, which was created by Congress in 1978 as a check against federal government wire tapping abuses. Unfortunately, the FISA law stipulates that the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has the exclusive power to appoint all FISA court members, and over time because of right-wing Republican chief justices and certain changes in legislation, the FISA court has become merely a rubber stamp for the NSA at the expense of American civil liberties and freedoms.
That is why the judiciary should be non-partisan, impartial, objective and fair, which is why “Justice” is often symbolized by a blindfolded woman with the scales of justice in her hand.
Contrary to that principle and ideal, the Federalist Society has made their assertions specifically to counter more impartial progressive interpretations of the Constitution, and they assume that their point of view is “right” and that progressive points of view merely reflect unrealistic, wishful thinking about what the law “should be.”
Now, it shouldn’t be surprising that the modern Federalist Society was established shortly after Ronald Reagan and the Reaganites rose to political power. However, it takes its name from The Federalist, a late 18th Century publication of Alexander Hamilton, who was a banker, the first Secretary of the Treasury, the principal writer of “The Federalists Papers,” and essentially the leader of the Federalist Party.
Hamilton’s writings submitted a right-wing interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that has been cited ever since by Republicans. But, the Federalist Papers are in part bi-partisan, because one of the two other Founders who wrote some of them, James Madison, was a moderate progressive. And even though Madison agreed with Hamilton on some things, we should realize the deep ideological differences in their thinking and opinions on crucial matters.
James Madison was a not only a moderate progressive. He was very liberal in some ways. In fact, Madison was an ally and protege of Thomas Jefferson, perhaps the most progressive Founding Father. Jefferson had been sharply opposed by Alexander Hamilton since they were in the cabinet of the first President, George Washington. Jefferson was the first Secretary of State and Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury, and their conflict and rivalry was well known. In fact, because Thomas Jefferson was very much against Hamilton’s right-wing beliefs, Jefferson and Madison formed the Democratic Republican Party to counter Hamilton’s Federalist Party.
John Jay was the third author of some of the Federalist Papers. He was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and he and Alexander Hamilton were what we would call right-wing conservatives. And they were not much different from their modern counterparts.
Basically, Hamilton believed that the U.S. should be a “Christian Meritocracy,” and that if a person was a rich Christian they deserved to rule. And John Jay said: “Providence has given our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” Furthermore, John Jay also said that: “The people who own the country ought to govern it.”
Sounds familiar today, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, while that sounds great to Reaganites today who would like to believe they are “Patriotic Christians,” Hamilton’s and Jay’s interpretation and definition of the Constitution in that regard was in violation of the most essential teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, in violation of the intent of most of the Founding Fathers, and in violation of both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
In the first place, even the Federalist John Adams wrote: “Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men. Therefore the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require.”
Secondly, the idea that only Christians should rule was and still is in direct violation of Article 6 of the Constitution (which states that there must be no religious test or requirement for office), and in direct violation of the First Amendment, which states there shall be no law concerning the establishment of religion. And that was clarified by Thomas Jefferson, who clearly wrote that the freedom of religion clause in the Constitution was to “build a wall of separation between church and state.”
Of course, most of the other Founding Fathers agreed with Jefferson about that (and much later during the 1940s the U.S. Supreme Court officially agreed). And most of the other Founding Fathers agreed with Jefferson that the Hamiltonian Federalists were "Royalists" akin to those of the British Empire, because they advocated and supported theocratic, aristocratic rule of "Christian Nobility."
Jeffersonian ideals and principles of democracy, religious freedom and pluralism were the ideals America was actually built upon and around. And, that is why later Republican President Abraham Lincoln said: "The principles of Jefferson are the axioms of a free society."
But, modern Reaganite Republicans and Libertarians have disagreed. In fact, since 1982 many Reaganite Republicans on the “Religious Right” have taken the Hamiltonian Federalist view.
Why is this important? Because the Federalist Society has steadily and increasingly over the last 30 years been using the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government to rig the political economic judicial system so that it serves the interests of the wealthiest few. After all, in addition to the U.S. Supreme Court members, many members of Congress, state legislatures and state and federal judiciaries are members of the Federalist Society.
Again, they consider themselves experts on the Constitution. But just as the “Religious Right” selects isolated words, phrases and statements from the Bible to justify their hypocritical, prideful boasting, bigotry and theocratic political crusade for worldly power, so the Federalist Society selects isolated words, phrases and statements of certain Founders and Framers of the Constitution to justify their "conservative" right-wing ideology and agenda. But they simply ignore the full context, the spirit of the law, and basic, essential truths, and they misunderstand the testimony, messages, proposals and declarations that were intended for the benefit of all of us – not just the wealthiest few.
Their Laissez Faire right-wing political ideology wrongly assumes that the wealthiest few and their large banks, businesses, corporations and insurance companies will operate honestly, ethically and fairly. But, the truth is that, given free rein, they usually do not actually earn their income honestly and fairly. Furthermore, private charitable organizations cannot possibly provide all the help that is needed.
This truth has been painfully evident many times, especially between 1920 and 1931, and increasingly again during the last 30 years. It has been proven that it is simply not true that if you legislate to enable the rich get richer, what’s good for them will be good for everyone. That has always been a false, misleading claim, just as it has been since 1980 when Ronald Reagan began to gain power by making that claim.
That’s why the rich have gotten so much richer, the middle class has shrunk, the working poor population has grown, and poverty, hunger and homelessness increased.
It's Happened Before, But This is Worse
What's happened to America and its economy is similar to the historical consequences of Republican dominance in the 1910s and ‘20s, when the rich got richer and corrupt and caused the financial crisis and stock market crash of 1929, followed by the Great Depression.
That is why those who believe in Jeffersonian Democracy and in Roosevelt’s New Deal believe that government must properly and sufficiently regulate and oversee big businesses, corporations and banks; that we must legislate to make the vast majority prosperous, because widespread prosperity will benefit the whole country in many ways.
That’s been proven many times. Roosevelt’s New Deal and progressive successes in the 1930s and ‘40s enabled the Middle Class to grow very large and great by the late 1940s and ‘50s, making it very clear that widespread prosperity produces widespread well being. Moreover, it produces more prosperous taxpayers who can contribute more to make the whole country better.
The agenda of Reaganism is contrary to that, and Americans should know why because the right-wing neo-conservative conspiracy that propelled Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1981 has been pushing the nation to the right ever since.
The conspiracy really began early in Ronald Reagan’s political career, when he was the Screen Actor’s Guild President and joined Republican Senators Joseph McCarthy and Richard Nixon in slandering and “black listing” liberal progressives, labeling them as “Socialists” and “Communists.”
That, by the way, is called the "Second Red Scare" -- the first being in the 1920s, which slandered progressives and enabled Republicans to rule. And, not coincidentally, it was very similar to what the Libertarian Republican “Tea Party” has been doing ever since 2008 when Barack Obama became the front runner for president.The right-wing conspiracy was furthered when Reagan became the television spokesman for the General Electric Corporation, and from 1954 to 1962 Reagan was carefully groomed and prepared as a politician by its top executives. (See Ronald Reagan’s Real Legacy.) And that conspiracy started to expand and grow when General Electric sent Ronald Reagan out on speaking tours to spread pro-corporate and anti-labor union propaganda around the country.
Now, what could be called the Third Red Scare really got underway in 1971. That was when corporate interests ironically accused the New Left Peace and Freedom movement of the 1960s of being a left-wing communist conspiracy.
For example, in 1971, two months before being sworn in as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. drafted a confidential memorandum for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It was not made available until long after he was sworn into the Supreme Court, but since the public learned of the memo it has been termed the Powell Manifesto. Anyway, then the right-wing conspiracy grew significantly when Reagan became the Governor of California (which was when he came down really hard on the New Left), but it really got influential and dominant nationwide in 1981 and 1982, as soon as he became president.
Even though while on the Court Powell developed a reputation as a judicial moderate, the memorandum he wrote before becoming a Justice was a corporate “road map” to defend and further the corporate concept of free-enterprise capitalism against what he misleadingly termed “communist” cultural trends.
That is no doubt why in 1971, President Richard Nixon persuaded Powell to join the Court, saying it was his duty to the nation. Nixon did that because Powell had written that: “No thoughtful person can question that the American economic system is under broad attack. This varies in scope, intensity, in the techniques employed, and in the level of visibility...We are not dealing with sporadic or isolated attacks from a relatively few extremists or even from the minority socialist cadre. Rather, the assault on the enterprise system is broadly based and consistently pursued. It is gaining momentum and converts.”
Powell was talking about the New Left of the 1960s, and, like Ronald Reagan in 1969 (and like the Libertarian Republicans and the “Tea Party” today), Powell lumped the New Left in with Communists and “revolutionaries who would destroy the entire system, both political and economic.”
That was actually misleading fear-mongering, but it has been an ongoing tactic of right-wing activists who favor corporations and the religious military industrial complex over the public good. And even though it has usually worked like a charm, it is a cheap tactic.
Actually, the New Left of the 1960s consisted of an unorganized, often unrelated variety of groups, most of which were advocating peace and criticizing the Vietnam War. Some were demonstrating to promote the civil rights movement and reject racism and apartheid. Some were demonstrating to promote the Free Speech movement. Some were demonstrating to promote worker’s rights, while some were demonstrating to promote women’s rights. And all were demonstrating against greed, injustice, and unfairness.
In spite of that, Powell, Nixon, Reagan and those of like mind chose to see dissent and protest as bad and unpatriotic, even though in fact it has usually been good and very patriotic. After all, the Founders of the U.S.A. felt they had to resort to dissent, protest and even go to war against a government that did not serve the interests of the people as a whole. And those Founders said it is our right and duty to alter and reform our government when it does not.
Ironically, the original Hamiltonian Federalist Party advocated a strong federal government, but, in stark contrast, these “new Federalists” work in the opposite direction, striving to use the courts and the legal system to considerably weaken the federal government, further empower big businesses, banks and corporations, and erode our constitutional individual rights and freedoms. In fact, their ideology and views are more akin to the southern confederated states during the Civil War, who fought against the central federal government so they could rule their own states and personal domains just as they pleased, without regulations or restraints established or enforced by the federal government.
The problem is that even though they don’t want anyone regulating their businesses or restricting their ability to conduct business however they want, that is precisely why there is such bitter partisan political conflict in America.
Ethical people of conscience always have and always will object to abuse of power, shameless greed, and unrestrained self-indulgence driven by self-interest – especially when it is at the expense of and to the detriment of others.
The Federalist Society was instrumental in enabling President Reagan to favor corporations while waging war on labor unions and human services recipients (who Reagan called “welfare cheats”). It was instrumental in enabling the Republican controlled Congress in the 1990s to enact right-wing legislation like the so-called “Welfare Reform,” which claimed to help but was actually designed to cut human services and make it difficult for government to promote the general welfare as it is supposed to
The Federalist Society then enabled George W. Bush to consistently rule from the far right, rather than from the middle as he initially promised he would. Many of the individuals he placed in key positions in the White House, the Justice Department, and throughout his administration, were members of the Federalist Society. And Bush was either in concert with them or acquiesced to them and gave them as much power as possible. Consequently, they used the courts and other mechanisms of government to fundamentally redefine federal powers and public policy, and rewrite constitutional and civil rights. And those mechanisms included the selection and screening of nominees to fill vacancies on the federal courts, as well as Supreme Court vacancies.
Of course, in a report at the time, Ralph G. Neas, President of People for the American Way (PFAW), said, “We do not question the right of Federalist Society members to influence the Bush administration’s decisions and policies. However, we do believe that it is important for the American people to know as much as possible about any group that wields this much power over policies and decisions that will affect their fundamental rights. It is in that spirit that this report has been produced.”
The Washington Times Insight magazine identified the group as the "single most influential organization in the conservative legal world." An article in Washington Monthly identified the Society as "quite simply the best-organized, best-funded, and most effective legal network operating in this country. … There is nothing like the Federalist Society on the Left.”
To better inform the public, the PFAW report explored the Federalist Society and its members and allies, examining their legal and policy objectives, their prevailing philosophy, as well as the kind of impact they could have through their influence within the Bush administration, and on the law, the courts, the Constitution, and ordinary citizens.
The report revealed that the founding members of the Federalists Society were nurtured by right-wing conservative law professors such as Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia. A Society board included Judge Bork and William Bradford Reynolds, who was President Reagan’s assistant attorney general for civil rights. (And Reynolds was so controversial that when Reagan nominated him in 1985 for promotion to associate attorney general, he was defeated by a Senate Judiciary Committee led by Republicans from Reagan’s own party.)
Another Society board member, Gerald Walpin, has criticized the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision and has recommended setting aside the ruling that obligates police to inform suspects of their rights to remain silent and to have access to legal counsel. Walpin has also assailed court precedents guaranteeing our rights of free speech and free expression.
Also serving on a Society board was University of Virginia law professor Lillian BeVier, who condemns the Roe v. Wade decision (which ensures a woman’s reproductive rights) as “a perversion.” BeVier also sat on the advisory board of the right-wing Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), which seeks to dismantle the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. BeVier was nominated by the elder President Bush to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, but she was so controversial she didn’t receive one vote in Congress.
Among the Society’s funding sources is the Bradley Foundation, which has used much of its financial resources to promote school vouchers and attack affirmative action and welfare programs. It has a history of funding right-wing causes. For example, it provided a grant to support David Brock’s 1992 book The Real Anita Hill, which was designed to ruin her reputation and clear the way for Clarence Thomas’ appointment for the Supreme Court. (Brock has recently recanted his book’s claims about Anita Hill, admitting that pressure from right-wing Republican operatives encouraged him to be dishonest.)
The Bradley Foundation also awarded a grant to Charles Murray, who co-wrote the highly controversial 1994 book, The Bell Curve. It was widely criticized by scholars as racist and statistically unsound. An earlier book that Murray wrote, Losing Ground, was also widely criticized because it argued that poverty does not result from economic dislocation or discrimination or unfairness, but from the personal failings of the poor and the working poor. However, that blame-the-victim view has been soundly denounced and refuted by experts and credible research (see the article on Poverty: America’s Greatest Shame).
Another funding source for the Society is the Scaife Foundation. It has also funded a long list of right-wing efforts, including the American Spectator and its “Arkansas Project,” a $2.4 million campaign that was launched to gather information for the expressed purpose of damaging the reputation of former President Bill Clinton to force him out of office. (That’s why Hillary Clinton was quite right when she said her husband was the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy, because that campaign against Clinton ultimately resulted in his impeachment by right-wing House Republicans.)
Another Society funding source is the Koch Foundation, established by Charles Koch, the heir to Koch Industries, an oil refining and petrochemical company. It was built a generation ago by Fred Koch, who was also one of the founders of the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society. His heir Charles Koch is also a co-founder of the Cato Institute, an extremely right-wing conservative think-tank that espouses all kinds of right-wing causes. For example, the Cato Institute has worked against public school reform because they are in favor of taxpayer-supported school vouchers for private schools. They have also done things such as proposing that individual states should be allowed to choose “whether to accept any increase” in the minimum wage.
The Society has a “Pre-law Reading List” of recommended reading for law students and other interested parties. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia’s 1997 book, Matter of Interpretation, is thereon listed and recommended. That book was reviewed in The Nation by Garrett Epps, who wrote that “Scalia finds no democratic value in guarantees against oppression of electoral minorities” and “believes elected bodies should be able to do whatever they want without a lot of whining from the losers.” (Remember, Scalia is one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices that put George W. Bush in the White House in 2000 with a very controversial, highly partisan vote.)
Richard A. Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor and another author with books on the Society’s reading list, wrote the 1992 book Forbidden Grounds: The Case Against Employment Discrimination Laws. In that book Epstein attacked federal laws protecting civil rights in the workplace. In another book, The Mistakes of 1937, he attacked two 1937 Supreme Court rulings, one of which enabled the federal government to regulate labor markets and protect workers. He claimed that the ruling was unjustified even if the purpose was to protect public health and safety. He wrote that “If someone wants to take risks with health and safety in order to obtain a higher wage, then so much the better.”
The biggest contributor to the Society’s reading list is Lino Graglia, a University of Texas law professor who has vehemently opposed civil rights legislation. In one article, Graglia condemned the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution, which was adopted more than 200 years ago as part of the original Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the right to a jury in a civil trial.
The right-wing neo-conservative Graglia dismissed that guarantee as “an unnecessary inconvenience.” In the same article, he contended that the equal protection clause of the Constitution does not prevent states from discriminating on the basis of such factors as sex or nationality. In another article, he espoused even more shocking views, criticizing the Seventeenth Amendment. It permits the American citizenry instead of state legislatures to directly elect U.S. senators, but Graglia claimed that merely weakens “state autonomy.”
In another article, Graglia complained about the 1860s Lincoln Administration decision to not permit southern states to leave the union. Graglia argued that by refusing to accept the South’s secession and choosing to engage in the Civil War to stop it, the North deprived the South of “the right of freedom of disassociation.” He argued that “The loss of the right to secede cost the (southern) states their ultimate defense against national encroachment.” (He misses the point of the Civil War, which was to not allow states’ rights to be distorted and misused by rogue states that violate human rights.)
Graglia’s extreme right-wing views include a racist declaration that Mexican American and African American students are not academically competitive with white students, due largely to “cultural effects.” He also used the racially derogatory word “pickaninny” to refer to African American students in his classes. His remarks have drawn widespread criticism and have even prompted a resolution denouncing his statements to be drafted in the Georgia House of Representatives. A University of Texas regent has also called Graglia’s comments “cruel and insensitive lies.” But as shocking as his views are, they are endorsed by the Federalist Society for students who want to learn about “the historical process that deformed many areas of constitutional law...”
The Society’s “Journalist’s Guide to Legal Experts” is an Internet site inventory of attorneys and scholars for news media referral. It offers additional evidence of the group’s over-riding extreme right-wing philosophy. For example, all three people listed as “gay rights law experts” actually hold views that are hostile to gay rights. One of those “experts” is David M. Wagner, a law professor at Regent University, which was founded by right-wing televangelist Pat Robertson.
Similarly, on the issue of assault weapons, the Federalist Society recommends two experts for the media to contact: Nelson Lund of George Mason University Law School and Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. Both have such right-wing anti-gun control views that the National Rifle Association (NRA) also recommends them as “experts” for media interviews. In fact, an NRA press statement last year urged the media to interview Lund and Volokh, noting that both of them could be reached through the NRA’s own public affairs office. Moreover, Volokh co-wrote a 1999 article entitled “Loaded Guns Can Be Good for Kids,” in which he and co-author Dave Kopel strongly criticized a federal proposal to require guns to be sold with safety locks.
Led by such right-wing ideologues, the Federalist Society has grown substantially over the years. Amazingly, according to a January 2001 report by the Institute for Democracy Studies, the Society’s membership then included over 40,000 lawyers, policy analysts, political and business leaders and others. In addition, the Society’s membership included 5,000 law students at roughly 140 law schools. Now it boasts of having many more.
Despite the Federalist Society’s obvious ideological right-wing bent, its spokespersons claim that the organization has no desire to convert its ideology into legislative, judicial, or political action. They claim that the Society’s charter “is to create discussion, not to lobby,” and that the Society is merely “a forum for discussion of law and public policy from both sides.” That, unfortunately, is not true.
It is quite evident that the Society aggressively advocates, promotes, and implements its ideological right-wing point of view. In fact, instead of pushing change piecemeal, one lawsuit or one bill at a time, the Society seeks to produce broad sweeping change by altering the entire legal landscape. This includes promoting and developing extreme right-wing political positions, influencing federal and state governments with those positions, guiding law students and young lawyers accordingly, and influencing and determining who will become judges, top government officials, and decision and policy makers.
Operating from its own distorted, up-side-down concept of “federalism,” the Society organization seeks to limit federal authority to areas such as national defense, and cede most other powers to the states. In other words, they have been effectively waging the second Civil War, only legally. And even though we should respect the right of state governments to make certain appropriate decisions, the Society goes to extremes by seeking to block the ability of the federal government to enact and enforce nationwide laws protecting workers, employees, the environment, civil rights, workplace health and safety, among other things. Again, they want to conduct business as they see fit, with no federal regulations or safeguards that protect the average people, the public, the environment, etc.
Prominent Society members have even led efforts to utilize their legal theories to limit civil rights and protections for women. For instance, as a defense attorney in a rape case before the Supreme Court, Michael Rosman, a leading figure in the Society, argued against the constitutionality of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. Rosman’s case was bolstered by a friend-of-the-court brief filed by another prominent Society member, Jeffrey Sutton. The result was a narrow 5-4 decision by the Court striking down key provisions of the Act which protected women.
Sutton, by the way, was nominated by President George W. Bush for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, despite Sutton’s role in harming civil rights and other protections through his distorted view of federalism. Then Sutton argued the University of Alabama v. Garrett case in the Supreme Court. It produced a 5-4 decision that state employees who suffered discrimination could not sue under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to seek damages from the state. Even though the ADA has enjoyed the support of many prominent Republicans (including former Senator Robert Dole and former President Bush the elder, who signed the ADA into law), Sutton claimed that the law is unnecessary and argued for an even broader Court ruling against the ADA.
Many other key leaders in the Federalist Society have campaigned to dramatically undermine civil and constitutional rights and protections. One is Michael Carvin, a founder of the Center for Individual Rights, an ultra-right-wing legal organization. He got the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule that the University of Texas’ Law School’s desire to achieve diversity is not a sufficiently compelling state interest to support affirmative action in admissions. Ironically, Carvin had also worked in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and was a former Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department under President Reagan.
Even so, the Society’s power grew when President George W. Bush announced the end of the role of the American Bar Association (ABA) in reviewing the qualifications of potential judicial nominees for the federal courts. Bush did that even though the ABA had traditionally provided an important service to the nation and to presidents of both parties by reviewing potential court nominees in a fair, nonpartisan manner. More specifically, he did it because the Federalist Society members had taken actions against the ABA trying to terminate the ABA’s nearly half-century-old service.
The Society’s war against the ABA was revenge for a perceived wrong against one of the Society’s founders, Robert Bork. As a Supreme Court nominee, Bork had received a “not qualified” ratings from four of the 15 members of an ABA panel, while he received an overall rating of “well-qualified” from the other 11 Society members who were angered that they outvoted. Because Bork was rejected by the Senate, the disgruntled Society members began an in-depth “investigation” of the ABA’s activities.
In 1997, then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orin Hatch, a Federalist Society member added fuel to the fire. He announced in a letter that he would “no longer consider the ABA as enjoying an official Senate role in the confirmation process for federal judges.” Just prior to that, Hatch had given a speech to one of the Society’s law school chapters attacking the ABA’s “political” nature, specifically citing the Society’s ABA Watch publication as a source.
One year earlier, one of the key people to testify at Senate hearings questioning the ABA’s role was Edwin Meese, a Society leader who served as President Reagan’s attorney general. Despite Hatch and Meese, however, the ABA was still allowed to continue its work with the White House (under the Clinton Administration) in its pre-nomination review of court nominees. Then it was stopped in 2001 by President Bush.
Thus Bush finished what Reagan started. For the Society’s members influenced judicial nomination decisions in the Reagan and the elder Bush’s administrations. Roger J. Miner, a senior federal appeals court judge appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan, observed that “all candidates for federal judgeships are examined for ideological purity.” Additionally, as a former Supreme Court law clerk has observed, membership in the Society “became a prerequisite” for law students seeking clerkships with many Reagan judicial appointees, as well as for top positions in the Justice Department and the White House.
All this is extremely important because the Society has been zealous in ensuring that vacancies on the federal courts and the U.S. Courts of Appeals are filled by right-wing conservatives. The Republican-controlled Senate during the Clinton Administration simply refused to vote or even to conduct hearings on President Clinton’s judicial nominees. Right-wing Senators Trent Lott, Jon Kyl, Jeff Sessions, Hatch, and Ashcroft blocked almost all Clinton nominees. Only one of Clinton’s judicial nominees even made it to the Senate floor, and was defeated. In all other cases, Senate Republicans effectively ended Clinton’s nominations by preventing any vote at all.
That changed radically with George W. Bush in the White House. Right-wing Republicans aggressively worked for congressional approval of Bush’s conservative judicial appointees. In fact, they tried and often succeeded to ram them through without proper or sufficient hearings, and threatened holding up critical legislation unless they got their way. Democrats were left just trying to establish the rule of law and trying to keep things honest and above board.
In March 2001 the Federalist Society sponsored a conference called “Rolling Back the New Deal,” furthering the Reaganite agenda. You see, Republican conservatives don’t like the New Deal because its programs incorporated liberal ideas that were implemented by Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the 1930s to restrain the forces of greed and self-interest, regulate business and commerce, provide safeguards and a safety net for those who need it, and pull the U.S. out of a very deep depression caused by Republican corruption.
The basic idea of Roosevelt’s New Deal was that the powers of government should be used to achieve a redistribution of political and economic power in society to protect and benefit the vast majority of people. In other words, it put government in the business of promoting the general welfare (as it is supposed to) and protecting the people from the abuse of the power of wealth. And, of course, that is why right-wing conservatives have been steadily hammering away at such liberal programs for the last thirty years, and they have had a lot of success weakening, damaging, and dismantling many of them.(Continued in Part 2,), which discusses the Bush years, The Project for a New American Century (PNAC), Libertarianism, and "Groundswell," and other aspects of the Right-Wing Conspiracy.)