Supreme Court Chief Justice John Robert switched his vote to create a 5-4 majority last week upholding the Obama administration's health insurance law. That's according to a source for CBS News, which published a report July 1.
Roberts initially sided with the court's four conservative members to overturn President Barack Obama's individual mandate, according to a summary of the CBS report, Roberts switched views to uphold health care law, by Jan Crawford based on two sources:
Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy - believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law - led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold. "He was relentless," one source said of Kennedy's efforts. "He was very engaged in this." But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own." The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed.
My view, not unique, is that Roberts realized many in the public would be furious at his court if it ruled yet again on a 5-4 vote to override Congress on a major issue, with all Republicans in the majority against four Democrats. The court is in the virtually unprecedented position of having all of its most conservative members in one party and becoming increasingly pro-active in advocating from the bench for political results.
To be able proceed on that kind of agenda in the future away from this year's glare of elections, Roberts thus crafted a legal argument whereby he called the legislation a permissible "tax." Not a single other justice joined him in his precise logic. But the former top student at Harvard Law School thereby avoided criticism of the court from those on in the public on the left furious at a string of previous, pro-active decisions, including the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000 that in effect awarded Republicans the presidency via an unsigned opinion devised as unique for the occasion and specifically without precedential value.
The CBS report on health care vote-jockeyng adds only marginally to public understanding of the court's process because textual evidence of a switch surfaced early on. We reported that here on June 28, the first day of the decision, citing blogger Brad DeLong's analysis of language from the minority calling another opinion a "dissent." But the CBS follow-up reminds us all of the politics present in court decision-making. Usually, the court's secret procedures, including occasionally wheeler-dealing, are masked by high-tone legal rhetoric.
The inside story occasionally surfaces in confidential discussions among elite practitioners. For several years, I have been preparing to publish evidence that justices engage in result-oriented decision-making more often than commonly reported. As an attorney and graduate of both Yale Law School and the University of Chicago Law School, I sometimes attend seminars where senior scholars and practitioners exchange insider lore that those of lesser knowledge, like me, are permitted to hear.
Nearly three years ago, I heard authoritative description at one such seminar of how Supreme Court clerks jockeyed in the court's case selection process to ensure that "their" justices would "win" on close votes -- and thereby ensure that their view of the law would be enshrined for the ages. That's right: The clerks empowered by the justices try to shape the nation's fundamental laws even before the cases are selected and argued.
John Kelly, at left, is a Justice Integrity Project director who formerly worked for CBS, NBC and the CIA, among other places. Immediately after I told him of the practitioners forum in September 2009, he urged me to publish that story. "The public doesn't know this!" I recalled him saying. I demurred until now, believing the story required a better news-peg than a seminar and a much wider audience than my free-lance outlets at the time.
There's no point delaying longer in at least mentioning it when the topic is in the news. So let me publish the bottom-line above, along with an array of recent news reports on similar themes. We included several of the recent excepts as updates since last week. But it makes sense to republish several of the fresher and more important ones today. I'm still working on major opus putting this into larger perspective. My hope is that it will be an eye-opener when published with full context.
Reporter Chris Gentilviso of the Huffington Post summarized the CBS report as follows, saying that Roberts, shown at right, pays close attention to news coverage:
With his court's reputation on the line, one source suggested that the chief justice became "wobbly" in the eyes of his conservative counterparts. As the court made its historic Affordable Care Act ruling on Thursday, suspicions arose regarding Roberts being scared off by Justice Antonin Scalia. The Daily Beast highlighted one theory from a reader who clerked on an appellate court. He certainly didn't trust the dissenters, as he clearly instructed his law clerks to begin working on an alternative majority opinion (the final product was too polished and too long to have been written at the last minute). And he waited to see what was written.
Coupled with that opinion were details that pointed to some oddities within the formatting of Scalia's dissent, via The Volokh Conspiracy. Notice also that his response to Roberts is tacked on at the end, rather than worked into the body of whatever he was writing (see page 64 of his dissent). For example, one would have expected Scalia to directly take on Roberts’ application of the Anti-Injunction Act, but his brief section on that act only mentions what “the Government” argues (see pages 26-28). The 5-4 ruling in favor of preserving the mandate may have also fit into a bigger picture. HuffPost blogger Adam Winkler noted that Roberts' heaviest interest is not health care, writing that the chief justice may want to "preserve the Court's capital to take on other big issues."
In a related development, I heard Justice Clarence Thomas speak June 28 the annual Yale Law School dinner for the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland region. The substance of his remarks at the private gathering was off the record, as typical for other speakers at such gatherings. But I think it's permissible to share that he was quite gracious in chatting with all who approached (including me) before and after his talk, and he received standing ovations from virtually all of the 257 attendees following his remarks and an extended Q&A.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch made news over the weekend by, of all things, a Twitter post predicting that Mitt Romney would lose the election in November. We don't normally cover back-and-forth political jousts. But several factors prompt an exception for this. Murdoch, for one thing, is embroiled in serious legal difficulties in the United Kingdom that are prompting him to focus his operations on the United States.
Also, there's scant possibility of legal reform -- our fundamental missions -- without coverage by the media, and he remains the world's most powerful. Most important, it is seemingly strange for the head of Fox News -- virtually an organ or the Republican Party -- to make such a prediction. But there is precedent when Murdoch showed support for the candidacies of Labour Party leader Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton when she ran for New York's senate seat. Murdoch didn't get on top an stay there by being totally predictable. This is just a salvo in an election season that hasn't yet erally heated-up, but bears watching.
Finally, we can't be serious all the time. And isn't there something at least a little funny about Rupert Murdoch -- who controls News Corp., the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins, among other things -- using Twitter to get out the word?
Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment
Related News Coverage
Guardian (United Kingdom), Rupert Murdoch snubs Britain and says he will invest his billions in the US, Dominic Rushe, June 29 2012. Rupert Murdoch appears to have turned his back on Britain following his humiliation over the phone-hacking scandal. In an interview with the Fox Business channel on Thursday following New Corporation's confirmation that it was splitting into two companies, entertainment and publishing, Murdoch said he would be "a lot more reluctant" to invest in Britain now, compared to the US. The News Corp chairman and chief executive also told Fox Business host Neil Cavuto it was "highly unlikely" that his eldest son, Lachlan Murdoch, would run the new newspaper, book publishing and education company. Once Britain's most powerful media figure, Murdoch has seen his bid for broadcaster BSkyB blocked and his reputation dragged through the mud following the phone-hacking revelations. Last month a parliamentary committee said he was not a fit and proper person to run a major corporation. Now he looks set to retaliate by taking his money elsewhere.
Huffington Post, Rupert Murdoch: 'Doubtful' That Romney Will Beat Obama In 2012 Election, Alana Horowitz, July 1, 2012. Rupert Murdoch took to Twitter on Sunday to weigh in the U.S. presidential election. "Met Romney last week. Tough O Chicago pros will be hard to beat unless he drops old friends from team and hires some real pros. Doubtful," he wrote. He added: "US election is referendum on Obama, all else pretty minor." This is just the latest in a series of anti-Romney tweets. Last week, the News Corp CEO wrote that Romney "Seems to play everything safe, make no news except burn off Hispanics." Murdoch's criticism may come as a surprise to those who watch and follow right-leaning Fox News (which Murdoch owns.) The network has offered generally positive coverage of the GOP candidate. Earlier this year, Romney told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that Fox has given his campaign "good, fair play." Even Newt Gingrich complained that "Fox has been for Romney all the way through." Murdoch also sounded off on the news that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are divorcing. "Scientology back in news. Very weird cult, but big, big money involved with Tom Cruise either number two or three in hierarchy," he said. "Watch Katie Holmes and Scientology story develop. Something creepy, maybe even evil, about these people."
Supreme Court Decisions
CBS News, Roberts switched views to uphold health care law, Jan Crawford, July 1, 2012. Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court's four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy - believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law - led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold. "He was relentless," one source said of Kennedy's efforts. "He was very engaged in this." But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own." The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed.
Salon / Huffington Post, Roberts wrote both Obamacare opinions, Paul Campos, July 3, 2012. This weekend CBS News’ Jan Crawford reported that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote in regard to upholding the bulk of the Affordable Care Act. Crawford reports that Roberts voted with the rest of the court’s conservatives to strike down the individual mandate, but in the course of drafting his opinion changed his mind, and ended up siding with the court’s four liberals to uphold almost all of the law. It’s notable that Crawford’s sources insist on the claim that the joint dissent was authored specifically in response to Roberts’ majority opinion, without any participation from him at any point in the drafting process that created it. It would, after all, be fairly preposterous for the four dissenters to jointly “author” an opinion that was in large part written originally by the author of the majority opinion to which the joint dissenters were now so flamboyantly objecting. Yet that, I am told by a source within the court with direct knowledge of the drafting process, is exactly what happened. My source insists that “most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts’ chambers in April and May.” Only the last portion of what eventually became the joint dissent was drafted without any participation by the chief justice. This source insists that the claim that the joint dissent was drafted from scratch in June is flatly untrue. Furthermore, the source characterizes claims by Crawford’s sources that “the fact that the joint dissent doesn’t mention [sic] Roberts’ majority … was a signal the conservatives no longer wished to engage in debate with him” as “pure propagandistic spin,” meant to explain away the awkward fact that while the first 46 pages of the joint dissent never even mention Roberts’ opinion for the court (this is surely the first time in the court’s history that a dissent has gone on for 13,000 words before getting around to mentioning that it is, in fact, dissenting), the last 19 pages do so repeatedly.
SCOTUSBlog, Tuesday Round-Up, Nabiha Syed July 3, 2012. Coverage of and commentary on the Court continue to parse Thursday’s landmark ruling in the Affordable Care Act litigation. Much of the coverage and commentary focuses on the Chief Justice’s vote and reactions thereto. At Politico, Jennifer Haberkorn and Darren Samuelsohn describe conservatives as “seeing red” after Sunday’s story by Jan Crawford of CBS News reporting that the Chief Justice switched his opinion to uphold the mandate. The Atlantic Wire and Reason also report on this “anger” and “fury,” while Noah Feldman at Bloomberg View, Laurence Tribe at PBS, Robert Barnes of The Washington Post, William McGurn of the Wall Street Journal, Ilya Shapiro of Cato@Liberty, Adam Liptak of The New York Times, and Mark Sherman of the Associated Press all discuss the Chief Justice’s vote. And at Slate, Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick dispute accusations that the Chief Justice acted politically, arguing that “on a nation’s high court, in which legal precedents rarely decide cases, what one calls law and what goes in the vernacular by politics often come together.” Other coverage and commentary focus on the text of the health care decision and its implications for conservative ideology.
Huffington Post, John Roberts Health Care Decision: Supreme Court Chief Justice Switched Sides, Sources Say, Chris Gentilviso, July 1, 2012. Fresh evidence has surfaced regarding suspicions that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote on health care reform. CBS News reports that Roberts initially sided with the court's four conservative members to overturn President Barack Obama's individual mandate. After changing his mind, Roberts fended off a month of efforts to sway him back to the other side, headed by Justice Anthony Kennedy. "He was relentless," a source told CBS regarding Kennedy's push. "He was very engaged in this." In addition to private jostling within the Supreme Court, it appears that the public spotlight was a factor.
Fox News / Conservative Blog Central, Did Roberts change his vote? Brett Bair and Shannon Brean, June 29, 2012 (Video). Brean: Did the Chief Justice switch his vote becuse of political pressure? Carrie Severino of the Judicial Crisis Network responded: "There are a lot of clues in the structure of the opinion that suggest that this may have been a late switch....I think he's called the integrity of the court into question....It appears to be a politically motivated choice rather than a legally motivated one."
Huffington Post, Roberts Raises the Election Year Stakes, Bruce Ackerman, June 29, 2012. John Roberts' decision on health care places the country at a constitutional crossroads. On the one hand, his majority opinion upholds the greatest expansion of the welfare state since the 1960s. On the other, it undermines the constitutional underpinnings of big government. This makes the current presidential election into a constitutional turning point -- the next judicial appointments will determine the path which the nation will follow for the next generation. Roberts decided the case all by himself. The four liberals found him too conservative on one key issue; the four conservatives found him too liberal on the other. Though nobody agreed with him on both, he cast the decisive fifth vote on each. This is why the next Supreme Court appointments will tip the balance beyond the Chief Justice's control.
Savage Nation / Conservative Blog Central, Republicans Don't Realize We're Screwed! Michael Savage, June 29, 2012 (Audio). "This was a sellout by Roberts."
Harper's / No Comment, Our Politicized Judiciary, Scott Horton, June 28, 2012. The Supreme Court has held the news spotlight this week as at no other time in recent memory. The Court’s 5–4 ruling on this year’s cornerstone case, addressing challenges to the constitutionality of Obama’s health-care-reform legislation, proved anticlimactic: it upheld the law, though on somewhat different grounds than most constitutional-law scholars had anticipated before oral argument. Instead of validating the mandate to purchase insurance under the commerce clause, Chief Justice Roberts’s majority opinion called the mandate a tax. But earlier in the week, in a ruling that may prove equally important, the Court expanded upon its 2010 ruling in Citizens United, striking down Montana’s efforts to impose campaign-finance restrictions on corporate giving. And in another ruling, the Court upheld challenges to an Alabama law that mandated life sentences for certain classes of juvenile offenders, finding that this punishment was “cruel and unusual.” Each of the three rulings contained some remarkably intemperate and partisan language—evidence of an increase in the political temperature within the high court. Lawyers are trained to avoid challenging the impartiality and integrity of courts. The perception of impartiality is essential to the successful functioning of a judicial system, after all. Nevertheless, the claim of impartiality is becoming threadbare. There are 874 federal judgeships in the United States. Many of these judges strive to uphold ethical standards, suppressing their partisan instincts and applying the law as they read it. Others are proudly partisan—and the Supreme Court, led by Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, is now home to the most striking examples of partisanship.
SCOTUSblog, Radical opinions, modest result, Charles Fried, July 2, 2012. The fact is that not since 1937 has the Court turned down the use of the Commerce Clause as a basis for Congressional intervention in a major national economic concern — which of course neither the Gun-Free School Zones Act nor the Violence Against Women Act were. Activity / inactivity is a new basis for limitation and has no anchor in our jurisprudence. hat is why Roberts’s opinion was not conservative but radical. I have my doubts about the political and economic virtues of the ACA, but am appalled at this radically reactionary new doctrine. And as for the reversion to Butler and pre-1937 Spending Clause jurisprudence, the practical effects may be profound and all bad. It is even bad contract law.
Brad DeLong, Did Nino Scalia Firmly Think He Had His "Constitutional Moment", and His Majority? Brad DeLong, June 28, 2012. Sure sounds like he did not search-and-replace his text to correct it when Roberts peeled off. Successfully electing George W. Bush 5-4 was not enough for him. He thought he had repealed the ACA 5-4 as well. Scalia refers to Ginsburg's concurrence--agreeing with the Court that the mandate stands, but for different reasons than the opinion of the Court expresses--not as a concurrence, but as a "dissent."
FireDogLake, Chief Justice Roberts May Have Switched Health Care Vote at Last Minute, David Dayen, June 28, 2012. Was there a late-game shift in the thinking of the Supreme Court on their Affordable Care Act ruling? That’s certainly the implication from this catch by Brad DeLong. Repeatedly in his opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia refers to Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurring opinion as a “dissent.” An example, which is littered throughout the text: "Our test’s premise of regulated activity is not invented out of whole cloth, but rests upon the Constitution’s requirement that it be commerce which is regulated. If all inactivity affecting commerce is commerce, commerce is everything. Ultimately the dissent is driven to saying that there is really no difference between action and inaction, ante, at 26, a proposition that has never recommended itself, neither to the law nor to common sense…"[emphasis added." As I said, this happens over and over, nine times in the text. Now maybe this is just typical Scalia dismissiveness, but it’s also completely plausible that Ginsburg’s opinion WAS a dissent at one point, and Scalia’s concurring dissent originally the majority opinion.
Washington Post, Roberts’s health-care decision stuns many but is in line with his outlook, Dan Eggen, June 28, 2012. The umpire took center stage Thursday as the Republican chief justice who upheld President Obama’s health-care law, delighting liberals who have long despised him and enraging conservatives who considered him one of their own. The decision stunned legal observers on both sides and made Roberts the focus of heated invective from conservative activists and some Republican members of Congress, who derided him as a “traitor.” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) talked about the possibility of removing Roberts and other justices from the bench. But many of those familiar with Roberts’s thinking say the calibrated decision is fully in keeping with the outlook of a studious former Catholic schoolboy who made his way to be first in his class at Harvard — conservative in his views but also reverent toward institutions.
Washington Post, Why Roberts did it, Charles Krauthammer, June 28, 2012.Whatever one thinks of the substance of Bush v. Gore, it did affect the reputation of the court. Roberts seems determined that there be no recurrence with Obamacare. Hence his straining in his Obamacare ruling to avoid a similar result — a 5 to 4 decision split along ideological lines that might be perceived as partisan and political….National health care has been a liberal dream for a hundred years. It is clearly the most significant piece of social legislation in decades. Roberts’s concern was that the court do everything it could to avoid being seen, rightly or wrongly, as high-handedly overturning sweeping legislation passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. Result? The law stands, thus obviating any charge that a partisan court overturned duly passed legislation. And yet at the same time the commerce clause is reined in. By denying that it could justify the imposition of an individual mandate, Roberts draws the line against the inexorable decades-old expansion of congressional power under the commerce clause fig leaf. Law upheld, Supreme Court’s reputation for neutrality maintained. Commerce clause contained, constitutional principle of enumerated powers reaffirmed.
Huffington Post, Mitt Romney On Supreme Court Health Care Ruling: We Must 'Replace President Obama,' (VIDEO) Amanda Terkel, June 28, 2012. Speaking on Capitol Hill shortly after the Supreme Court's historic decision, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the fact that health care reform was upheld as constitutional on Thursday makes it more urgent than ever for the American people to vote President Barack Obama out of office in November. "If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama," Romney said. Romney said he agreed with the four dissenting justices, who ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act should be thrown out.
Huffington Post, Obama Responds To Supreme Court Health Care Ruling, (VIDEO), Sam Stein, June 28, 2012. President Barack Obama praised the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that his signature health care law was constitutional Thursday, calling the ruling "a victory for people all over this country." "The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law," he said, speaking to cameras in the East Room of the White House. "With today's announcement it is time for us to move forward, to implement and when necessary improve on this law." The ruling is a huge win and a big relief for the administration, which spent 18 months and heavy political capital pushing health care reform through Congress. The president has had other achievements on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, but it's fair to say that the passage of the Affordable Care Act was at the top of his list of accomplishments. That the court upheld the law's constitutionality was almost as momentous as the law's passage in the first place.
SCOTUSblog, The Roberts Court is Born, Adam Winkler, June 28, 2012. Chief Justice John Roberts was the surprising swing vote in today’s Obamacare decision. Although he agreed with the four conservative justices, including Kennedy, that the individual mandate was not a regulation of interstate commerce, he voted with the Court’s moderates to hold that it was justified as a tax. Because people who don’t obtain insurance pay a tax to the IRS, the mandate was within Congress’s power to raise taxes for the general welfare. As a result, the Affordable Care Act was upheld. With this deft ruling, Roberts avoided what was certain to be a cascade of criticism of the high court. No Supreme Court has struck down a president’s signature piece of legislation in over 75 years. Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism. Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn’t want to go there.
Huffington Post, 'The Broccoli Horrible': Ginsburg Shreds Roberts, Geoffrey R. Stone, June 28, 2012. In its decision today upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court, by a five-to-four vote, held that the individual mandate provision (requiring uninsured individuals who can afford to buy health insurance to do so) was justified by the Congress' power to tax, but not by its power to regulate interstate commerce. Only one justice thought the Act was constitutional under the taxing power but not the commerce power -- Chief Justice Roberts. The other eight justices thought the Act was either constitutional (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan) or unconstitutional (Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Alito) under both provisions....Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kagan were right about the constitutionality of the Act under the Commerce Clause (even though they lost five-to-four on that issue).
Washington Post, Chief Justice John Roberts’s health-care ruling gets plenty second-guessing, Robert Barnes and Del Quentin Wilber, June 29, 2012. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., under intense scrutiny for his decision upholding President Obama’s health-care law, is headed for an overseas teaching gig in Malta. Back in Washington, the legal and political worlds are trying to digest the stunning news that one of the court’s most consistent conservatives had pulled Obama’s signature domestic achievement from the brink. Court specialists analyzed Thursday’s 5-to-4 opinion for clues, wondering whether Roberts might have switched his vote from invalidating the law to upholding it largely unscathed.
CNN, What the Supreme Court's decision means for you, Josh Levs, June 28, 2012. CNN's analysis of decision highlights.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Independent (United Kingdom), Ireland Sells its Voting Machines, €54m voting machines scrapped for €9 each, Paul Melia and Luke Byrne, June 29, 2012. The Government has sold the infamous €54m e-voting machines for scrap -- for €9.30 each. A huge fleet of trucks will begin removing the 7,500 machines from 14 locations on Monday. They will be taken to a Co Offaly recycling company, KMK Metals Recycling Ltd in Tullamore, where they will be stripped down and shredded. Scrapping the machines brings to an end the embarrassing e-voting debacle which has cost the taxpayer more than €54m since it emerged the expensive equipment was faulty. They could not be guaranteed to be safe from tampering. And they could not produce a printout so that votes/results could be double-checked. But last night the man who first proposed using them washed his hands of the affair.
Bloomberg News, TV-Newspaper Ownership Limits Left Intact By High Court, Greg Stohr and Todd Shields on June 29, 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court left intact decades-old limits on ownership of broadcast stations and newspapers, refusing to hear media-industry appeals that might have led to a wave of acquisitions. Tribune Co. and other media companies argued that the Federal Communications Commission rules, some of which date to 1941, don’t make sense in an age of cable television and the Internet. The companies challenged the rules on free-speech grounds. “It was a long shot,” Shaun Sheehan, a vice president of Chicago-based Tribune, said in an interview. “We knew it was a long shot. We’ll pursue relief from this antiquated restriction in any venue we can find.” The court didn’t comment as it turned away the companies, including Media General Inc. (MEG) (MEG), which owns daily newspapers and a television station in the Tampa, Florida, area after selling 63 newspapers to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/B) (B) Some companies own a broadcast station and daily newspaper in the same city under exceptions to the rules established in 1975. The FCC, which must periodically review media-ownership regulations, has proposed keeping some limits in a rulemaking begun in December. “We look forward to prompt consideration” by the agency, Ray Kozakewicz, a spokesman for Richmond, Virginia-based Media General, said in an e-mailed statement. “Consumers in markets of all sizes are better served by the higher-quality local news and content achievable through common ownership of media properties.” The rules limit local broadcasters’ ability to compete with cable and satellite-TV companies, and broadcasters are disappointed with the high court’s action, Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group, said in an e-mailed statement. The cases are Media General v. FCC, 11-691; Tribune Co. v. FCC, 11-696, and National Association of Broadcasters v. FCC, 11-698.
OpEd News, Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Escape From Accountability, Paul Craig Roberts, July 2, 2012. Information has been leaked about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is being negotiated in secret by US Trade Representative Ron Kirk. Six hundred corporate "advisors" are in on the know, but not Congress or the media. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate trade subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the TPP, has not been permitted to see the text or to know the content. The TPP has been called a "one-percenter" power tool. The agreement essentially abolishes the accountability of foreign corporations to governments of countries with which they trade. Indeed, the agreement makes governments accountable to corporations for costs imposed by regulations, including health, safety and environmental regulations. The agreement gives corporations the right to make governments pay them for the cost of complying with the regulations of government. One wonders how long environmental, labor, and financial reg
Salon, Dianne Feinstein targets press freedom, Glenn Greenwald, July 2, 2012. The California Democrat, long a prime defender of the Surveillance State, renews her assault on the First Amendment. The supreme Senate defender of state secrecy and the Surveillance State, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, yesterday issued a statement to Australia’s largest newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, demanding (once again) the prosecution of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. To see how hostile Feinstein is to basic press freedoms, permit me to change “Assange” each time it appears in her statement to the "New York Times":
The head of the US Senate’s powerful intelligence oversight committee has renewed calls for [The New York Times] to be prosecuted for espionage. . . .I believe [The New York Times] has knowingly obtained and disseminated classified information which could cause injury to the United States,” the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Dianne Feinstein, said in a written statement provided to the Herald. ”[It] has caused serious harm to US national security, and  should be prosecuted accordingly."
As [Electronic Frontier Foundation's] Trevor Timm noted, there is no sense in which Feinstein’s denunciation applies to WikiLeaks but not to The New York Times (and, for that matter, senior Obama officials). Indeed, unlike WikiLeaks, which has never done so, The New York Times has repeatedly published Top Secret information. That’s why the prosecution that Feinstein demands for WikiLeaks would be the gravest threat to press freedom and basic transparency in decades. Feinstein’s decades-long record in the Senate strongly suggest that she would perceive these severe threats to press freedom as a benefit rather than drawback to her prosecution designs.
Legal Schnauzer, How Much Sleaze Will Be Unearthed In Investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce? Roger Shuler, July 2, 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold most of the Obama health-care law was by far the most-watched story of last week. But a story that might prove to be more important in the long run quietly unfolded in Albany, New York. It could wind up shining light on organizations and individuals who have befouled the political environment here in Alabama. Eric T. Schneiderman, the attorney general of New York, launched an investigation of tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns. A case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and its high-profile director Tom Donohue, is a focal point of the probe. It might also examine groups led by the billionaire Koch brothers and Republican strategist Karl Rove.