Cross-posted at U.S. News & World Report.
In the Senate hearing on his nomination to the Supreme Court this week, Neil Gorsuch will most likely pledge to keep an open mind about cases that might come before him as a justice on the high court. That’s good, because open minds on the court are exactly what our democracy needs.
Having an open mind includes recognizing mistakes rather than blindly following precedent. And one area where the court has made many mistakes is money in politics: Perhaps their biggest was the 2010 Citizens United ruling. In that case, a bare majority of five justices argued that, while it’s clear that money given directly to a politician can corrupt, there’s no risk of corruption when money is given to outside groups that supposedly operate independently from candidates’ campaigns. The theory is that corruption is impossible because the candidate does not control the money and might even disagree with how it’s spent.
But since 2010, there have been numerous examples of large donations to nominally independent groups that have apparently corrupted politicians, making a mockery of the court’s reasoning.For example, Democratic New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez is currently under indictment for corruption. The allegations include charges that he was bribed by $600,000 in donations to a super PAC from a Florida doctor, Salomon Melgen. According to prosecutors, just days after Melgen gave the first check – $300,000 earmarked for Menendez’s 2012 re-election – the senator intervened with the head of Medicare in an effort to secure Melgen a nearly $9 million Medicare reimbursement he had been denied. Menendez took his case for Melgen – who was not a constituent – all the way to the secretary of Health and Human Services.
Menendez has denied any wrongdoing. But the timing looks bad, if nothing else. A majority of New Jersey voters polled after Menendez was indicted wanted him to resign, and prominent newspapers have agreed.
Read the full article at U.S. News & World Report.