Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is struggling to respond after The Wall Street Journal suggested he was being hypocritical for pushing a campaign forcing various groups to disclose all of their donors before they file amicus briefs.
The Rhode Island Democrat criticized Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in a January letter for accepting friend of the court briefs from “special interest groups that fail to disclose their donors.” Whitehouse claims conservative groups are influencing the Court, even as they hide their “deep-pocketed corporate contributors.” He believes lawmakers might have to force groups to disclose all their donors before filing.
New reports are now putting Whitehouse under the gun. He received several donations in 2016 and 2017 from attorneys Victor Sher and Matt Edling, both of whom are involved in a slew of climate lawsuits targeting energy companies for supposedly contributing to global warming. Sher, for his part, has barnstormed across the country with other law firms seeking climate litigation.
TheWSJ Editorial Board pointed out Monday that the senator failed to disclose the donations when he filed an amicus brief in January on behalf of Edling and Sher’s case. “Whitehouse is ginning up this fuss now because he wants to discredit the Roberts Court as somehow politically corrupt. Look for more such phony campaigns now that the Supreme Court is no longer a safe redoubt for progressive policy-making,” the editorial board wrote.
Whitehouse did not immediately respond to TheWSJ’s request for comment but he did write a brief oped in the paper addressing the complaint. “If any of the Justices are struggling to find my campaign contribution records, I would be happy to share the appropriate website. No such website exists for the U.S. Chamber or other dark-money groups,” he wrote in the piece, which did not explain why he did disclose the donations.
Whitehouse’s office has not yet responded to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for the senator to elaborate on his comments. TheWSJ Editorial Board’s report comes less than a year after Whitehouse and other Rhode Island officials announced plans to sue ExxonMobil over climate change.
Such climate lawsuits have a splotchy record of success. A federal judge in California, for instance, threw out two lawsuits in June 2018 that sought to do effectively the same thing Rhode Island is trying to do now: punishing oil companies for supposedly hurting the environment. Whitehouse’s amicus brief in January was crafted in support of the California suits.
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