Zephyr Teachout appeared on a Democracy Now report about Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.
Look, in the—all of us are going to be part of sort of unearthing all of Neil Gorsuch’s opinions, but the important parts to look at are where he expresses his philosophy. And what he has done in antitrust cases and then also in one money-in-politics case is show that he’s going to be at least as bad as Scalia—and we can’t forget how bad Scalia was—and possibly worse, in favoring elites, favoring corporate power and favoring the power of big donors.
So there’s two antitrust cases that are really important to look at. And I know antitrust can seem like this kind of arcane area. But if you look around the world right now and look around America, you see this incredible concentration of power in office supplies, in—with Amazon, with Comcast, with Monsanto, with—in oil and gas. You see this incredible concentration. A lot of that comes from Justice Scalia and other people in the Chicago school, the law and economics school, believing that we should gut antitrust and basically allow monopolists to gather power. And in these two antitrust opinions, Judge Gorsuch shows that he is really with the—with that Chicago school, and, in fact, suggested he might go even farther saying, “Well, one of the reasons people go into business is the capacity to get monopoly rent, so we don’t want to discourage people for going into business,” instead of understanding, as Justice Brandeis and the true lions of our democratic past understood, that antitrust law was really critical for challenging excessive concentrations of power.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Zephyr Teachout, if you could talk also about Judge Gorsuch’s interest in natural law and what that might mean about his position on marriage equality?
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: Yeah, this is a really interesting and important area for the senators to ask about this week. In his dissertation, not that long ago, 2004, Judge Gorsuch shows that he is interested in natural law and very skeptical of the idea that the Constitution protects the intimate decisions that people make in the privacy of their own home. There’s a long, long line of cases that respect and understand that there’s constitutional protections for, for instance, the ability of people to use birth control, the rights of people to make their own sexual choices. And in his 2004 dissertation, Gorsuch was really skeptical of those decisions. And what that could mean is that Gorsuch might be a vote against marriage equality, because those decisions underpinned the decision a few years ago recognizing the right of all people to marry who they wanted to.
… Well, you know, look, we’re going to see a lot of particular quotes pulled out. And I think what we have to do now, this week, is ask him about, first of all, what that means for his judicial philosophy. And then, second, more broadly, we’re not going to get him on a gotcha, I mean, unless—he seems well polished to a fault. I mean, he really is the sort of dream elite candidate in that way. But we are going to be able to, I think, reveal, like, what’s underpinning him, who does he think should govern in society. And this relates to Citizens United.
In a concurrence—and so this is a case where Judge Gorsuch decided to go out of his way and explain, “Here’s what I think”—in Riddle v. Hickenlooper, a case involving limits on campaign contributions, Judge Gorsuch said that campaign contributions are—went out of his way to say that they are one of the most fundamentally protected parts of our freedom, and suggested that we might want to apply strict scrutiny to campaign contributions. Now, let me translate. That means that Judge Gorsuch might be open to not only upholding Citizens United, which has been a wreck for our democracy, but actually striking down laws that limit how much an individual or a corporation can directly donate to candidates, which is actually a really terrifying idea. But what that suggests is that Gorsuch thinks that public decisions, where we all come together and pass laws together, the idea of the public coming together, that’s not the right way to make decisions. It should be more in the billionaires and in the marketplace as opposed to in our democratic sphere.