Alito: The Chamber of Commerce's Supreme Court Ringer?

| Wed Jun. 9, 2010 10:22 AM EDT

Was the Citizens United case, in which the Supreme Court voted to allow unlimited corporate spending on elections, just an aberration? Or is the Roberts court really as pro-business as critics allege? Well, the Constitutional Accountability Center decided to test that thesis by examining the justices' voting records in cases where the U.S Chamber of Commerce was a party or filed an amicus brief. On Wednesday, it released the results of its empirical study. As it turns out, the five-justice conservative majority ruled in the chamber's favor in 64 percent of the cases, and even more often--71 percent--in the closely divided cases, which included Citizens United and the Lilly Ledbetter case involving gender discrimination.

By far the most reliable Chamber vote on the court turned out not to be the leading suspect, Chief Justice Roberts, but Justice Alito, who voted for the Chamber in 75 percent of the cases. Even more striking, however, is that in the most contested 5-4 cases, Alito never voted against the Chamber. He was the only justice with such a one-sided record. On the other end of the ideological spectrum, Justice John Paul Stevens rarely sided with the Chamber in the close cases, but overall still voted for business interests almost 40 percent of the time.

The CAC's analysis didn't include the court's newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, because of her short time on the court. But the group did find that in the seven business cases in which Sotomayor participated, she voted against the Chamber in five of them, more than any other member of the court. While CAC says the Sotomayor votes aren't a statistically significant sample, they still contrast sharply with many liberal predictions last year that she would turn out to be a closet conservative. Her votes so far in the Chamber cases suggest she may prove more liberal than David Souter, the man she replaced, who tended to vote right down the middle, with 50 percent of his votes for the Chamber and 50 percent against.

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