Industry buying judicial favor


In the past decade, big business has funneled millions of dollars into private seminars for federal judges, many of whom are increasingly handing down judgements hostile to environmental and consumer interests. That’s no coincidence, according to a study out today from the COMMUNITY RIGHTS COUNSEL. Sen. John Kerry announced today he would seek a ban on such special-interest funded trips.

According to the report, the corporate-funded jaunts, pitched as “activism seminars” or “judicial education,” inculcate the judges with anti-environment sentiment and “free market” solutions to environmental problems. In one case, a judge ruled one way on a major piece of environmental legislation, attended a seminar, and then changed his vote. In six other cases, judges attended junkets while a case invoving the industry or corporation which funded the trip was pending before the court — and in half of those cases, the judges ruled in favor of a litigant bankrolled by one or more of seminars’ sponsors.

The CRC’s study and searchable database, available at TRIPSFORJUDGES.COM, details the big three industry sponsors of the junkets and specific cases of apparent improper influence.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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