Search Results for ‘schumer’

Schumer backtracks on SCOTUS diatribe, but not far enough

On Wednesday, at a rally on the Supreme Court steps, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) cut loose with a truly amazing diatribe against Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, declaring that the two would “pay the price” and “won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” Schumer’s menacing if vague comments drew prompt disapproval from a broad range of legal figures, such as the heads of the American Bar Association and New York City Bar Association as well as Democratic SCOTUS shortlister Neal Katyal and Harvard’s Larry Tribe. Chief Justice John Roberts weighed in with a rare public rebuke: “threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous.”

Schumer proceeded to dig in and even blast Roberts personally for the criticism. By Thursday, he was ready to concede grudgingly that he “should not have used the words I used. They didn’t come out the way I intended to,” while still staying on the offensive in every other respect and accusing his adversaries of “manufacturing” the uproar.

I’ve got a new post at Ricochet reviewing the controversy, including its much-echoed “what about…?” dimension:

Defenders of Schumer assailed the chief justice for not having weighed on some other inappropriate Trump sallies, including his ill-grounded speculation recently (never filed as an actual motion) that Justices Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor should recuse themselves from Trump matters, and his aspersions on the judge in the Roger Stone case. Those are part of a frequent and blatant Trump habit of trash-talking judges, both as a candidate (calling the judge in the Trump University case “Mexican” and “a hater”) and as President (“so-called judge” among numerous others). Some — I’m one — would say that this is among Trump’s very worst and most damaging patterns of behavior.

But as cooler heads noted, including Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post, the chief justice is not a playground proctor who can step in to write up every demerit; he needs to save his efforts for the instances that are most dangerous, as he in fact has done.

The wider picture, it might be noted, is one in which nasty swipes at judges have been routinized for years, from a range of public figures and also from former President Barack Obama, both in his 2010 State of the Union speech and also repeatedly during the court review of ObamaCare. Still, none of these have gone as far to suggest personal threat as did Schumer — not even the extraordinarily inappropriate amicus brief filed by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and four other Senate Democrats last August, assailing the Court’s legitimacy and warning that “restructuring” at the hands of political branches lies ahead if it does not mend its ways.

I conclude that Schumer needs to go back and apologize, seriously this time. And it’s time for all who’ve fallen short of defending judicial independence — Republicans and Democrats alike — to do so. [cross-posted from Cato at Liberty]

IRS back to hiring private collection agencies

We’ve posted several times about federal tax authorities’ on-again, off-again use of private tax collectors on contingency fees to collect back taxes. As with other varieties of law enforcement for profit in which the middleman is enabled to keep residual dollars, the practice seems to encourage the taking of a hard line against taxpayers, especially when the private collectors can use tactics and methods forbidden to government agents. Now, after a hiatus, the IRS is returning to the use of private collectors, a change in law for which Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) apparently deserve much of the credit, if credit is the right word [Alex Richards and Brad Wolverton, NerdWallet, earlier]

Attacks on Gorsuch — and on the rule of law

“I’m not sure who decided that the Democratic critique of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch would be that he doesn’t side with the little guy. It’s a truly terrible idea.” Judges should stand up for the law and their interpretation of the correct way for it to develop, rather than ruling consistently with the interests of a particular category of litigant. “…consider the whole point of a rule-of-law system: It establishes rules so that people can be confident in advance of how decisions are made. That creates regularity and predictability. And in the long run, it protects the little guy a lot better than a system rigged to favor one side, because such systems will naturally tend to favor the rich and powerful, not the poor and downtrodden.” So cut it out, interest groups with your stop-Gorsuch campaign [Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View] More: David Harsanyi.

Food and Drug Administration roundup

“Law firm ‘bonuses’ tied to political donations”

After initially resisting, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has agreed to return nearly $130,000 in donations she and her PAC received from the Boston-based Thornton Law Firm, known for asbestos plaintiff’s litigation. An investigation found the law firm paid $1.4 million in bonuses in patterns strongly suggesting they were being used to cover “straw donations” nominally from partners [co-published Boston Globe/Open Secrets story; New York Post]

From 2010 through 2014, Strouss and Bradley along with founding partner Michael Thornton and his wife donated nearly $1.6 million to Democratic party fundraising committees and a parade of politicians from Senate minority leader Harry Reid of Nevada to Hawaii gubernatorial candidate David Ige to Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Over the same span, the lawyers received $1.4 million listed as “bonuses” in Thornton Law Firm records; more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched bonuses that were paid within 10 days.

That payback system, which involved other partners as well, helped make Thornton the 11th-ranked law firm nationally for political contributions in 2014, according to data analyzed by the Center, even though the firm is not among the 100 biggest in Massachusetts, much less the U.S.

Capitol Hill recipients of Thornton money include many figures who have played a role in blocking asbestos litigation reform, including Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.).

Free speech roundup

  • New, much-anticipated documentary Can We Take a Joke? When Outrage and Comedy Collide [on demand, Greg Lukianoff] More on the fining of comedian Mike Ward by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal [Guardian, earlier]
  • “It is not ‘freedom of the press’ when newspapers and others are allowed to say and write whatever they want even if it is completely false!” [@donaldjtrump Sunday on Twitter] 25 years ago in my stump speech on lawsuit reform I criticized Trump for his use of legal threats to silence critics. More reportage on that history, a familiar topic around here [Frances S. Sellers, Washington Post, earlier here, etc.]
  • Eighth Circuit: Nebraska regulators improperly retaliated against financial adviser over (inter alia) his criticism of Obama [Eugene Volokh]
  • Nine senators (Boxer, Durbin, Franken, Markey, Reid, Sanders, Schumer, Warren, Whitehouse): we demand 22 right-of-center think tanks open their donation records to us [Carolina Journal]
  • “Copyright infringer issues bogus DMCA over someone calling him out. Then denies all of it” [Mike Masnick, TechDirt]
  • Lawsuit demanding R ratings on films with “tobacco imagery” deserves to be hit with SLAPP sanctions; “suing the MPAA to force censorship raises the stakes.” [WSJ Law Blog, Scott Greenfield]

“Dems Assigned Conservative Groups to Attack on Senate Floor”

Are you now, or have you ever been, a supporter of the Hoover Institution, the Mercatus Center, the Heritage Foundation, or the Acton Institute? Lachlan Markay, Free Beacon:

Democratic senators have been assigned conservative nonprofit groups to call out by name on the chamber floor in speeches on Monday and Tuesday criticizing corporations and advocacy groups for opposing Democratic climate policies, internal emails reveal.

…[Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon] Whitehouse and his allies, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), have crafted a schedule for floor speeches on Monday and Tuesday that assigns each participating Senator at least one group to go after by name.

Most of the groups have already been targeted by state Democratic officials that have undertaken a coordinated legal campaign against oil giant ExxonMobil since last year. Many were named in subpoenas sent to the company by state attorneys general as part of that effort.

The ringmaster, once again, is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island — yes, that Sheldon Whitehouse, whose hometown Providence Journal rightly called out his current campaign to sic the law on improper climate opinion as likely to “have a chilling effect on free speech, by intimidating dissenters into silence.” The leader on the House side is Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), also getting to be a familiar name.

One reason this is more sinister than your ordinary political sideshow: the proposed concurrent resolution urges right-leaning nonprofits “to cooperate with active or future investigations” of purportedly unlawful opinion-slinging. One of the most junior senators, Gary Peters of Michigan, apparently drew the short straw in the heresy posse and was assigned to attack my own Cato Institute (which publishes this site) at 6:30 this evening.

The senators participating in this appalling exercise besides Sens. Whitehouse, Reid, and Peters, all Democrats, are Sens. Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Barbara Boxer of California, Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Chuck Schumer of New York, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Some early reactions: “All that is lacking are their public confessions” — Ronald Bailey at Reason (whose associated Reason Foundation is among the targets). “‘Assigned’ groups to attack? That sounds like middle school mean girl behavior.” [C.B. on Facebook] Peter Roff at U.S. News on how the Senators can’t (yet) make dissent illegal but can make it costly. And a reminder: the “Exxon Knew” crowd knew Whitehouse’s RICO-for-speech theory was wrong because their own allies had told them, but went ahead anyway.

More, Matt Welch at Reason:

…Since the targets of this shaming exercise are not being afforded the courtesy to rebut the charges in the forum at which they are being smeared, consider this a prebuttal…

This coordinated campaign would be an assault on free speech even if it were not drenched in conspiratorial inaccuracy. Democratic lawmakers, attorneys general, and activists are systematically singling out free-market think tanks for potential criminal prosecution and one-sided disclosure requirements based on the content of the think tanks’ research and commentary. They are literally trying to criminalize dissent. If successful, they will establish as “fraud” or “racketeering” any future think-tank work that runs afoul of political orthodoxy. …

Sadly, this heavy-handed act of government intimidation will likely go as unnoticed as Hillary Clinton’s long track record against free speech. Why? Because generally speaking both the mainstream press and the organized left reserve their First Amendment outrage for politicians they disagree with. Their silence is shameful, and deafening.

The senators’ action this week is no hyperbolic one-off: Prosecuting ungood climatology is baked right into the Democratic Party Platform. The two major Democratic nominees for president agree.

[Updated to correct error on Lachlan Markay’s name, sorry]

A hold-up of SEC nominees

You mean getting to a floor vote so that sensitive vacancies can be filled isn’t these senators’ top priority after all? Sen. Chuck Schumer and allies are holding up two presidential nominations to the Securities and Exchange Commission, those of Democrat Lisa Fairfax and Republican Hester Peirce, demanding that the nominees commit to supporting a scheme to force shareholder-held companies to disclose their political involvements, the better for adversaries to pressure them or retaliate. It flies in the face of the idea that the appropriate frame of mind for commissioners approaching the rulemaking process is to keep an open mind rather than promise to vote one way or the other [Stephen Bainbridge, Broc Romanek/Corporate Counsel, Marc Hodak] “The SEC is now down to just three members, two less than its full complement, after two left the agency late last year. If the SEC remains with only three members for a prolonged period, it could be difficult for Chairman Mary Jo White to advance her agenda in what is likely her final year at the markets regulator.” [Andrew Ackerman, WSJ] More: WSJ letters via Prof. Bainbridge; Washington Post editorial.

“Congress moves to turn back taxes over to debt collectors”

Law enforcement for profit to take another big leap forward? [Washington Post]:

The Internal Revenue Service would be required to turn over millions of unpaid tax bills to private debt collectors under a measure before the Senate, reviving a program that has previously led to complaints of harassment and has not saved taxpayers money.

The provision was tucked into a larger bill, aimed at renewing an array of expired tax breaks, at the request of Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose state is home to two of the four private collection agencies that stand to benefit from the proposal.

It requires all “inactive tax receivables” to be assigned to private debt collectors if the IRS cannot locate the person who owes the money or if IRS agents are unable to make contact within a year.

The idea has been tried twice before, but was discontinued both times after poor results including net losses on the program. Nina Olson, who holds the position of Taxpayer Advocate in the U.S. government (and is no relation), strongly opposes the program, noting that some of the money would be recouped by the Treasury anyway through means such as future withheld refunds without the need for paying 25 percent contingency fees to the middlemen. Bounty-hunting freelancers are more likely to resort to tactics such as day-and-night harassing calls, and have less flexibility to work out payment plans for those getting back on their feet after reverses or, in the case of estate taxes, heirs who may have not yet received the inheritances from which they need to pay the tax due.

Compare many state governments’ practice of putting out plaintiff’s-side litigation opportunities to private lawyers at contingency fee, which has created a durable lobby for hardball extractive lawsuits of dubious social benefit as well as showering large sums on law firms that already are or soon become influential political players in their states.