As the country anxiously watches the Senate Judiciary Committee conduct hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation as a Supreme Court Justice, the nation’s political dialogue has been ablaze. Not to be left out, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce joined the fray recently with a blog post titled “The Right Judge for the Job.” The post, by Chamber president Tom Donohue, is exactly what it sounds like: a full-throated endorsement of Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Public Citizen’s U.S. Chamber Watch project has frequently exposed the Chamber’s long-established right-wing leanings, from its campaign donations to the revolving door of staffers between the Chamber and various conservative institutions. But even by the Chamber’s standards, this endorsement is jaw-dropping. As the Chamber claims to be a politically unbiased institution only looking out for business interests, you would be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the Chamber endorsing President Trump’s recent Supreme Court nominee. When you begin to dig into Judge Kavanaugh’s history of rulings, though, the Chamber’s support for his confirmation starts to make a whole lot of sense.
In a recent report, Chamber Watch found that in 25 of the 33 cases (76%) in which the Chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), or the American Petroleum Institute (API) participated as party or amicus curiae, Kavanaugh sided with the position advanced by the business groups.
This investigation serves to underscore the extent to which the Chamber’s legal activity now intersects with federal policy. As Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, put it, “Over the past several decades, big business associations, led by the Chamber, have become far more active in federal litigation. The involvement of these associations signals to judges what the Chamber and other trade associations believe to be important.”
It is also consistent with another recent Public Citizen report that found that in 87% of cases, Judge Kavanaugh’s opinion in split-decision on issues like regulatory issues, environmental protection, and worker rights sided with Big Business and against the public interest. These issues are some of the Chamber’s top priorities; the Chamber wants fewer consumer safeguards, fewer environmental standards, and fewer labor protections, because those policies let it pursue higher profits no matter the human cost.
With all of this in mind, the Chamber’s fulsome endorsement of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation begins to look brazenly self-interested. It wants an ally on the Court who will rule with its arguments in litigation and with its policy agenda. Based on Kavanaugh’s history of rulings, it may have made a safe bet.