Sunday, October 16, 2005

Miers and Roberts: "CEO's Dream Team"

The night John Roberts was nominated for the Supreme Court, I wrote a piece highlighting is corporate-centered anti-labor credentials. Earlier that month, I posted an article entitled Supreme Court Abolishes OSHA, EPA where I quoted political analyst David Sirota saying that in its Supreme Court coverage the press is missing "the real storyline of "Big Money" vs. "Ordinary Americans."

Well, the story is still the same with Harriet Miers and the main-stream-media (in this case, Business Week reporter Lorraine Woellert in the Washington Post) is picking up on the story.
But while Bush dodges the brickbats, another critical element of the Republican political base is applauding from the wings.

That would be big business. For the first time in more than three decades, corporate America could find itself with not one, but two, Supreme Court allies with in-the-trenches industry experience -- Miers and newly minted Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. Don't be fooled by the low-key personas they have projected thus far; both are legal wonks who have packed a powerful punch in the corporate world. Together, they could be a CEO's dream team.
Why is this?
Miers has a blue-chip résumé that would wow Wall Street....Her decades as a high-powered corporate litigator are just the beginning. She also has served on the corporate boards of a securities fund and a mortgage company. She's tackled the entire spectrum of commercial issues firsthand, defending Texas car dealers against price-fixing charges, challenging claims that Microsoft sold defective software, protecting Walt Disney's trademarks, and taking on consumers who sued mortgage companies for violating debt collection laws.

But, for the boardroom set, it's her work outside the courtroom that sets her apart. For years, Miers was a driving force in Texas for reforms that would protect industry from lawsuits. She helped elect reform-minded judges to the state bench, including longtime friend Nathan Hecht, a Texas supreme court justice who is derided by trial lawyers as the father of Texas tort reform. Until 2001, Miers was a director of the Committee for a Qualified Judiciary, a Texas political action committee devoted to electing conservative judges. In 1995, the pro-business Texas Civil Justice League hired her to press for caps on punitive damage awards and curbs on medical malpractice claims. It was a short-lived gig; Miers felt uneasy lobbying her former client, George W. Bush, who had just been elected governor. So she withdrew.

Still, that same year she urged Bush to veto legislation that would ban the state Supreme Court from limiting attorneys' fees, calling the bill "an assault" on a court that was in Republican hands for the first time. Bush took her advice. "She'll be a very strong judge for business interests," says Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron.
David Sirota actually beat the Post to the punch with a couple of pieces likening Miers' nomination to putting Ken Lay on the court.
With Miers serving as managing partner of the law firm Locke Liddell & Sapp, the firm "helped accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP sell a sham tax shelter" by advising investors that they "'should' be able to beat the Internal Revenue Service in court." Miers' firm "appears to have made $3.5 million on 70 such deals" which a Senate report called called "potentially abusive or illegal."

This is the latest detail in an ever-sharpening picture of Miers as an ethically challenged individual, willing to ignore the law in pursuit of Corporate America's agenda.
The Post also focuses on the different interests between the corporate community and Bush's right-wing religious base which is extremely unhappy about Miers' lack of judicial philosophy:
Corporations worship pragmatism and don't give a whit about judicial philosophy. But it's rank heresy to many on the right, who have had it up to here with jurists who weigh social and cultural mores when crafting opinions. Religious and other social conservatives want justices who will apply a very narrow "strict constructionist" interpretation to the Constitution and not read new rights -- such as the right to privacy found in Roe v. Wade -- into the framers' text.
It will be interesting to see if the business associations venture into the battle between Bush and the religious wing. The National Association of Manufacturers has announces that it will "consider" Miers' nomination, the same way it considered, and eventually endorsed Roberts. The US Chamber of Commerce, which also endorsed Roberts, has called Miers a "good pick" and said that the Chamber would "participate in the process as appropriate."

From this perspective, the choice of Harriet Miers is still a poltical problem, but seems less of a mistake. I have often said that George Bush was just using the religious right to get himself elected so that he could push his real agenda, the business agenda. The religious wing of the party is feeling betrayed, and rightly so. In What's The Matter With Kansas, author Tom Franks describes how the Republican party has succeeded in seducing "values based" Christians with pro-life, anti-gay promises while actually pushing a corporate agenda that not only has no interest in their "values" issues, but actually works against their economic interests.

Hopefully, these so-called "values voters" are starting to figure out that they've been hoodwinked, and who they've been sold out to.