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Do we really want billionaires choosing our judges?
Nov 4, 2023

Dear Fellow Democrats,

Are we really going to let PA’s richest man buy a state Supreme Court seat?
As Will Bunch writes, two right-wing billionaires are spending a small fortune to elect a Republican to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Why is justice for sale?
Who are these two billionaires, and are they trying to buy their own judge?

Jeff Yass, the richest man in the state, is an options trader, managing director, and one of the five founders of Susquehanna Investment Group. He is Republican Carolyn Carluccio’s largest source of support – some $4.4 million in ads and mailers, either praising Carluccio or attacking Democrat Dan McCaffery, paid for by the Commonwealth Leaders Fund, a group that supports conservative positions on school vouchers and charters and which is funded almost exclusively by Yass. The outside spending by the Yass-supported group is greater than the money raised by Carluccio’s OWN campaign committee.

Yass’ libertarian’s pet project is vouchers and other programs labeled as “school choice” that actually undermine public education. He also cares quite a bit about having a court that won’t rule for organized labor or against Big Oil and Gas.

Yass knows the power wielded in places like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court — over important things like drawing congressional maps, funding schools, punishing polluters, rewarding tax evasion, or crimping worker power — is enormous.

And Yass is not the only billionaire wagering on a GOP victory next week. Another $735,000 in anti-McCaffery attack ads has been paid for by Fair Courts America, a group funded by Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein to elect right-wing judges. 

ProPublica — the same newsroom that broke the Justice Thomas scandal wide open — has chronicled Uihlein’s support for extremists like failed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, and for what it calls “anti-democracy causes.” A memo it obtained from the Uihlein-funded Restoration of America said it “aims to ‘get on God’s side of the issues and stay there’ and ‘punish leftists.’” 

A statewide Franklin and Marshall College poll released last week found a staggering 70% of Pennsylvania voters aren’t aware of who the candidates are. That means that big money can mean more than it does in a presidential election in which the electorate is better informed.
Billionaires spending this much money on conservative judges have led to lost women’s reproductive rights, curbed voting rights, and strengthened corporations while weakening unions.

The fact that we, controversially, elect our judges offers an opportunity — yes, for big-spending billionaires, but also for everyday voters to show up on Tuesday to oppose them.

The big Republican donors have a lot of money in this race, but our side has the people. Everyday folks can’t do much about the selling out of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, but they can stop the richest man in Pennsylvania from buying a seat on the state’s highest court.

But only if they get off the couch Tuesday and vote.

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