Got A Brown Shirt?

Our kids all tend to be snarky. (I have no idea where they get that….)

At any rate, when a reader shared an article from Slate about the Federalist Society, it immediately reminded me of a long-ago exchange between my youngest son and another lawyer. My son had just returned to Indianapolis to practice law, and a colleague had invited him to join the local chapter of the Federalist Society. He’d declined, saying “Sorry, but I don’t have a brown shirt.

At the time, characterizing the Federalist Society as fascist was (arguably) unfair. As Dahlia Lithwick and Richard Hasen write in the linked article,

There’s nothing nefarious about like-minded people coming together to debate the issues of the day from a particular political perspective and to network with others of a similar mindset. (That’s the model of the American Constitution Society too, which engages in this activity from a progressive perspective and where we have both spoken.) Nor is there any question that groups of like-minded lawyers can and should gather together to mentor young attorneys and steer them into networks and eventually careers that will fulfill them. There’s been a recent controversy over whether it is inappropriate for federal judges to formally be a part of the Federalist Society, or the ACS, but even if these judges gave up their formal ties, the fact remains that the network and pipeline of clerkships and judgeships would remain intact. Again, none of this is new or particularly scandalous; Until recently, the biggest difference between the Federalist Society and ACS was less what they were doing and more that the former was simply better at it.

Until recently.

The article was a troubling report on what we might call “spawn of the Federalist Society.” A Senate report released by Senators Chuck Schumer, Debbie Stabenow, and Sheldon Whitehouse documents how a right-wing legal network spawned by the Federalist Society has–in Lithwick and Hasen’s words– gone “full Trumpian,” morphing from an organization of principled conservatives  into a secretly-funded cabal spouting conspiracy theories such as the myth of widespread voter fraud, and how Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the Federalist Society, has been spearheading the effort to fill the federal judiciary with judges who are likely to rule in favor of secret, monied interests.

The Senate Democrats’ report details how an interlocked group of anonymous donors have been directing the judicial nominations process through media and lobbying campaigns. Many of these campaigns, including the Judicial Crisis Network, have ties to Leo, who has twice taken a formal “leave” from the Federalist Society to advise President Trump on his Supreme Court nominations, then hopped back into his old post, while boasting that his organization was in firm control of the nominations process.

According to Lithwick and Hasen, while the Federalist Society continues to claim that it is uninvolved in politics, policy, or judicial nominations, and the group avoids taking “official” positions on such matters, Leo (who has effectively directed the group until very recently) has developed “a network of political groups, none of which disclose their donors, funded at about a quarter of a billion dollars.”  That money has mostly been used to help Mitch McConnell seat so-called “conservative” (and frequently unqualified) judges on the federal bench.

Judicial Crisis Network –one of the organizations in that shadowy network– spent $7 million opposing Merrick Garland, $10 million to support  Neil Gorsuch (targeting ‘vulnerable Democrat Senators’), and another $10 million in advertising to support Brett Kavanaugh. And nobody knows where the money came from.

More recently, that shadowy network has engaged in a new initiative: an effort to engage in political dirty tricks to help keep its cronies in power.

But the big news today is where that conservative network is heading: Their activities now go well beyond dark money political hardball into conspiracy mongering and election-meddling efforts around the November presidential elections that endanger our democracy.

And while this is happening, the Trump administration is rolling back the rules that would require these organizations to disclose their donors….

If there isn’t a blue wave in November, what is essentially a bloodless coup will have succeeded–making my son’s snark about needing a brown shirt terrifyingly true.


  1. If I violate a rule against partisan statements with this post, I apologize to the Professor. If you are registered to vote in INCD5 and have not voted in tomorrow’s primary, please do so. I would ask you consider requesting a Republican ballot to vote for me for U.S. House as the GOP nominee: 1) I am pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-civil rights, anti-war and anti-trump; 2) A victory for me sends a very nice message that people can vote out right-wing … I’ll say “jerks,” a term far more civil than I would like to use; 3) Think of ALL THAT MONEY spent on Spartz, Dietzen, Henderson, Beckwith, Brizzi, et al, effectively flushed to the White River; and 4) GOP has asked for massive contributions to give to the winner of the primary – every penny of which I shall donate to food banks in INCD5. If you vote for any of the Dems, I understand.

  2. If there is an answer, it lies with the EFFECTIVE TREATMENT of the OTHER VIRUS we’ve been exposed to for over 50 years. It’s the LETHAL, POLITICAL, VIRUS OF THE MIND which 60 Minutes FINALLY warned about last night in its last words before signing-off.

  3. These days, black shirts seem more appropriate than brown shirts.

  4. Gee, if only someone had told the Democratic voters that the courts matter! By refusing to even consider any nominations of the last Democratic President, McConnell and his pals managed to vacate a tremendous portion of the Federal bench, but they’re making up for that now. In fact, since the pandemic , the only things the Senate has voted on are relief packages and Federal judges.

  5. Right. Go back to the Lewis Powell call to arms for corporate/banking America to purchase all three branches in our government. You can look it up. And Nixon appointed this bastard to the SCOTUS!!

    Powell, Barr, Norquist, Rove, Graham, Scalia, Alito, Kavanaugh, Roberts, Cruz, DeVos, Ailes, Murdoch, McConnell, Atwood and Trump, et. al., must be placed in the hall of our national destruction together…in a special, hermetically sealed room so that their vapors of evil and hubris can’t escape. New additions to this pantheon of corruption would be added weekly as new evidence emerges. These creatures are writing the last chapters to the demise of our Constitutional form of government, the rule of law and any semblance of justice equity.

    Brown shirts? Oh yeah. For these guys and most of the Republican party, brown shirts are more than appropriate. They are the same sort of thugs Hitler used to rub out his enemies, but without the firebombs (so far) or the clubs (so far).

  6. I’m afraid it goes back much further than Lewis Powell, at least to the attempted Fascist takeover by Lamont DUPONT in the mid-’30s which was successfully exposed by General Smedley Butler.

  7. When you find “dark money” as the source of funds, there is an excellent chance it is part of the Koch network who mastered the dark money ATMs.

    It took less than 5 minutes to find the above on the Open Secrets website, an organization funded by the arch-nemesis or the boogeyman of the brownshirts propaganda media. If you discredit Soros and all the press on the left as secret players conspiring against brownshirts, and conservatives believe them, then you have voters and supporters to manipulate accordingly.

    What’s hilarious is about 90% of the media in this country is owned by large corporate interests who are fascist. Much of the millions collected by Koch’s network is spent on ADS, so guess who benefits from their expenditures – politicians and media.

    The media also has influence peddlers who make sure Citizens United does not get overturned or to squash any efforts by either political party to make all elections subjected to public financing.

    When a person playing a Democrat suggests we eliminate the flow of monies (bribes) into politics, it’s mainly for show. It’s theater!

    As for Leonard Leo, once the Koch’s network finds a sociopath who can undermine democracy by manipulating the masses, they’ll ride that pony until it dies. Most humans have a conscious so oppressing other humans, and destroying the planet comes at a price called guilt. It’s why sociopaths thrive in Washington. If not sociopathic, they need drugs and alcohol to suppress the guilt caused by their actions.

    Here’s the link:

  8. Pascal.
    im a solid black t shirt,everyday, my dickies,large tall, heavy weight,no ads,no monicker. im non violent,i spent my youth growing up physically defending myself. hense,unless directly provoked..
    though its in plain sight, its the fight that continues.

    the fact here i read this article,twice, leo, or whoever, is the head witch. i get tired of the everything trump when something this admin shoves something at us. its mcconnel, and its a right wing led for decades movement, we all ask whats the end game? get real its the rich and wall streets game to run this money maker,our country.. if all the reasons given over 40 years doesnt send the message,then were hiding our heads in the sand. the brown shirts, correct..
    this morning i opened huff to find a trucker trying to kill more people in a peaceful protest,(most looked white)..kanan advantage group, is the company.. may i insert, these investor run trucking companies pick up the bottom of the barrel people and hand them the keys.. they havent a care except the bottom line. we have the most costliest,and demanding job everyday just trying to avoid assholes in cars.. the pay sucks,the attitudes of most dispatchers,suck, the cut throat between buisness is mafia like. they target vets to get a job driving, ill be frank, big deal all the company gets is,free OJT money from the goverment,to train someone,who? ptsd? or any person hasnt a clue why hes driving a truck. ive got 42 years holding the wheel on,(nut) i i have every endorcement you can have, including what i do now,tankers two at a time,Haz-Mat. i have never in 6 million miles had a chargeable accident,or company is small,well run,the best ive ever worked for. the rates are bid,to construction industry needs. and based at times on a davis-bacon prevailing wage..those big companies profitize by keeping the money they make in their pockets(wall street) while paying drivers poverty wages for jobs like mine. the fact is, scraping the bottom of the barrel for this job,led to this travisty. no one hurt,hell, it just killed more of us out here,who respectfully do their job,and enjoy doing it.. again, the living wage that would bring in competent people who can do this job with respect,is flat denied. it goes in one pocket,wall any working class job today,its poverty wages,and lack of knowlege that is killing this country.
    those brown shirts, well they should be pround,one of them just used a truck loaded with gasoline to make point.. kenan can go FTS!

  9. It’s interesting to compare what I can observe from a distance between the protesting blacks and the acting whites in today’s chaos caused by both.

    The black protests clearly are participated in by two major groups, citizens who would like to be law abiding but are sick and tired of the law not abiding them and criminals looting, burning and stealing. It will take the law enforcement professions a long time to get a handle on the organized vs disorganized content of the anarchist criminal group and they and we may never know all of the truth although the brag and blame crowd now infesting DC will never stop trying to lipstick the pig managing their brand.

    As passionate as the motivations of the black group are, the white group is opposite. They are dispassionate but endlessly calculating how to maintain control of the country by buying it. Investing wealth to get power to get more wealth.

    So many of us are caught in the middle ground between those two extreme opposing forces. The old normal curve strikes again with the outliers plotting to establish power over the majority middle.

    If there is any silver in these very dark ominous clouds of chaos it is that the loser is Trump and the Toadies. They’ve turned out useless for everyone.

  10. Although I have outsourced the management of our investments, lately I have to following the DJIA through the days trying to better understand the relationship between social event and Wall Street. It has been revealing. Despite the chaos all around that dominates the news equity trading still goes up and down in small amounts while the money counters on Wall Street do their trading. It’s like a separate insular world.

    Chaos in the streets, calm in the banks.

    What is that revealing?

  11. The problem is deep rooted and systemic, and has been since the first English slave ship arrived in the colonies some 400 years ago. Slave markets such as the one in New Orleans have not really been abolished; we have instead fashioned a society where rank discrimination against black people serves the same purpose in terms of housing, wages, rates and depths of incarceration, and any other means the white majority can impose upon underrepresented minorities. Supreme Court decisions and civil rights statutes, while helpful, cannot undo deep rooted and systemic racism. Undoing racism will take a permanent interruption of such intergenerational bias, and I for one don’t know how to bring that about while in a sea of systemic racism short of some cultural lobotomy or the Rapture. Anybody have any ideas?

  12. Pete – What it is revealing is a disconnect between the monied class (Wall Street paper shufflers and others) and the rest of us which resembles the disconnect between black and white citizens. The “rest of us” whether black or white) are so much chaff to the terminal capitalists except for what our labors can bring to their bottom lines, and with an ever increasing sophisticaticated AI and its displacement of human labor, I look for that divide to widen inasmuch as we humans will have little to no value to the moneyed class under rules of capitalism as currently practiced though, unlike racism, this ism (I’ll call it “moneyism”) can be changed via statute and Supreme Court decision.

  13. Gerald, there’s a real problem out of everyone’s control that has at its root the computer and network technology that has spurred progress that culture just can’t keep up with. Those that create and benefit from it are in the high cotton but most people can only accept things happening beyond their imagination and that has created a sort of technical slavery that culture can’t understand much less keep up with. It could be good for everyone but by creating a caste system of have and have nots from the reality of know and know nots the experts see no reason to change. It’s a problem the know nots put themselves into.

    Just like was true of human livestock slavery in the past the knows use the know nots as means of production bought from the lowest bidder and take advantage of the myth that the owners of the means are entitled to all of the spoils.

    We’re experiencing the social instability that’s been inevitably coming for a couple of decades.

  14. Voted in IN primary (by mail). Was disappointed that there was only one competitive election on the ballot. No Democratic candidates even running for any positions below the HR level. Such is the situation in rural southern IN.

  15. We have stuck in our heads by the best propaganda experts money can buy that a corporation serves only the owner of the means of production over all other stakeholders in it like customers and workers and tax payers and the environment and the future and government and community. That’s a completely arbitrary choice that leads inevitably to the social instability we see today.

    We could have chosen to adapt to reality but we didn’t and now forces out of anyone’s control have taken up the unavoidable correction that we ignored.

    We live unsustainably and that means in a temporary situation that will change at our hand or the invisible hand of reality resuming control.

    We chose the latter and now regret our choice.

  16. Well, I might change the subject for a minute here.

    So, if you hadn’t seen any of my posts on Facebook, last night they were burning the town in which I live! I went down to see what was happening, the 1st thing that went were the liquor stores, that fueled the courage to go after the jewelry stores, the pawn shops, and that the hair supply stores. After that, the secondary targets were the currency exchanges, because the police left to go after the folks attacking the jewelry and pawn shops.

    There were peaceful protesters, but they were used as a misdirection. While the police were concentrating on the peaceful protests, the criminal element was hitting them where they ain’t! Once the police started responding to that tack, it got worse! There was no stopping it. Things were being burnt to the ground, bricks are being thrown, there were people waving flags from different countries, all sorts of craziness.

    My animals, dogs cats and those wild ones that are resident on my property all were acting strange before this started. I commented that the animals were being weird. And the animals were afraid. These lunatics had their dogs out challenging the police! The police had their dogs out, the K9 patrol. I counted at least 4. I don’t care how mean a pitbull is, when it comes up against a 130 pound German Shepherd, it’s not a long fight. And believe me, it was a mess.

    This morning I went out, and talked to some of the police that I know, they said tonight is going to be even worse! There are a lot of people up here who don’t belong in this community. They’ve come from some where else. So they’re going to finish the job they started last night.

    I was talking to one guy last night and he told me I better leave so I don’t get hurt, then he proceeded to pick up a huge rock and throw it through the window of the cell phone store! I just looked at him and he went in and loaded up along with his brethren, and emptied the store out in about 5 minutes. The people have no respect at all anymore, the spark has been lit and there is no stopping it until everything’s in flames.

    This is exactly what this current administration wanted, and everybody is falling into the trap. I had an opportunity to bring up Colin Kaepernick, and taking a knee, and they started yelling that Him, Colin Kaepernick, was an idiot, Martin Luther King was a sellout and so is John Lewis! And that they tried to peaceful tack and now it’s going to be violent. Not good!

    I’m disappointed, because those who considered themselves community leaders are not leading at all, there is no leadership, and when I heard is running with no direction in mind they might just run over the cliff. This is like trying to turn a Ford class aircraft carrier on a dime. It ain’t gonna happen! You know, there doesn’t even have to be any brownshirts, these folks are gonna destroy themselves! The stupidity of youth, it is ruling the day!

  17. john,

    “This is exactly what this current administration wanted, and everybody is falling into the trap.”

    This is beyond any Nazi playbook. Hitler, at first, took the Germans forward, President Death is taking us all to Dante’s 7th circle of Hell, as a starter. What a ride this is going to be. Only two more circles to go. Wow!

  18. Pete )and everyone else) I suggest you buy and read Robert Reich’s latest book, “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.”

    MOST PEOPLE in this country, including my 3 millennial children, have NO dog in the casino game known as The Stock Market. 105 of those who own stock own 80% of stock wealth!!! THAT, to me, is a very small community of money players who are DISCONNECTED to the REAL world of dog eat dog survival (living).

    The Stock Market is NOT THE ECONOMY!!! That should be obvious to anyone with eyes and ears and a decent brain to work with.

    SCREW the “Stock Market.” Seriously. It’s a canard, a straw man, whatever you want to call it. Most of us don’t give a rats ass about it. My oldest son, his wife, my other son, my wife…ALL losing their jobs because WE live in the REAL economy where the rulers of this nation, the rulers of this “economy,” don’t give a shit about us. PERIOD. And it has been that way for MANY decades.

    Funny (in an unfortunately deadly way) how a pandemic MIGHT be opening some white folk eyes to the truth of our society which has been corrupt for the benefit of the few for far too long.

    Capitalism has ALWAYS worked for the money class. ALWAYS. Fact. For a few decades we had “social programs” (charity) thrown at the working class. Some even got a free college education (but that didn’t last….). Now we have obscene college tuition’s that NO REAL PERSON can afford leaving education ONLY for the Money Class.

    Capitalism, as it always does, has taken most of these charities BACK!!! The money allocated for those programs now live in the off shore non-taxed accounts of The Money Party (formerly the 2 system party…).

    The Brown Shirts have been the business/money class who have been working like hell to take over the entire economic AND political systems for over 100 years going back to the Robber Barons.

    Guess what???? THEY OWN IT ALL.

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