A right-wing billionaire is spending a fortune to take over state supreme courts

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While everyone is focused on tomorrow’s Congressional and gubernatorial races, the far-right also has their sight set on another set of races that few people pay any attention to. With little notice, a PAC founded by right-wing billionaire Richard Uihlein has put up $22 million to elect extremists to the supreme courts of seven states. 

The goal of Fair Courts America is to turn the supreme courts in Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas into a rubber stamp for every far-right wish. Given the amount of money that the group is sinking into the contests, it stands a good chance of reaching its goal.

Fair Courts America says that it is fighting against “progressive activists [who] seek to take control of the courts away from the people, to enact a liberal agenda resulting in violence and crime in our communities and creating victims of our neighbors. Fair Courts America is committed to standing against this tide, uniting voters across the political spectrum, and restoring America’s courts to their original purpose.”

Just how much the group is interested in reaching out across the political spectrum is clear from the mission statement for Restoration of America, the umbrella organization for Fair Courts America. “We know that in our current era our nation’s most significant threats are twofold: internally – the elite, Marxist neo-liberals and, externally – Communist China,” the group proclaims.

Uihlein and his wife Liz own the shipping supply giant Uline, whose ubiquitous cardboard boxes have made the Uihleins even more wealthy (Richard was heir to a brewery fortune). A recent ProPublica investigation described the company as a cash cow that was also rigidly run; women are not permitted to wear pants except as part of a pantsuit or on Fridays.

The Uihleins have been contributing to right-wing candidates for a while, but have remained largely below the radar. They unsuccessfully sank $7.5 million into defeating out Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in 2018. Besides the Fair Courts America project, the Uihleins have also been underwriting a slew of transphobic ads during this election cycle through the American Principles Project.

But the investment in the Supreme Court candidates is an effort to play the long game. Only 22 states elect judges, and most elections have been heretofore above the political fray. But Fair America Courts candidates don’t have any problem making it clear that they will be MAGA justices.

Three candidates in Ohio endorsed by the group appeared at a rally with Donald Trump and subsequently refused to say that the 2020 election was legitimately decided. In Kentucky, one candidate is running openly as an anti-abortion Republican. Fair Courts America has given his campaign and two other candidates a staggering $1.6 million.

Abortion ranks high on the list of reasons why Fair America Courts wants to control state supreme courts. The justices on the courts will be positioned to uphold ultra-restrictive measures or outright bans passed by state legislatures. They will also look favorably on efforts to draw districts to unfairly favor Republicans at the expense of Democrats.

Of course, LGBTQ progress would be at risk too. In Texas, it was the state supreme court that ruled that the governor couldn’t investigate the parents of a trans child for child abuse. Uihlein-favored candidates would likely have no such qualms.

Just look to Wisconsin, where right-wing partisans control the state supreme court. There, the court ruled that a trans sex offender couldn’t change her name on the state sex offender registry. 

In races where voters aren’t paying much attention, a little money can make a difference. A lot of money can make a big difference. In this case, the Uihleins may be able to buy exactly the kind of courts he wants, the kind where justice is only for those they think are worthy of it. As for the rest of their fellow Americans, we’re not citizens deserving of rights. We’re just a threat.

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