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nellie On January - 30 - 2010

In the article, A Quest to End Spending Rules for Campaigns, the New York Times wrote about a “lonely Quixote tilting at the very idea of regulating political donations as an affront to free speech” named James Bopp Jr. Bopp is the man who convinced Citizens United to use Hillary the Movie as a deliberate test of the limits of campaign finance law—with an eye toward seeing the case end up in the Supreme Court.

“We had a 10-year plan to take all this down,” he said in an interview. “And if we do it right, I think we can pretty well dismantle the entire regulatory regime that is called campaign finance law.”

“We have been awfully successful,” he added, “and we are not done yet.”

The next item on Bopp’s agenda is to challenge disclosure requirements, so that American citizens will be bombarded by campaign ads financed by interests that can’t be identified.

“Groups have to be relieved of reporting their donors if lifting the prohibition on their political speech is going to have any meaning,” he said. Requiring groups that buy political commercials to report their donors is almost as punitive, he said, “as an outright criminal go-to-jail-time prohibition.”

The success of Bopp’s one-man quest has been spectacular—nothing less than the overturn of a century of Supreme Court precedent by an activist, corporatist, corrupt group of conservative judges currently serving on the High Court. The decision should come as no surprise, considering that a similarly constituted court overturned the very Constitution itself by choosing the American president in 2000.

Progressives should be asking themselves “Where’s our  Mr. Bopp?” Or better still, “How can I  be a Mr. Bopp?”

If one person can turn the country upside down on the conservative side—using only time and careful planning as his primary tools—then progressives should be able to do the same thing on the people’s behalf.

The genius of Mr. Bopp’s coup is that it strikes at the very heart of our democracy, essentially making the citizen’s voice irrelevant. There’s little doubt that congress will counter the court’s ruling with new campaign finance legislation. Their jobs are at stake, and we have a president who is visibly outraged by the decision. But the fact that a single individual could bring our country to the brink in this way should be instructive.

Progressives need to do more than react to bad presidents and bad policy. We need to do more than stand up for principle. We need to cultivate in ourselves a little of Mr. Bopp’s talent for long-range planning, patience, persistence, and above all his understanding for what makes this country tick. If we want to create a truly progressive future, we need to get out ahead of the curve in the same way our conservative counterparts always manage to do—but on behalf of the American people, rather than the money and authoritarians so well served by James Bopp Jr.

Categories: News & Politics

47 Responses so far.

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  1. javaz says:

    James Bopp, Jr. is a prominent pro-life and conservative attorney. He has served as the general counsel for National Right to Life since 1978 and as the special counsel for Focus on the Family since 2004.


    Let me guess what Bopp will take to the SCOTUS eventually -- overturning Roe vs Wade?

  2. bitohistory says:

    Another one of Mr. Bopp’s cases:
    Petition for Full Court Rehearing Filed in Real Truth About Obama v. FEC


  3. javaz says:

    Wow, another amazing piece, Nellie!
    I’ve never heard of this guy, but it’s a good thing to be aware of him and machinations.

  4. escribacat says:

    Nellie, Are you sure you’re not a writer for The Nation? Excellent article. I’ve never heard of this guy. Why isn’t this type of thing reported in the MSM? I really don’t understand it. Is it laziness or censorship on their part.

    Meanwhile, I agree that we seem to be lacking this type of “activist” on the left. I wonder what his motivation is, and whose payroll he is on.

  5. whatsthatsound says:

    I see Dr. Suits’ next offering.

    See Bopp.
    Stop Bopp!
    Make Bopp Flop!

    • boomer1949 says:

      Whatsie my dear,

      Please start now to develop the appropriate artwork…you and Dr. Suits + that God Guy, are a major team! Just don’t forget us “little people” and I’m not referring to…

      How’s your weekend so far?

      O-H-I-O! I know, you’ve not been here for awhile, yet I enjoy messing with you! 🙂

      • whatsthatsound says:

        Hi Boomer,

        Weekend is good, but a working one. Bizzy bizzy.
        Me and the good Dr. are already thinking about how we can collaborate in the future. There will be more, promise!

    • escribacat says:

      😆 I keep thinking Hail Bopp!

  6. AdLib says:

    Wonderful article, Nellie!

    I don’t think Bopp should be given so much credit though, anymore than the belligerent anti-abortion extremists should be if an anti-abortion majority was in the SCOTUS and they appealed a case to them.

    Deconstructing what happened, once the SCOTUS had a pro-corporate Repub majority, it was only a matter of time until someone would appeal a case to them and have them agree to consider it and of course, find in its favor.

    He is not a genius or some remarkable architect. If we were fortunate enough to get a Dem majority in the SCOTUS, then Dems will find a case to appeal up to them to reverse this obscenity called a ruling.

    Until then, there isn’t much we can do through the SC, they would rule 5-4 against any opposing case.

    This will need to be addressed in Congress and immediately, before the 2010 elections really begin.

    • nellie says:

      I’ll have to think about your comment, AdLib. I can’t help but believe this guy is smart. It’s unappealing to think so because he’s a rat. Nevertheless…

      It’s possible someone else would have brought a similar case and this was just a matter of time, but from the NYT article, it seems he’s been working on this since the 90s.

      I can’t help but admire the planning and dedication and sense of purpose.

      I’d like to see more of that on the left.

      • SanityNow says:

        I think it is fair to say Bopp is a fellow conspirator amongst a fairly cohesive and patient group of co-conspirators.

        Great article nellie. Thanks for the daylight.

        • nellie says:

          Thanks, SN.

          Bopp reminds me of the Koch brothers.

          • SanityNow says:

            but will bopp actually get exposed like they have? keeping a guy like that in the public eye, which would also have the effect of daylighting his coworkers as well, would be a pretty good antidote to what he and his are up to.

  7. KQuark says:

    First let me just answer the question you put forward.

    Huge money the root of all our problems was behind ending these campaign finance laws. Money is an organizing force unto itself because you can just hire people to do anything whereas any grassroots efforts requires much of the work to be done by part time volunteers.

    Apathy is another problem because while people don’t want corporations to take over government they are resigned to the fact that they cannot do anything about it because corporate control of government is the one of the few self sustaining downward spirals that is not hyperbole. The more control they get the less likely it will be reversed and we could be past that tipping point.

    Americans are a reactionary people. For Americans to take problems like this to the street times need to be much much worse. I read a great article on the huge increase in income inequality that has brought us back to the twenties. The tax cuts for the rich philosophy remains and cause this income inequality that is destroying the middle class. People have allot of angst but the direction is at each other instead of towards the corrupt system. The teabaggers have it all wrong with wanting tax cuts when raising taxes on the rich is our only solution.

    Article from DailyKOS.

    ” width=”500″ height=”300″ alt=”dftt” />

    • SanityNow says:

      depressingly true KQ.

      here is a recent article supporting your thesis:


    • nellie says:

      I see your point, K, but that’s not my question. My question isn’t — why aren’t people out in the streets. My question is — where is that lone, wonky, progressive fanatic who’s willing to think about things in terms of decades rather than months? Where’s our evil genius? That’s my question.

      This guy single handedly orchestrated the development of this case and then moved it through the courts until it reached the Supreme Court. Then Olsen took over. It’s impressive. I want a guy like this on the side of the people.

      • ArtMan says:

        Well Nellie,

        We do have a chance to work on a project of far-reaching importance that is one of the bricks in the great wall…. Educational Reform.

        It is by no means a quick fix, it is a long range broad sweeping evolution/revolution that would once again empower the people to develop, enhance and ensure their ability to think critically, which is a capacity that has been diminished over the last 50 years by our compromised/modified and dummied down educational system. The reasons for that are the subject of a white paper too many to mention here.

        But you can’t change something as enormous as this institution by getting mired in the details. The single most important step in changing education is by first defining what it means to be educated. That definition is the magic bullet. Right now an education is defined as passing your exit exam.

        Therein lies the tragedy, and the great opportunity.

      • KQuark says:

        I just doubt that things would be much different without Bopp. Maybe it happened a bit faster but corporations were always going to get their day in court. I think it was more about the money behind the effort than the person and the strategy. I mean this guy Bopp was their hand picked champion for the effort but if he was not around they would have picked someone else. I just think it’s relatively easy to negotiate the conservative circuits in this country when the executive has been dominated by Republicans the last 30 years and when you have a SCOTUS that is ultra conservative.

        Frankly I think groups like the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center have been much more successful in the courts because they have to deal with a more hostile judicial environment yet they have got some amazing rulings. I think they are the few groups that think long term and have as just as many genius litigators. Watch the ACLU will have it’s day in court on this issue but the thing that needs to be done to give them a chance is changing the makeup of the SCOTUS. That’s the difficult strategy to accomplish.

        • bitohistory says:

          The ACLU was for the decision handed down by the SC.

          • KQuark says:

            Obviously that’s a shock to me but that’s how some liberal ideologues think though. They must look at it as a black and white issue. That’s the problem I have with the ACLU on some issues. They don’t think on any sort of practical level. But that also explains why it was so easy for Bopp to get this far as well. If corporations and and the ACLU is for something then you are probably tying up some to the best litigators in the country. Maybe the answer is to push the ACLU to change their position. Like nellie says money is not free speech.

          • nellie says:

            Astonishing, no?

            Free speech is such a tricky concept. Obviously, speech needs to be regulated in some cases.

            But what I don’t understand about the ACLU position is that money is not speech. Speech cannot be taxed. Speech cannot purchase goods. Speech cannot be left on the table at a restaurant as a tip to the server.

            And what an affront to the concept of “Civil Liberties” that the ACLU would get behind the idea that a corporation — that does not feel, does not eat, does not need shelter, and has never been to a dentist — would be the same as a person.

            • KQuark says:

              That’s the problem with the ACLU’s thinking it’s not a difficult concept with them and it should be. I disagree with some of the positions the ACLU has taken on hate speech and security issues sometimes as well. They sometimes confuse rule of law with anarchy.

              Maybe the best way to address this issue is with civil rights lawyers like those at Southern Poverty Law.

              I also think that progressives will act on this even though they have been reactionary once again. They will find their Bopps if it takes many progressive lawyers to get this done. I still think legislation just will not work, litigation is the way we must fight this. It

            • SanityNow says:

              I am reeling from the ACLU revelation…and I couldn’t agree more about the this miraculous equivalency being created between citizens and corporations, speech and money.did they really just open that door?

              maybe just another glass of plum hootch. it’s been a long week.

    • nellie says:

      He may be unsavory, but he certainly was effective in getting our campaign finance environment turned upside down.

      I’d love to see some thinking like this on the left — long-range thinking, ambitious goals, targets that change the system. We don’t do much of that, imo. We spend most of our time reacting.

      • nellie says:

        LOL @ the start of your post, boomer. I go w definition 4:

        4. socially or morally objectionable or offensive: an unsavory past; an unsavory person.

        I’m not saying we should be unprincipled. I’m saying, we should be more strategic. Think years out. I don’t think we should mimic the lack of conscience evident in the right wing, but I certainly would like to achieve their results in the courts and the legislature. I’d like protections for people that rival the protections they achieve for corporations. I wouldn’t mind having a media structure like theirs, either — programming on strong signals all over the country. Broadcasting the truth instead of propaganda.

        • boomer1949 says:



          This is exactly my point. I’m 60 years old, somewhat naive (still and Dog forbid), trusting, not evil, and much like President O, believes “man if we can’t rely on each other, then who, pray tell, will we be able to rely on?”

          Why in Dog’s name must everything be religiously or politically motivated? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to aspire to “getting along, just for the sake of getting along.” Live and let live. Jeeze!

          Whether we like it or not, we all reside on the same planet (beliefs may be different), but all of us want to live and enjoy life. Respect every nation, its people, its culture, and (personally?) reserving my opinion as my own and not the preconceived opinion of someone with a desire to stir the pot.

          I took the “test” and I’m hovering right there with the Dali Lhama and Ghandi. OMG, my father the bigot, would be totally ashamed of me, but guess what? He disowned me years ago because I disagreed with him. 🙂

      • bitohistory says:

        what is the plan of action? email the link of the story to the DNC and ask where is our long range planning guy? post the story around lefty blogs asking same? asking Thom Hartman who is fighting against this and again “who/what/where is our long range planner?

    • bitohistory says:

      Well hush my mouth. :-). I guess I just get lazy with all the great people here furnishing links, like you boomer!

      • boomer1949 says:


        When I saw the Jo Ann Davidson connection? I was “blinded by the light” — 😉

        • bitohistory says:

          Boomer, does Jo Ann Davidson hold an office in O-H-I-O ? Should I know about her?

          • boomer1949 says:

            joann davidson…

            To the best of my knowledge Ms. Davidson no longer holds an office in “go Bucks” O-H-I-O. That said, she has been around for a very long time (I even voted for her in the past). This is what popped up at the top of a Google search:


            And then there is John Kasich running for the GOP nominee for Governor, and I hate to say it, Strickland may not stand a snowball’s chance for a second term. John K., on the other hand, is younger, more appealing, heck I loved the guy twenty years ago 😉 I knew where he stood then, but now, I’m not so sure. Yet, I really don’t think he is a Neo-Con RW Republican.

            john kasich…


            I no longer live in the district and he has been out of the mainstream for quite some time. So, my opinion is based on where he was and not where he is.

          • boomer1949 says:


            Sorry for the delay. I’ve been commenting to dear nellie and was carried away. Will be back in a few to give you more info. 🙂

  8. BigDogMom says:

    Thanks nellie, this guy is a one man recking ball to our voting rights…is there any way to stop him?

    And, who is financing him?

    Edit: Just answered my second question:


    • boomer1949 says:

      Jo Ann Davidson? She is from my state and an accomplice to this crap?

      Keep an eye out for John Kasich. He intends to run for Governor of OH. He was my Congressman many years ago and had an enormous backing. I even liked him. However, given all the nonsense we’ve seen of late, I wouldn’t be surprised if he isn’t being funded behind the scenes. John and Jo were from the same district for a very long time, and I can’t imagine they aren’t friends at some level.

    • bitohistory says:

      BDM. quick search:
      Mr. Bopp is a busy guy


      U.S. Supreme Court Prevents Release of Referendum Petitions in Washington

      Today, a full panel of the Supreme Court of the United States, in an 8-1 vote, issued an order preventing the Washington Secretary of State from releasing the names, addresses, and other personal information of over 138,000 individuals that signed a referendum petition that seeks to protect traditional marriage in Washington.

      where are the laws for public records now? Gone?

      • BigDogMom says:

        Wow, what happened to the freedom of information act?

        See my link up above to see who this guy is connected to….someone is financing him and it’s the Christian Fundies who have very deep pockets.

        • bitohistory says:

          Mom, I looked at that site. that guy is something else! That is a good site. I found nothing on him in source watch, he seems to fly below the radar.
          C&P that site to my keeper list. Thanks.

          Weird aside: He went to I.U. the same time I did! I may have heard of him then, but then I was with the SDS! The other side. 🙂

  9. bitohistory says:

    nellie, I may comment later, but a heads up! Your link does not go to the article. On purpose?

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