Possible Supreme Court picks gave only to Democrats, or not at all
by Will Tucker on February 17, 2016
President Obama may pick his nominee to fill the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat as early as next week. If the inside-the-Beltway speculation is any good, chances are he’ll pick a Democratic donor.
OpenSecrets Blog reviewed contributions by nine potential picks listed in reports by Politico and the Associated Press and found that, of those who have have made contributions to federal campaigns or committees since 2003, the (maybe, perhaps) prospective candidates have been solidly Democratic; not a single donation has crept across the aisle.
Seven of them — D.C. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan, D.C. Circuit Judge Robert Wilkins, Ninth Circuit Judge Paul Watford, D.C. Circuit Judge Patricia Ann Millett, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have together given more than $924,000, campaign finance data shows.
First, let’s set Klobuchar aside, since she and her leadership PAC — Follow the North Star Fund, formed after she was first elected to the Senate in 2006 — account for more than $783,000 of the contributions. Like most other members of Congress, Klobuchar uses the PAC to give to her party’s challengers and incumbents who are in need.
Of the remaining six, Johnson alone accounts for about $100,000, most of which he gave in 2007 and 2008 while working at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. All of the six contributors have given to Obama.
Two of the current judges on the list, D.C. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland and Ninth Circuit Judge Jacqueline Nguyen, made no contributions that we could locate using our Donor Lookup.
Srinivasan, perhaps the most frequently noted potential replacement for Scalia, gave $7,251 between 2007 and 2010 while he was in private practice at O’Melveny & Myers LLP. He gave Obama’s first presidential campaign $4,250, contributed to a 2010 candidate for Congress in Kansas and gave a small amount to the Democratic National Committee. Data show Srinivasan was an early Obama supporter: He first gave him $250 in December 2007.
Meanwhile, Millett, another judge who may be in contention, supported Clinton. She gave a total of $7,100 between 2008 and 2012, including $2,300 — then a maximum contribution — to Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. She didn’t offer a donation to Obama until he was running for re-election in the 2012 cycle, first giving $500 in 2011 and then another $2,500 in September before the election.
While the judges, other than Garland, made a modest number of contributions (Watford gave at least $5,300, Wilkins gave at least $11,362), Johnson outpaced them all. He contributed $99,960 between 2003 and 2008, giving to whole host of Democrats — including a $1,000 contribution to Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). In a testament to his ability to see both sides of an issue (which might be a good thing in a justice), or perhaps in a moment of terrible uncertainty (which might not), Johnson wrote checks for $2,300 apiece to both Obama and Clinton on July 31, 2008. His largest contribution, $28,460, went to the Democratic National Committee the same year.
Lynch, the other Senate-confirmed Obama administration official who has been mentioned, has given $10,700 — $5,600 of which went to Obama in 2008.
We’ve left out two of the names mentioned in the speculation articles: California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for Senate and says she’s not interested in the court vacancy; and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), whose inclusion on the list is a mystery to us.
See any more names? Did Washington parlor talk miss a potential Supreme Court nominee who has a real shot? Plug them into Donor Lookup and let us know.
Originally published at www.opensecrets.org on February 17, 2016.