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Rick Santorum Picked The Ethical Trainwreck Who Thinks Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional As His Favorite Justice

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"Rick Santorum Picked The Ethical Trainwreck Who Thinks Child Labor Laws Are Unconstitutional As His Favorite Justice"

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Yesterday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) surprised Google users and anyone who was around for the 2006 elections by coming within just eight votes of victory in the Iowa Republican caucus. Santorum’s path to the GOP nomination is still quite uncertain, to say the least, but he has now emerged as the most likely rival to Mitt Romney. As such, it is worth considering how both men would approach judicial nominations if they were elected to pick the nation’s federal judges.

As ThinkProgress previously explained, Romney would not pick good judges or justices. Romney is unambiguously pleased with the Roberts Court’s record of deference to wealthy corporations. His four model justices — Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito — all cast the same unforgivable vote for corporate-owned elections in Citizens United. They each voted to allow a wealthy individual to effectively buy a seat on the West Virginia Supreme Court, and they have consistently pushed more and more creative ways to immunize corporations from the law.

Yet there is reason to suspect that Santorum’s judges would be even worse. At a recent GOP debate, Santorum was the only candidate who identified a single justice as his favorite current member of the Supreme Court — Justice Clarence Thomas.

Frequent readers of this blog do not need to be reminded of how ominous Santorum’s choice is. For one thing, it shows that Santorum takes a very cavalier attitude towards the need for judges to be untainted by outside influences and beyond reproach. Justice Thomas is caught in a long list of ethics scandals, but the most disturbing is probably his penchant for accepting lavish gifts from wealth individuals and corporate-aligned organizations. Leading conservative donor Harlan Crow, whose company often litigates in federal court, provided $500,000 to allow Thomas’s wife to start a Tea Party group and he once gave Thomas a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative think tank which frequently files briefs in Thomas’ Court, also gave Thomas a $15,000 bust of Abraham Lincoln as a gift. As ThinkProgress has explained, this gifting scandal closely resembles a similar one that forced Justice Abe Fortas to resign from the Supreme Court in disgrace in 1969.

Santorum’s affection for Thomas also raises very serious questions about how he views the Constitution. Thomas certainly shares Santorum’s view that the Constitution does not protect Americans’ right to use contraception or choose their own sexual partners, but so do other members of the Supreme Court. Moreover, unlike Justice Antonin Scalia, Thomas does not really share Santorum’s gratuitous belligerence towards gay people. Scalia’s dissent in the seminal gay right’s case Lawrence v. Texas is riddled with angry conspiracy theories about a “homosexual agenda” that has supposedly taken over the legal profession. Thomas’ dissent, by contrast, describes the Texas sodomy law struck down in Lawrence as “uncommonly silly” and warns that “[p]unishing someone for expressing his sexual preference through noncommercial consensual conduct with another adult does not appear to be a worthy way to expend valuable law enforcement resources.” If Santorum were looking for someone that shares his cultural grievances, he would have named Scalia has his model justice.

Perhaps the greatest difference between Scalia and Thomas, however, is Thomas’ belief that pretty much everything violates the Constitution (with the exception of state laws criminalizing sex, of course). Thomas has repeatedly advocated a twisted reading of the Constitution that would invalidate a long list of essential laws, including the federal ban on workplace discrimination, similar laws protecting older Americans and Americans with disabilities, the national minimum wage, national child labor laws, and the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters.

Santorum’s selection of Thomas over Scalia strongly suggests that he shares many of Thomas’ most radical views. Now that Santorum has emerged as a major Republican candidate, he has an obligation to explain whether or not he shares his model justice’s desire to see most of the last century declared unconstitutional.

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