This week, a bombshell report by Business Insider revealed that the top campaign contributors for state politicians pushing draconian, regressive bills on reproductive rights included a string of telecom giants including AT&T, Cox, and Verizon. Also in the mix: WalMart, Citi Group, and Exxon.
It’s a bit of a head scratcher. While corporate corruption is par for the course in American politics, why would these massive conglomerates have vested stake in reducing women’s access to health care and limiting reproductive rights?
We often think of lobbying as serving corporate interests. For example, a plastics manufacturer lobbying against environmental regulations, while ethically and morally reprehensible, may make sense from an exploitative, profiteering standpoint. So why are these companies weighing in on something that has no discernible connection to their bottom line?
There’s only one way to understand what’s really happening behind the scenes, and that’s by following the money.
This particular selection of seemingly uncorrelated industries do have one striking commonality: their largest shareholder. The Vanguard Group is the largest institutional investor of all the corporations covered by Business Insider‘s investigative report. The Vanguard Group is the largest shareholder in right-wing media conglomerate FOX News Corp and Axel Springer, known as the the “Rupert Murdoch” of German media. Axel Springer also happened to buy out D.C.-politics outlet Politico—the conduit of the alleged “leak” of Supreme Court opinion—with an above-market offer that caught the media world off guard in August of last year.
But this is hardly Vanguard Group Inc’s only ties to attacks on women’s rights to self-determination with radical evangelical ideology. It seeks to codify its extremist views in American civil life in direct contradiction of Constitutional values.
In fact, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, the primary author of the leaked draft opinion, has a long and questionable history with the red pill investment vehicle, Vanguard Group Inc. It’s a relationship he routinely compromises his judicial integrity for— and so far, without recourse.
One of these transgressions involved a 2002 case Alito presided over in which Vanguard Group Inc. was the defendant. Predictably Alito, who at the time had approximately half of his net worth invested in conflicting interests, ruled in favor of Vanguard Group and against a woman.
He made this ruling despite a written statement he made during his 1990 nomination to the appellate court. In it, Alito agreed, on the record, to recuse himself from any case involving Vanguard Group Inc. to avoid conflicts of interest. In his own words, Alito wrote:
“I do not believe that financial conflicts of interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any case involving Vanguard companies, the brokerage firm of Smith Barney, or the First Federal & Loan of Rochester, New York. ”
–Injustice Samuel Alito’s written statement at confirmation hearing (evidence so nice we had to link it twice).
And a screenshot for good measure:
His pledge rang hollow when Alito proceeded to rule in Vanguard’s favor in a 2002 case filed by a grieving widow attempting to unfreeze her late husband’s frozen assets. The case’s plaintiff, Shantee Maharaj, held Alito accountable by reminding him of his 1990 written statement to recuse himself from any Vanguard-related case. Once again, justice was denied.
“They have $600 billion invested with them,” Alito said in 2005. “The idea that a case like this would affect that is just ludicrous.”
In other words, the widow’s late husband’s life savings, approximately $500,000, were so inconsequential in his view, he had the right to withhold it from her and it was “ludicrous” that anyone should think otherwise, because Vanguard had so much more money than that. He failed to address how that justified him ruling in a Vanguard-related case at all—whether that be for $1, $1 million, or $1 trillion—something he expressly stated he would recuse himself from at his confirmation hearing, on the record, in writing. In fewer words: We’re rich, don’t question us, peasant. We are entitled to everything you have, everything you’ve worked for.
Alito chalked it up to a clerical error and noted that he now required recusal cases to be printed on red paper to avoid missing them. Because presumably, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, he can’t read.
Since then, investment firm Vanguard Group’s AUM (Assets Under Management) has mushroom clouded to $7.5 trillion, coming straight from the horse’s mouth. That’s an increase of 1250% over the course of 20 years, and nearly 300% of the American People’s life savings combined.
Likewise, Alito’s personal net worth has swelled alongside it. Alito’s net worth exploded approximately seven fold over the same period, a period that commenced when Injustice Alito took the bench on fast-broken promises and leveraged it at every turn for his own enrichment and to the detriment of The American People. To the surprise of no one, both Alito and Vanguard’s portfolio’s net worth followed similar trend lines, including exceptionally sharp, exponential increases in 2012 and near vertical ascents in 2020.
If an official on-the-record document in which Alito himself writes that he will recuse himself from a case if it involves Vanguard Group, but proceeds preside over and rule in Vanguard’s favor anyways (surprise!), still isn’t enough to pull Alito from the bench…what would?
That’s about as black and white as it gets. Even then, Alito managed to dodge justice and remain on the bench.
But don’t despair. You have more power than you think, and there are fairly simple ways to fight back with impact. If you have any accounts held with Vanguard, move them to another firm.
Divest from Vanguard by any means necessary. If you have 401ks or Roth IRAs with them, move them. If you hold any shares with their ETFs, sell them. Every red cent.
While $7 trillion+ is a formidable amount, it’s important to understand that most investment firms don’t keep much cash on hand in the form of “liquidity” as it is known in the financial world. Liquidity is a false idol every suit on Wall Street would push his grandmother down a staircase for. They funnel those funds (i.e., your 401k and Roth IRA) into assets (such as the housing market, where they are also driving up cost of living) in hopes of siphoning out ever more wealth, or as they like to call them, “returns,” from it’s actual creators—the working class.
Therefore, The People do not need to withdraw the full $7 trillion, and couldn’t if we wanted to. We would just need to burn off the liquidity (usually about 3-5% of their total AUM) hitting this critical threshold and forcing them into asset sell off territory.
Withdrawing 10% of Vanguard’s portfolio would almost certainly do the trick. Couple that will a mass Vanguard ETF sell off and the “investment firm” (or more accurately, wealth-siphoning corruption vehicle) would be put into a tailspin that will spiral downward as quickly as it went exponential.
How fitting then, that Vanguard’s symbol looks like a pirate ship, an homage of their shameless pillage and plunder of the People.
The devil’s in the details in the Book of Revelations.