By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: November 14, 2016
Rudy Giuliani is said to be under serious consideration by President-elect Donald Trump to lead the U.S. Department of Justice as Attorney General. There are a number of serious problems with Giuliani serving in this post, including his track record of stomping on the Bill of Rights and his employment as a law partner with Greenberg Traurig, a corporate law firm with a long history of lobbying for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to weaken protections for the average citizen.
During Rudy Giuliani’s two terms as Mayor of New York City, from 1993 through 2001, he was sued 30 times by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), the state affiliate of the ACLU. Of those 30 lawsuits, the NYCLU won 27 of the cases. (See Editor’s note below on her own case that was successfully challenged in court against the Giuliani administration in 2001 by the NYCLU.) Giuliani had to be hauled into court by the NYCLU time and again due to his authoritarian attitude against free speech, freedom to assemble and protest. Giuliani’s NYPD even went so far as to outlaw protests on the steps of City Hall, a traditional venue for protests in New York City, leading City Council Members to charge him with functioning like a dictator.
Removing peaceful protesters from the sidewalks in front of taxpayer-supported public buildings in New York City and herding them like cattle into metal pens in less visible areas was honed into an art form by Giuliani. In its 60th Anniversary Annual Report, the NYCLU characterized Giuliani’s reign as Mayor as follows:
“Defending civil rights is always a priority for the NYCLU, but some eras—and elected officials—demand greater vigilance. Over the eight-year term of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani…NYCLU, under the leadership of Executive Director Norman Siegel, filed more than 30 lawsuits and amicus briefs directed at Giuliani administration policies and practices. We won over 90 percent of them.
“Many focused on Giuliani’s disregard for the First Amendment as he sought to silence his critics. The NYCLU successfully challenged the Giuliani administration for NYPD retaliation against black and Latino police officers who spoke out about racial profiling, and opposed gag rules that tried to ban city employees from speaking with the press on their own time. The NYCLU successfully challenged Giuliani administration efforts in 1998 to limit protest on the steps of City Hall.
“When the mayor tried to censor a bus ad that satirized him, courts agreed with the NYCLU and rejected his attempt at censorship as unconstitutional. The NYCLU also vindicated the First Amendment rights of city cab drivers when the Giuliani administration ordered a blockade of East River crossings in a failed effort to stop them from conducting a taxicab caravan protest across the bridges.
“And in 2001, we defended the right of housing advocates to protest by sleeping on the sidewalk across the street from Gracie Mansion—and we defended the right of a church to allow homeless people to sleep on its own church steps. That same year, an NYCLU lawsuit forced the NYPD to abandon its policy of arresting and holding protesters overnight, for next-day arraignments, in favor of issuing them desk appearance tickets…
“Throughout the Giuliani administration, the NYCLU kept close watch on the NYPD and its oversight body, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, publishing seven separate reports that criticized the agency for failing to provide meaningful oversight of the police. The NYCLU’s 1998 report Deflecting Blame critiqued Giuliani administration failures to reform police practices in the wake of several notorious cases of police brutality—the brutal torture of Abner Louima and the killing of Anthony Baez, Michael Stewart, Amadou Diallo and far too many others.”
Also unknown to most Americans, Giuliani was a law partner at Greenberg, Traurig until he took a leave of absence last month. In just a two-year period from 2014 through 2015, the law firm garnered more than $12 million as a corporate lobbyist, pushing for pro-corporate legislation before the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.
Greenberg, Traurig has a long-tenured relationship as a lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has sought to restrict the rights of average citizens to hold corporations accountable through class action lawsuits. The Chamber was also an active player in the 2010 Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. That decision has allowed corporations to spend unlimited sums on elections while giving groups like the Chamber the ability to use massive contributions from anonymous donors to preordain the outcome of elections. As a 501(c) entity, the Chamber does not have to disclose the sources of its funding while it simultaneously engages in dark money electioneering.
According to a report from Public Citizen, a corporate watch dog organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the “largest overall spender in the 2014 congressional elections among outside groups that do not disclose their contributors.” The report also found that the Chamber was “the largest such spender in more than 80 percent of the contests it has sought to influence,” spending $31.8 million as of October 25, 2014.”
In 2006, Public Citizen filed a complaint with the IRS against the Chamber, charging that it and “its affiliated Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) failed to report millions in taxable spending from 2000 to 2004 intended to influence state-level attorney general and state supreme court races and federal races around the country.”
On the day the complaint was filed, Public Citizen’s President, Joan Claybrook, stated: “The Chamber is playing an elaborate shell game to conceal its gambit to stack the courts with hand-picked pro-corporate judges. The IRS should promptly investigate its dubious tax reports and address any abuses that it finds.”
According to the complaint, in 2000 the Chamber claimed it had succeeded in winning 15 out of 17 state supreme court races after spending $6 million. In 2002, it announced that it would spend $40 million on political races in Congress and state-level races for attorney general. According to Public Citizen’s complaint, the Chamber failed to report this activity on its tax returns from 2000 to 2003.
It’s a tragic commentary on our times that millions of citizens who make up the working class of America seriously believe that Donald Trump and his pro-corporate Republicans and their dark money front groups are going to level the playing field for the little guy in America.
Donald Trump was anti-establishment in rhetoric only. Senator Bernie Sanders was and is the real thing, as his lifetime of social justice efforts attest. Confusing the two could prove fatal to civil rights in America.
Editor’s Note: Pam Martens, Editor of Wall Street On Parade, was represented by the NYCLU in 2001. Martens was peacefully protesting outside of the taxpayer-supported Carnegie Hall in April of 2001 against the serially corrupt practices of Wall Street banking behemoth, Citigroup, when she was singled out from the crowd, arrested and placed in a jail cell with the threat to hold her for three days. Flaunting its control of government, Citigroup was using the publicly supported Carnegie Hall building to holds its annual shareholders meeting.
Martens was part of a group from the National Organization for Women’s New York City Chapter which was calling for an end to Citigroup and Wall Street’s private justice system which bars court access to workers and brokerage firm customers.
At the time of Martens’ arrest, Giuliani’s Police Commissioner was Bernie Kerik, (later sent to prison over corruption charges). During the course of the case, the NYCLU learned from an internal memo that the Giuliani administration had instituted a policy of jailing protesters if they appeared in a group of 20 or more, an outrageous assault on the Bill of Rights guarantee of freedom to assemble.