Bench Memos

The Money Behind the Friedrichs Case

Politico ran a story on Friday that revealed that the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), the non-profit, public-interest law firm that is representing Rebecca Friedrichs and 9 other public school teachers from California in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, *gulp*, received donations from charitable foundations that support their work.  Given that CIR is a non-profit that relies on donations to provide pro bono legal assistance to its clients, much like any number of similar public-interest legal organizations on both the left and the right, I’m stunned, and I am sure that you are, too.

But Politico missed the real story of the money behind this case: Rebecca Friedrichs.  Yes, the namesake of the case, Rebecca Friedrichs. 

Rebecca Friedrichs is paying for a team of high-priced lawyers, the list of which has grown as the case has made its way up to the Supreme Court.  She is also paying for a sophisticated communications campaign, with well-produced graphics and videos.  Nothing is being left to chance.

And all of the lawyers and communications staff for which Rebecca is paying have one purpose: making sure that Rebecca loses her case.  Why?  Because Rebecca and her fellow plaintiffs are forced to pay for the union’s attempt to defeat their lawsuit (so long as it is not categorized as unrelated to collective bargaining).  They have to pay for the speech that is attacking them.  They have to pay for the unions’ efforts to make sure that they are denied a voice. 

But then, being forced to pay for union speech with which they disagree (and which may actually be harmful to their best interests) is nothing new to Rebecca and her fellow plaintiffs.  The unions take positions in collective bargaining to elevate seniority over merit, to advocate for tenure instead of competition, and to push for pension spending that California cannot afford.  These are all inherently political issues—ones that Rebecca and her fellow plaintiffs are forced to support financially, even if they vehemently disagree with their union’s position.

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that could free Rebecca Friedrichs from the obligation to pay fees to the union for collective bargaining that includes inherently political speech with which she disagrees.  But before she can get relief, Rebecca is being forced to pay for the union’s efforts to deny her of her First Amendment rights.  And that is the real story of the money behind the Friedrichs case that Politico should have told.

Robert Alt is the president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute.

Most Popular


‘Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself’

It was just one more segment to fill out the hour, and thereby fill the long 24 hours of Saturday’s cable news on November 2. Or so it seemed. Navy SEAL Mike Ritland was on the Fox News program Watters World to talk to Jesse Watters about trained German shepherds like the one used in the raid that found ... Read More

A Defining Statement of Modern Conservatism

The greatest documents in American history never lose their ability to astonish. They deserve, and repay, careful study, and inevitably have contemporary resonances no matter how long ago they were written or uttered. There’s no doubt that Ronald Reagan’s “A Time for Choosing” belongs in the top ranks ... Read More
White House

The Russian Conspiracy That Won’t Die

The Mueller report accomplished nothing. Whether you thought that the two-year, $32 million investigation was warranted or not, the report promised to establish a factual record that both sides could accept, especially on the explosive charge that Donald Trump had conspired with the Russians to win the ... Read More
White House

Impeachment Theater of Trolls

As a boy, I used to watch a television show with a weekly gag titled “MasterJoke Theatre.” A pompous egghead smoked a pipe in a leather-bound chair in a richly appointed library, told a joke, and got a pie in the face for his trouble. What the Democrats launched on the Hill this week is their own variant, ... Read More