Editorial: ‘Servants of the Damned’ tend to get their way

Photo Courtesy Architect of the Capitol:

Column By John Young

Two headlines last week pretty much summed up how the world works – to the world’s detriment.

The first: a report in the journal Science that Exxon-Mobile’s own scientists were “remarkably accurate” in predicting global warming as far back as the 1970s, and of course played it down.

The second: that Sen. Joe Manchin’s top aide has resigned to lobby for Big Energy behemoth American Petroleum Institute.

Yes, this is how it works. The revolving door between government and big-money interests always spins to counter the public interest.

As the revelation about Exxon-Mobile demonstrates — and most certainly this relates to the sooty coal industry — the key players behind global catastrophe know what they’re doing, but the money’s too good to change.

The syndrome plays out in so many ways that are detrimental to Earth’s inhabitants.

The New York Times’ David Enrich wrote a book about it.

“Servants of the Damned,” is focused on giant law firms whose trade is to relieve giant corporations of responsibility for the damned things they do.

Principally he focuses on law firm Jones Day, which rose from respectability as a Cleveland firm to become a global giant serving any number of intolerable causes, such as aiding Donald Trump in his quest to throw out the results of the 2020 election.

Jones Day also facilitated the central role of the Federalist Society in populating the federal bench under Trump, including key figures under whom the Supreme Court now is so completely out of tune with the wishes of most Americans.

Jones Day had a good thing going when it represented tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds’ fight against all evidence that its products were killing millions.

A two-step strategy, writes Enrich: “Blur the science, blame the victims.”

In 1985 when Jones Day started representing it, RJR was spending about $12 million a year on its legal battles. By the late ‘90s it was spending $94 million a year, 19 percent of Jones Day’s total take.

The firm became the go-to defender of companies guilty of corporate irresponsibility or outright criminality but with the means to fight off legal challenges. Making it more powerful was how Jones Day came to infect the Trump administration.

Consider how federal prosecutors were thwarted when they sought to hold Walmart, a Jones Day client, responsible for over-prescribing opioids at its pharmacies. The probe was squelched by former Jones Day attorneys who had joined the Trump Justice Department. You had the classic conflict of interest: justice compromised.

In sum, writes Enrich, the role of giant firms like Jones Day is to help clients “sidestep regulations, control the media, whitewash their reputations, dodge taxes and hide their money.”

What more suitable client for such services than Donald Trump.

The irony is that unlike Big Tobacco and Sam Walton’s kingdom, Trumpdom has a reputation of skating on paying its bills.

While acknowledging that Trump paid some of what Jones Day billed, Enrich writes that the firm gave him a tremendous break so as to harvest from the prestige of its many and varied roles in the federal government under Trump.

“We were subsidizing Trump,” one partner told Enrich. “I told everyone who would listen: We were fools.”

Enrich writes about the outrage many of those partners felt when on Jan. 6, 2021, pro-Trump goons laid siege to the U.S Capitol while Client No. 1 sat back in his private dining room and watched it all on TV.

One of the issues interesting special prosecutor Jack Smith now involves the fraudulent claims of the political action committees Trump formed in the supposed quest of “Stop the steal” but which clearly is Trump’s means of raking in millions.

Guess which big firm represents them? Yep.

The most corrupt president in American history knows exactly how the world works.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email him at  jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

The opinions of this editorial are those of the author.