The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Alito challenges Thomas for "Most Corrupt Justice" award

Pro Publica reported this morning that Justice Sam Alito (R-$), who authored the Court's decision in Dobbs v Jackson Women's Health Organization that essentially (and I hope temporarily) undid Roe v Wade, spent some QT in Alaska with a billionaire and did not report this junket to the Court's ethics watchdog:

In early July 2008, Samuel Alito stood on a riverbank in a remote corner of Alaska. The Supreme Court justice was on vacation at a luxury fishing lodge that charged more than $1,000 a day, and after catching a king salmon nearly the size of his leg, Alito posed for a picture. To his left, a man stood beaming: Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who has repeatedly asked the Supreme Court to rule in his favor in high-stakes business disputes.

Singer was more than a fellow angler. He flew Alito to Alaska on a private jet. If the justice chartered the plane himself, the cost could have exceeded $100,000 one way.

In the years that followed, Singer’s hedge fund came before the court at least 10 times in cases where his role was often covered by the legal press and mainstream media. In 2014, the court agreed to resolve a key issue in a decade-long battle between Singer’s hedge fund and the nation of Argentina. Alito did not recuse himself from the case and voted with the 7-1 majority in Singer’s favor. The hedge fund was ultimately paid $2.4 billion.

Alito did not report the 2008 fishing trip on his annual financial disclosures. By failing to disclose the private jet flight Singer provided, Alito appears to have violated a federal law that requires justices to disclose most gifts, according to ethics law experts.

In an unprecedented step that left me agape at its brazenness, Alito published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last night, even before the Pro Publica article came out:

Alito’s Journal column, bluntly headlined “ProPublica Misleads Its Readers,” was an unusual public venture by a Supreme Court justice into the highly opinionated realm of a newspaper editorial page. And it drew criticism late Tuesday for effectively leaking elements of ProPublica’s still-in-progress journalism — with the assistance of the Journal’s editorial-page editors.

An editor’s note at the top of Alito’s column said that ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan had sent a series of questions to Alito last week and asked for a response by Tuesday at noon. The editor’s note doesn’t mention that ProPublica hadn’t yet published its story — nor that Alito did not provide his answers directly to ProPublica.

In his Journal column, Alito accurately anticipated the thrust of ProPublica’s yet-to-be-published article. He denied he had a conflict in accepting Singer’s “hospitality” or was obligated to disclose the 2008 trip. “Neither charge is valid,” he wrote preemptively.

He asserted that Singer was merely a casual acquaintance, with whom he spoke only fleetingly during the fishing trip, and was not aware of Singer’s connection to any subsequent court matter.

He said he accepted the offer of a seat on Singer’s private plane because it would otherwise have been unoccupied had he declined. A commercial flight, he wrote, would have imposed costs on taxpayers, who would have had to pay for the deputy U.S. marshals who provide security to Supreme Court justices to fly with him.

Like anyone with a pulse who has ever pondered the concept of "corruption" at any time in history, Josh Marshall calls bullshit, pointing out that the same guy who organized Alito's trip also hooked Justice Clarence Thomas (R-$) up with billionaire Harlan Crow:

[O]f course Singer didn’t just happen to going to Alaska. He was going to Alaska specifically to spend quality time with Sam Alito. The whole thing had been arranged by The Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, who asked Singer if he and Alito could fly up with him on his private jet.

And here’s where the whole picture starts to come into focus — both the Alito story and the Thomas ones. ... Everyone here is part of Leo’s network. Harlan Crow is a big Republican donor but also a big Federalist Society donor. So is Paul Singer. So is the owner of the fishing lodge. In fact, Leo’s network is so vast and deep-pocketed that eventually he decided he was too big for the Federalist Society and struck out on his own. Indeed last year he secured a record-breaking $1.6 billion donation as a kind of judicial corrupt grub steak to fund all his future endeavors.

As we’ve noted before, there’s a long arc of the Federalist Society’s role placing justices on the Court. Thomas, now the oldest member of the Court, appointed in 1991, is old enough to have had a partly organic rise within the judicial ranks. He’s as much a part of the creation and maturation of the Federalist Society as one of its creations. By the time you get to a Brett Kavanaugh you’re talking about someone who was basically grown in a test tube for the specific purpose of one day serving on the Supreme Court.

We focus a lot on the pipeline the Federalist Society created to place ideologically true justices first on the appellate courts and then finally on the Supreme Court. What gets much less focus and what these stories highlight is the way the justices are essentially kept by the Federalist Society and the sponsor families once they ascend to the Court. It makes you wonder: which families got assigned to Neil, Brett and Amy?

I think Marshall gets it right. It's not like the Republicans on the Supreme Court are bought and paid for; it's more like they're pets.

I still have some optimism that the egregiousness of the corruption and ideological extremism on the Court will spur a backlash, but first we have to elect enough moderates to Congress (or at least the Senate) to get the power to do that. I think we're still another 10 years from that happening, during which time the corrupt Republican court will hurt a lot of people.

Remember, the right wing want power and money, and functioning democratic institutions get in their way. So whether they get the Court to decide cases in their favor or they so discredit the Court so it has no power to decide against them in the future, they win.

Time to re-read Gibbon, I think.

Comments are closed