Kudos to ProPublica, which finally pursued and broke open the story about Harlan Crow’s longstanding gifts to Clarence the Logroller. I wonder, is this just another tale of MAGA mania to be ignored or suppressed by a burnt-out public? Since it’s so difficult to impose any kind of ethics test (even though there is one) on the Supremes, will anything come of this? Will the story have any legs?
It just might if John Roberts has balls—or if the Democrats can keep some pressure on. Impeaching Thomas is just not possible since the Dems don’t have the votes. The whole Dark Money thing, with billions in unacknowledged contributions, owes its life to Citizens United (“money is speech”), one of the worst-ever decisions by the Court.
There is a federal law against these sorts of contributions but does it, will it, have any teeth? Thomas and his wife have enjoyed Harlan’s “opulent getaways” for decades—from a guy who is in bed with Leonard Leo and the whole crew of Dark Money funders. Harlan Crow also seems to be an equal-opportunity giver: he has contributed lesser funds to Manchin and Sinema, Gottheimer and Cuellar, who have frustrated the Biden administration forever.
The case against Thomas was well put by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern of Slate:
For years we have been hearing from the justices that it’s not their fault so many parties with business before the court are also their best friends. We’ve heard that it’s not on them to stop generous pals from lavishing gifts upon them. We have been given to understand—as Justice Antonin Scalia explained in justifying his own travels with parties litigating before him—that justices need to hang out with fabulous and wealthy movers and shakers because who else is there to hang out with. Oh, and for years we have swallowed the pablum that these trips are so intrinsically fun and interesting that Clarence Thomas, Leonard Leo, Mark Paoletta, and a megadonor can sit around for hours chatting about sports, and not talking about any past, present, or future matter that may come before the court.
And, according to Michael Tomasky, whose reporting I respect, Ginny Thomas’s “hard-right activism” is every bit as worrisome as her husband’s. “She’s a hard-right zealot who is active on just about every hot-button cultural issue in American politics.” You can’t fail to have noticed this, including her husband’s default failure to recuse himself from cases in which she would have an interest.
One must ask again why gross derelictions like the Thomas’s are so continually ignored or swept under the rug. One reason, as I suggested earlier, is that the public is burnt out or simply turned off by constantly hearing about such stuff. Or maybe they realize that given our broken polity there’s no apparent way to bring justice to the justices.
4 Replies to “Laughing All the Way to the Bench”
John, this *should be* one of the biggest stories of the year. A $500 million trip, not reported? Nothing reported year after year? As far as Ginni goes, I learned something again from a Goodman link: “…justices are bound to a federal law that bars them from hearing cases in which their spouses have “an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.”
Thanks for this, JB. I think their Indonesia trip was valued at $500,000. Bad enough!
seems to me there are 2 distinct issues here– reporting and recusal. On the first it appears he’s not met the current reporting regulations, although they remain fuzzy for the Supremes. And what if he had reported fully? Of course, the recusal standard is even fuzzier. Ultimately the issue here is that our views seem to conflict with many of his. That doesn’t negate his legitimacy on the court.
I don’t see anything fuzzy about the recusal standard, Jim. Tomasky: “as Jane Mayer reported last week in The New Yorker, justices are bound to a federal law that bars them from hearing cases in which their spouses have “an interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding.” That statute also stipulates that they recuse themselves in cases where their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”