So the newest Supreme Court scandal involves Sam Alito. This is from ProPublica (by Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski):
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.
Here’s where it gets hinky. ProPublica sent questions to Justice Alito to get his side of the story. ProPublica asked him to respond by Tuesday at noon. Alito did not respond. Instead, he published a hissy fit screen in the Wall Street Journal, headlined ProPublica Misleads Its Readers.
However, Alito’s little fit was published five hours before the ProPublica article was made public. Alito couldn’t have know what the article said, even though he cited it as if he had read it.
For what it’s worth, I read the ProPublica piece less as an indictment of Alito for failure to report or of the lax ethics rules binding Supreme Court justices and more as a window into the corrupt project to swing the court towards the right:
Leonard Leo, the longtime leader of the conservative Federalist Society, attended and helped organize the Alaska fishing vacation. Leo invited Singer to join, according to a person familiar with the trip, and asked Singer if he and Alito could fly on the billionaire’s jet. Leo had recently played an important role in the justice’s confirmation to the court. Singer and the lodge owner were both major donors to Leo’s political groups.
What it reads to me as: Leonard Leo was trotting out his newly confirmed show pony Samuel Alito in front of the megadonors who fund the conservative legal movement. No amount of ethics rules and regs will crack the foundational corruption of that effort.
This just plain stinks.