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The Mahablog

Sam Alito’s Hissy Fit

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.

Paul Farhi and Robert Barnes write for WaPo,

Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. took issue with questions raised by the investigative journalism outlet ProPublica about his travel with a politically active billionaire, and on Tuesday evening, he outlined his defense in an op-ed published by the Wall Street Journal.

Yet Alito was responding to a news story that ProPublica hadn’t yet published.

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 ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott and Josh Kaplan had sent 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 does it mention that Alito did not provide his answers directly to ProPublica.

The WaPo writers continue,

The article details the conservative justice’s relationship with billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, including their trip to an Alaskan fishing resort in 2008. According to the story, Singer — whose hedge fund subsequently came before the court 10 times in cases involving business disputes — flew Alito to the resort on his private jet, a trip ProPublica reported would have cost Alito more than $100,000 one way if he had chartered the jet on his own.

Alito, who wrote the landmark Dobbs decision that struck down federal abortion rights last year, didn’t list the trip on his financial disclosure forms, an omission that some ethics experts say could violate federal law.

The article noted the role of conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo in organizing the Alaska trip, including recruiting Singer to fly Alito to the lodge. The longtime head of the Federalist Society, Leo helped Alito win confirmation to the Supreme Court. Singer and the lodge’s owner were major donors to the Federalist Society.

All very neat and tidy, isn’t it?

The facts not in question are that in 2008 Alito flew to Alaska for a fishing trip in a private jet belonging to billionaire hedge fund manager and Republican donor Paul Singer, buthe  didn’t report the flight as a gift. He then failed to recuse himself—and ruled in Singer’s favor—in a 2014 Supreme Court case called Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital. The case involve one of Singer’s hedge funds. Alito claims that he didn’t make the connection between the hedge fund and Singer, and anyway there was no appearance of impropriety, for reasons.

And he wasn’t required to recuse or disclose and the lodge was “rustic” and not at all luxurious. Even though a room there cost $1,000 a night, Chris Hayes just said on MSNBC. And I liked this part:

As for the flight, Mr. Singer and others had already made arrangements to fly to Alaska when I was invited shortly before the event, and I was asked whether I would like to fly there in a seat that, as far as I am aware, would have otherwise been vacant. It was my understanding that this would not impose any extra cost on Mr. Singer. Had I taken commercial flights, that would have imposed a substantial cost and inconvenience on the deputy U.S. Marshals who would have been required for security reasons to assist me.

In other words, he was doing us all a favor by taking that seat on that private plane for the nice fishing holiday. We should thank him.

Above the Law: Sam Alito Laments It’s Getting So You Can’t Take All-Expense Paid Luxury Vacations Funded By Billionaires Anymore

David Kurtz, TPM, Sam Alito Is A Peevish, Self-Absorbed Piece Of Work

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.

13 thoughts on “Sam Alito’s Hissy Fit

  1. There's a book by Zephyr Teachout called, "Corruption in America." The next edition should include a chapter on the UUSC. But from a historical and legal perspective with a ton of footnotes, she traces the thought behind barriers to corruption that were erected from the time of the US Constitution. (The prohibition of foreign gifts to US officials wasn't a thing that 'just happened' in the US Constitution.) Bribery can take many forms. The USSC has whittled away at the barriers (Read the book.) until the only thing that's prohibited outright is 'Quid pro quo' bribery. That is damn near a contract – "I'm paying you $250K to vote this way."

    What nobody saw coming was that the court intended to get a slice of the grift once they made it legal. Right now, the known corruption extends to Roberts, Alito, and Thomas. (Note I said, "known.") But they are playing by a set of rules that's anything but "originalist." The founders not only wrote the Constitution to prohibit foreign influence through influence peddling, early rulings reflected the expectation that government wasn't supposed to be dominated by explicit or IMPLICIT bribery. 

    I'm too lazy to look up the recent ruling from the book but a decision by the USSC which empowered corporations said that (and I'm paraphrasing) corporations should be able to influence politics with money because the corporate leader is a better thinker, more qualified than the average citizen. This is, I think a bedrock principle f the Federalist Society. This was the "proper" exercise of Federalist thought – to put a VIP (USSC justice) in close contact with a billionaire hedge fund manager so that the wise perspective of the blood-sucker would rub off on the jurist when (not if) issues had to be settled that might affect the wealth of the parasite. 

    Mitch McConnell commented that Democrats should stay out of the Supreme Court's business. Mitch's lifetime achievement has been to build a conservative majority on the US Supreme Court but perhaps even Mitch didn't anticipate that the court would want to share in the perks they allowed the Congress by allowing unlimited corporate money in elections. If the Democrats parade the corruption in the conservative wing of the US Supreme Court in front of the voters, it's a step in the right direction of building the support to expand the court. (Which a majority in Congress can do.)

  2. Wow.  At least there's no mention of him accepting any free bagels.  Could this revelation somehow open a door for Argentina to reclaim the $2.4 billion from Singer's fund company, and involve the US govt as a party in the dispute?

  3. Chris Hayes did an expose on a key element of these Supreme Court corruption stories. To summarize: Leo recognized it's not enough to get Federalist Society judges onto the Supreme Court, you have to keep them in line, so they continue to rule in your favor. This is where all the gifts and socializing with billionaire donors comes in. It's really important to connect the dots and see the larger plan. Alito and Thomas aren't really the problem, they're just the visible face of something much more calculated and sinister.

  4. IMO:  That WSJ piece was an epic hissy-fit thrown by a pissy, whiny, little sissy*

    You were feeling maybe a bit defensive about your corrupt actions, huh, Sammy boy?!?  Was there some little vestige of a conscience left in you, long after you became yet another billionaire's legal "piss boy**.?"

    And so, to deflect some of the shite that you knew would be coming your way, you wrote that preemptive piece in the WSJ:  The paper of record for overly rich Fascist sociopaths with more money than brains or soul?

    You wrote it because you knew how corrupt and awful you and the other five Fascists on the SCOTUS will look like when this news of yet another SCOTUS/Reich-Wing Billionaire article about your corrupt bargain(s) comes out?

    If I remember right, you were quite the "Mama's Boy," aren't you, sociopathic Sammy.

    Your Mother would be ashamed of you if she was still alive, Sammy.

    Or did the Farcist turd not fall far from his Mussolini-lovin' Mama's sphincter?

    *Look at that smug puss on Sammy! 

    Is there a face more deserving of a powerful bitch-slap out there? 

    Ok, I'll give you that there are more than a few other KKKonservative faces equally worth slapping around.  But certainly not MORE deserving than  Sammy's.

    **See Mel Brooks "History of the World:  Part I."

  5. "As I recall, the meals were home-style fare. I cannot recall whether the group at the lodge, about 20 people, was served wine, but if there was wine it was certainly not wine that costs $1,000.”

    NYT quote of Sam Alito


    That makes me feel better.  His memory it too weak to remember if there was wine, but he was certain it did not cost a grand a bottle.  Nixon often falsely claimed that he was not a crook.  I guess Alito is going for something like I am not that big of a crook. 

  6. The authors of the Pro Publica article were interviewed yesterday on MSNBC.  They said that the rate per person at that lodge STARTED at $1K per day and went as high as $8K per day.  Being served meals of King Crab and Kobe Beef with $1K a bottle of wine probably means it was significantly more than $1K a day.

  7. Off Topic: I just realized that a recent ruling makes it legal for me to own a gun. As a felon, the door has been closed to me. The recent ruling differentiates between a violent vs non-violent conviction. (My conviction was for flying without a pilot's license.) 

    I don't think I'm a gun nut but I've owned several guns in my lifetime and I did frequent the gun range to maintain a level of competence. I'm not a marksman but I can hit anything that might reasonably be considered a legitimate threat.  IMO, prosecutors have used the felony status with great malice particularly against persons of color to disarm them and/or set the stage for future prosecution. (Felony possession of grass – probation leading to later felony possession of a firearm – years in jail.) 

    Frankly, I'm curious how others on Mahablog view the ruling.

    • It's hard for me to believe you're a felon because you were flying w/o a license. I didn't know you were a felon at all.

      Because I don't know what's in the universe of non-violent convictions that are deemed a felony, I can't offer any kind of meaningful opinion regarding the ruling.

      My opinion would also be colored by what I've gleaned about you over the years, that you're the type of person who could be trusted with a firearm. We're always willing to give our friends the benefit of the doubt, a stranger much less so.

    • I'd triple check to make sure I covered every possible angle for being snagged with some sort of a violation in exerting your rights. Look what happened to those in Florida who believed their voting rights had been restored. Even if you are within your rights you could face the expense of defending that right. Tread carefully when dealing with DeSantis' despiteful government.

      Case in point… Andrew Warren. DeSantis managed to fuck him over and get away with it in spite of the court's ruling that DeSantis had violated his civil rights.


  8. The standard for requiring a judge to recuse himself is not that he has an actual conflict of interest. It's that there would be the appearance of a conflict.

    He should be impeached.

  9. It's amazing how these conservative creeps try to minimize their evildoing. Alito's description of his accommdations as being rustic is on par with Alan Dershowitz's descrption of his visit to pedophile island and the subsequent 'massage' gifted to him from Jeffrey Epstein as being done by some old battle axe babushka. I don't think Epstein was in the habit of stocking his harem with anything less than fillies.

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