Nov 16 2010

Supreme Court Justices’ Conflict of Interests

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

For a Judge’s Wife: Poor Judgement

Georgetown University Law professor, Jonathan Turley joined Rachel Maddow to discuss Supreme Court Jusice Clarence Thomas’ wife’s, Virginia Thomas, disassociate from the conservative activist group that she founded, Liberty Central and about the potential conflict of interest raised by her political advocacy work.

The question that was only hinted at, but that has been raised elsewhere, is, does this constitute a reason for impeachment? There is also the question of Justice Thomas, along with Justices Alito and Scalia, raising money for conservative political groups and a close association with the billionaire Koch brothers.  

Justice Samuel Alito attended a gala fund raising dinner sponsored by American Spectator, a right-wing magazine known for its role in the Project,” a well-funded effort to invent stories with the goal of eventually impeaching President Clinton. When asked by Lee Fang of Think Progress if this was a conflict of interest, Alito dismissed his presence as “not important”.

Think Progress has also reported that Justices Thomas and Scalia have attended conservative fund raisers “sponsored by the Koch brothers and Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) – the same corporate front that funded the rise of Republican dirty trickster James O’Keefe and anti-masturbation activist Christine O’Donnell. According to the sponsorship levels for the event, Alito helped ISI raise $70,000 or more.”

Documents exposed by ThinkProgress last month revealed that Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas have also attended secret political fundraisers. We published a memo detailing fundraising events, organized by oil billionaires David and Charles Koch, to fund Republican campaigns, judicial elections, and groups running ads in the 2010 midterm election. The fundraisers, attended by some of the nation’s wealthiest bankers, industrialists, and other executives, help fund much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo stated the Thomas and Alito were past participants of the Koch fundraisers.

In questioning the ethics and conflict of interest that these activities have raised, Think Progress’s legal expert, Ian Millhiser, in an article last month, points out that while the Supreme Court Justices have exempted themselves from Code of Conduct for United States Judges even though, as per a SCOTUS spokesperson, they are suppose to use it as a guideline

in determining when they may participate in fundraising activities. Under that Code:

Fund Raising. A judge may assist nonprofit law-related, civic, charitable, educational, religious, or social organizations in planning fund-raising activities and may be listed as an officer, director, or trustee. A judge may solicit funds for such an organization from judges over whom the judge does not exercise supervisory or appellate authority and from members of the judge’s family. Otherwise, a judge should not personally participate in fund-raising activities, solicit funds for any organization, or use or permit the use of the prestige of judicial office for that purpose. A judge should not personally participate in membership solicitation if the solicitation might reasonably be perceived as coercive or is essentially a fund-raising mechanism.

Scalia and Thomas’ participation in these fundraising gatherings also call into question whether they can be impartial in any number of cases brought by Koch-aligned groups seeking immunity to the law. Most significantly, the Koch brothers have contributed significantly to efforts to stop the Affordable Care Act from going into effect, and a number of attendees at the Koch’s secret meetings include health industry moguls with a direct financial stake in the litigation challenging health reform (Justice Thomas’ wife, of course, lobbied against the Affordable Care Act).

Considering that all three Justices voted for Citizens United v FEC, they should come forward with full disclosure of all their fundraising activities and donations to clear up what appears to be egregious conflicts of interest. If they do not, the House Judiciary Committees should, at the very least, begin an investigation and dependent on their findings start impeachment proceedings according to the Constitution. With the 112th Congress, I don’t expect much interest.

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