Tag Archive: John Dean

Oct 07 2011

SCOTUS: A Question of Ethics

In 2010 the public advocacy group Common Cause linked Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia to the billionaire Koch brothers. At issue was their presence at private parties hosted by the brothers just before the infamous Citizens United decision. More questions have now arisen about Justice’s Thomas’ objectivity and ethics and whether he should recuse himself from any review of the Affordable Care Act. Thomas’ wife Virgina’s involvement with the conservative groups, the Federalist Foundation and Liberty Central, her very vocal opposition to the ACA and his failure to disclose her income have raised a “specter off bias”:

The Obama administration filing a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is news, but a side issue might draw more attention: whether Justice Clarence Thomas should recuse himself.

Thomas’ wife, Virginia, was employed for several years by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Heritage has long opposed the health-care law. Last March, Heritage staffers published six op-ed pieces in The Dispatch, all criticizing the law and covering topics ranging from the law being unconstitutional to its purported cost savings being illusory.

According to political watchdog Common Cause, Mrs. Thomas earned $686,589 from Heritage between 2003 and 2007. As a member of the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas was obligated under the federal Ethics in Government Act to disclose his wife’s employment, but he failed to do so between 2004 and 2009. Finally, on Jan. 21, 2011, Justice Thomas submitted to the Committee on Financial Disclosure six letters, one for each of the six years.

These latest revelations about the lapse in the justice’s financial disclosures forms precipitated a call from House Democrats for an investigation into ethics violations by the Judiciary Committee:

“Public records clearly demonstrate that Justice Thomas has failed to accurately disclose information concerning the income and employment status of his wife, as required by law,” Democrats led by Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter (pdf) Wednesday to leaders of the Judiciary Committee. The Democrats also question whether Thomas accurately reported gifts and inappropriately solicited donations.

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“There is now more than enough evidence to merit a formal inquiry as to whether Justice Thomas willfully failed to make legally required disclosures, perhaps for as long as 13 years,” Common Cause president Bob Edgar said in a statement Wednesday. “Given that we now know he correctly completed the reports in prior years, it’s hardly plausible–indeed, it’s close to unbelievable–that Justice Thomas did not understand the instructions.”

Democrats contend that the Supreme Court’s protocols for such disclosures should be more transparent. “Because the Court continues to operate without a binding code of ethics or a transparent recusal process, it is time for Congress to exercise its Constitutional role and become involved in this process,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), one of the signers, appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann not only calling for the Judiciary Committee investigations but “exploring “retroactive recusal” in cases like Citizens United, which would nullify Thomas’ vote and overturn the ruling.” “Countdown” contributor and former White House Counsel to President Nixon John Dean joined Keith to discuss the case for “retroactive recusal” (transcript contained in the link).

Jun 26 2011

Keeping The Door Open To Torture

During his confirmation hearings to replace Leon Panetta as CIA director, General David Petraeus, the Nato commander in Afghanistan, told Senate Intelligence Committee that:

(Sen. Mark) Udall was clearly trying to get Petraeus to reiterate his opposition to torture – he read back several quotes Petraeus himself had given saying such techniques are immoral and when they’ve been used, they’ve “turned around and bitten us in the backside.” Udall asked, “do you see torture any differently in a CIA context than in a military context?”

But Petraeus instead pivoted to the TV-ready “ticking time bomb” scenario, and said torture might be justified if you have a “special situation” where an “individual in your hands who you know has placed a nuclear device under the Empire State Building. It goes off in 30 minutes, he has the codes to turn it off.” Then he urged legislators to consider crafting such an exception into the law:

I think that is a special case. I think there should be discussion of that by policymakers and by Congress. I think that it should be thought out ahead of time. There should be a process if indeed there is going to be something more than, again, the normal techniques employed in such a case. And again, I — I would certainly submit that that would be very helpful if that kind of debate could be held and if some resolution could be made as to what should be done in a case like that so that it is worked out ahead of time, rather than under an extraordinary sense of pressure in such a situation.

Torture is not a value that Americans have died for and it is beyond being stupid, it is illegal.