Tag: supreme court
Clarence Thomas

Experts Shred Thomas Patron For Stonewalling Senate Judiciary Committee

Attorneys representing billionaire Nazi memorabilia collector Harlan Crow sent an electronic letter to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday declaring that "Congress does not have the constitutional power to impose ethics rules and standards on the Supreme Court," prompting a flurry of reactions by experts and lawmakers.

Probing the suspected corrupt relationship between Crow and Associate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Crow's counsel wrote, "would exceed Congress's Article I authority and violate basic separation of powers principles. That precludes the Committee from pursuing an investigation in support of such legislation."

Crow's lawyers argued that "separately, the Committee has not identified a valid legislative purpose for its investigation and is not authorized to conduct an ethics investigation of a Supreme Court Justice," adding that "the Committee's stated purpose of crafting new ethics guidelines for the Supreme Court is inconsistent with its actions and the circumstances in which this investigation was launched, all of which suggest that the Committee is targeting Justice Thomas for special and unwarranted opprobrium."

Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) shredded those claims.

"Harlan Crow believes the secrecy of his lavish gifts to Justice Thomas is more important than the reputation of the highest court of law in this land," Durbin said in a statement, per Mediaite. "He is wrong."

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-California) called the memo "dumb. Congress has the authority to investigate the Executive Branch. Of course Congress has the authority to investigate the Judicial Branch. Also, what is Harlan Crow hiding from the American people?" he wondered.

Those responses were far from unique.

"It was Justice Thomas's decades-long improper financial relationship with billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow that sparked the Supreme Court corruption crisis, which has now reached a fever pitch. It’s no surprise that Crow continues to operate as though he and Thomas exist above the law — but they don't, and they must be held accountable,” watchdog group Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig said as noted by Raw Story. "Chief Justice [John] Roberts has deflected his responsibility to clean up his Court, forcing Congress to step in. Whether by Roberts or Congress, we need urgent reform to restore credibility and integrity to our Court."

Citizens for Ethics in Washington tweeted along with a May 1 editorial on the matter that "if you don't think there's a connection between Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas's friendship, and the kinds of decisions Clarence Thomas has been making from the Supreme Court bench...well, then we have some news for you."

MeidasTouch: "Harlan Crow is not on the Supreme Court — but it's understandable why he might think he is due to his apparent corrupt influence on right-wing Supreme Court justices."

OkeyMor Taking a stand for justice with receipts: "Harlan Crow's lawyers need to re-read Article III of the US Constitution. Appointment to the bench is not a lifetime appointment but is contingent upon continued good behavior of the justices. It is up to Congress to define good behavior aka Code of Conduct."

Melanie D'Arrigo: "I feel like we're pretty close to learning that Harlan Crow gives Clarence Thomas an allowance."

Badd Company: "Dear Harlan Crow: The Executive Branch is equal to the other 2 Branches. They are also separate Branches of government. You say that Congress has no authority to investigate the SCOTUS but yet that same Congress is investigating the White House. Is it just the cake you want, or are you eating it too!"

Judd Legum: "I wasn't aware that HARLAN CROW was a MEMBER OF THE SUPREME COURT!"

The Lincoln Project: "No Labels doesn't mind right-wing racist dog whistles. No Labels megadonor and Clarence Thomas subsidizer/BFF Harlan Crow collects & proudly displays Nazi memorabilia, including Hitler's teapot and table linens. They dismiss it as nothing but 'noise.'"

Barbara Malmet: "Harlan Crow's word is garbage like his garden of evil."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Clarence Thomas

Billionaire's Weird Group Portrait Shows Who Bought Justice Thomas

The oddest thing to emerge in the whole Thomas-Crow affair—the sugar daddy relationship between Texas billionaire Harlan Crow and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—has to be that painting. You know the one:

Who are those guys, and why is the painting so weirdly realistic and yet idealized at the same time? Let’s start with the easy part: the identification, starting bottom left.

That “some law clerk who doesn’t matter” is indeed a former clerk of Thomas, and he actually matters. He’s Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge, now serving as Dean and Herman E. Talmadge Chair of Law at the University of Georgia School of Law. He doesn’t just hang around with his former boss at the venue for this painting—Camp Topridge, the 105-acre compound in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, owned by Crow. He stays in touch regularly by briefs, amicus briefs, and petitions filed at the Supreme Court. Dozens of them over the years.

Of course he’s a “contributor” to the conservative Federalist Society, meaning he has “spoken or otherwise participated in Federalist Society events, publications, or multimedia presentations.” He is, in short, a cog in the conservative legal effort to undermine everything we care about.

Speaking of the Federalist Society, that’s who the next guy is—the actual founder (and former director) of the Federalist Society. Leonard Leo isn’t just the guy who funneled lots of money to SCOTUS spouse Ginni Thomas through Kellyanne Conway, and who “stacked the GOP court,” he is the architect of the current conservative majority on the Supreme Court and the guy responsible for reshaping select federal district and appeals courts since the George W. Bush administration. Basically, Republican presidents don’t nominate judges unless the Federalist Society approves them. Every terrible Supreme Court decision in the last quarter century can be laid at his feet.

Leo’s reach also extends deep into the U.S. Senate, as he needs those people to close the deal on his judges. That includes famed “moderate” Susan Collins, who got a nice financial boost from him during her last reelection campaign, perhaps as a “thank you” for her making Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh a reality. After a humongous dark money deal Leo secured last year—to the tune of $1.6 billion—Leo can buy and sell the entire Republican Party. Having a handful of pet Supreme Court justices at his disposal caps the deal. He doesn’t even hide it.

That next guy, the one sitting beneath that disturbing sculpture, is Mark Paoletta. He is indeed Ginni Thomas’s lawyer, though why he’d be hanging out in this group is a mystery since—as Ginni has vociferously argued—she has absolutely nothing to do with her husband’s work. They never even talk about it at home! That’s “an ironclad rule in our house,” she told the House Select Committee, where she was represented by Paoletta. But it’s all okay because he’s an official “friend of Justice Thomas” according to this tweet he made explaining how it’s okay for a billionaire to pay the private school tuition for his Supreme Court Justice friend’s adopted kid. Enough about him.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is next up, holding court with his acolytes, and pontificating with a cigar. Why he has a cigar prop we do not know. Maybe it makes him more of a regular guy? You know, the kind of guy who totally feels comfortable hanging out with the RV and WalMart crowd.

Those yachting trips all over the world he accepted as a gift from Crow? Pshaw. "I don't have any problem with going to Europe, but I prefer the United States, and I prefer seeing the regular parts of the United States," Thomas said in a 2020 documentary, Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words.

"I prefer the RV parks. I prefer the Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that. There's something normal to me about it," Thomas continued, adding, "I come from regular stock, and I prefer that — I prefer being around that."

Wow, Crow could have saved himself a whole lot of money if he’d just given Clarence and Ginni an RV and gas money. Thomas already had a guy in Omaha to hook him up with tires, so it would have been a great deal. (Really. Tires. Clarence Thomas took tires from a guy in Omaha. Who is he?)

We don’t have a full accounting of all the money Crow has sunk into vacations, gifts, real estate deals, tuition assistance, and God knows what else for Thomas, but this timeline of the very long string of Thomas’ ethics problems is a good place to start. And at the heart of it is the guy who commissioned this painting, Thomas’ friend and patron, Harlan Crow. He’s a billionaire real estate magnate who seems to own most of Thomas’ home town (seriously), and he’s a Republican megadonor, and key funder of Tea Party (remember them?) astroturf—he gave Ginni $500,000 to create one of those groups, Liberty Central.

Collecting Supreme Court justices and their spouses isn’t his only hobby. He also collects historical memorabilia, particularly Hitler and Nazi artifacts and memorabilia. Lots of it, from two paintings by Hitler and a signed copy of Mein Kampf, to extremely banal things like linen napkins with embroidered swastikas. There’s something seriously disturbed in a person who wants to replicate the dinner services of the Third Reich. He also has a garden full of statues of despots—Lenin, Stalin, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito, among others. That’s completely normal, right?

The photo-realtistic painting itself is odd enough that it’s gotten attention on its own. It’s the work of Sharif Tarabay, a Montreal illustrator. Slate was so intrigued by it, they asked an art historian, Heather Diack, associate professor of contemporary art and the history of photography at the University of Miami, what she sees in it. The whole interview is interesting, but this part kind of leaps out:

Some of us here were discussing the painting, and it reminded us of Jon McNaughton’s works. He’s painted countless portraits of Trump, including a version of Mount Rushmore that includes Trump’s face. What do you make of his paintings?It’s hard not to see it as a caricature, even though I realize that this artist is actually quite sincere about his message. It reminded me a lot of socialist realist propaganda paintings under Josef Stalin. It’s painted in a way that is hyperrealist, but also idealist, insofar as the realism they’re trying to portray is really about their ideology. So McNaughton’s ideology, I think, is very clear, him being quite a right-wing conservative. It’s really glaring. If you look back at paintings that were done under Stalin’s regime, they really imitate that style. [...]

I think there’s a conservative penchant towards realist painting. There’s been an aversion to abstract art, and they want to make artwork that they believe is more easily readable. Yet, even though it’s painted in a realist style, that’s not to say the scene pictures or the values conveyed by it are real or the truth. Even though I think that is partly what the artists want to be there.

You know who else had a strong aversion to abstract art, right?

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Fake Indignation Can't Erase Stain On Supreme Court Left By Thomas Scandals

Fake Indignation Can't Erase Stain On Supreme Court Left By Thomas Scandals

Every fresh revelation of an ethical lapse by Clarence Thomas raises the question to which Republican leaders apparently have no answer: Just how much crooked behavior by a conservative Supreme Court justice will they justify?

So far, they seem utterly untroubled by Thomas' acceptance from a right-wing billionaire of lavish vacations, jet travel, the lucrative purchase of his mother's house and the full cost of his grandnephew's very expensive private school tuition — or by his repeated and willful failure to disclose these dubious "gifts."

Instead of confronting the scandal, Republicans pretend to be offended by the very notion that Thomas should be held to account for his misconduct. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah suggests that "sanctimonious" inquiries concerning the justice's deranged ethics are somehow comparable to the Ku Klux Klan's racist terrorism.

Such fake indignation may become hard to sustain, however, now that we know conservative lobbyist Leonard Leo — the prominent right-wing operative whose hand lies behind the creation of the current Supreme Court — has laundered tens of thousands of dollars into the personal bank account of Thomas through his far-right activist spouse.

Those secret payments, arranged through a nonprofit group, should prompt a thorough investigation as well as spur more sweeping Senate hearings on the grift surrounding the high court. The unscrupulous scheme recalls a quip attributed to the late New York Gov. Al Smith, who pointed to a student while visiting a law library and said, "There is a young man learning how to call a bribe a fee."

According to The Washington Post, Leonard Leo directed pollster Kellyanne Conway in January 2012 to send "another $25,000" to Ginni Thomas — a nice fat check that apparently was only one in a series totaling as much as $100,000. At the time, Conway's firm, the Polling Company, worked for the Judicial Education Project, a nonprofit ostensibly run by its officers of record but in fact controlled by Leo. He instructed the obedient Conway to "give" the money to Thomas and keep the truth out of any paperwork: "No mention of Ginni, of course."

Of course! Clearly Conway understood what Leo meant, because she sent a bill for $25,000 to the Judicial Education Project that very day, complete with a fabricated purpose: "Supplement for Constitution Polling and Opinion Consulting." Documents examined by Post reporters show that between June 2011 and January 2012, the Polling Company sent $80,000 to Ginni Thomas through her firm, Liberty Consultants, and anticipated sending an additional $20,000 before the year's end. Nobody has seen any evidence that Thomas did any actual work for that huge sum.

Within that same time frame, the Judicial Education Project filed a brief to the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder, the landmark case that prompted Thomas and his right-wing colleagues to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act — exactly as Leo urged them to do. That Thomas could have been expected to endorse just such a betrayal of Black voters in no way dispels the stink. In a statement to the Post, Leo claimed with characteristic insolence that he was merely trying to protect the "privacy" of the Thomases from "malicious and gossipy" people.

No doubt anybody who violates federal laws and ethical norms prefers privacy to public exposure. That might well apply with extra force to Leo, whose self-dealing chicanery in siphoning off millions in nonprofit funds for his personal profit has lately come under scrutiny. But what this looks like is a criminal scheme with possible elements of tax fraud, public corruption, money laundering and conspiracy.

The fact that Leo, Thomas, and Conway might escape prosecution under the federal statute of limitations does not excuse authorities from investigating this shameful affair. Not only should the cabal tainting the high court be required to testify under oath about the precise details of their financial relationship, but the records of Leo's enormous influence-peddling network should be subpoenaed to determine whether he and his organizations have broken tax and lobbying laws.

Looking beyond this particular gang of scoundrels, Congress must now establish strict ethical guidelines for the Supreme Court, which Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues have so disgracefully resisted. If no cleansing remedy is applied, the public will come to see that behind the court's rulings overturning long-established American rights lies an indelible stain of corruption.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Kellyanne Conway

Whining Kellyanne Conway Confirms Secret Payments To Ginni Thomas

Kellyanne Conway may have inadvertently confirmed the payments made to Ginni Thomas, the wife of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The latest development stems from a report published by The Washington Post on Thursday, May 4, which included details about additional financial contributions that were paid to the justice and his wife.

However, Republican legal activist Leonardo Leo reportedly instructed Conway to make "no mention of Ginni."

According to Mediaite, Conway said:

"This is 2012, according to The Washington Post. Leonard, Leo's quote in that article, I think it's an important quote. He says, I've known the Thomases. They've been my friends since 1990, and I’m very mindful of how vicious and gossipy people can be. So I always try to protect their privacy and their safety. Viciousness from ten years ago, 11 years ago, has turned into violence now, where people are outside of Supreme Court justices' homes trying to assassinate Justice Kavanaugh while his wife and daughters are sleeping in that home. So these people will stop at nothing.

"They want Clarence Thomas to resign. So Joe Biden, of all people, can replace him with one of his own in this case. Ginni Thomas was one of my contractors and she's..She had worked with the Heritage Foundation. She was part of the grassroots — is part of the grassroots. She had worked in the Reagan administration. This is a serious person who for years had worked in public policy and at the polling company. We did public opinion research and data analytics. We had no business before the court."

Conway also made remarks about the Post as she insisted the news outlet had been searching for her.

"I want to look them in the eye and tell them I'm aware that you contacted a lot of my former employees and you, as you suggested to one of them, that you go to her home and look at her old emails," she said. "That is so beyond the pale, but that's who they are.'

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.