Justice Samuel Alito penned a preemptive strike on Tuesday night against ProPublica, a media outlet bankrolled by a pro-court-packing group, which planned to release a hit piece painting the Supreme Court member as unethically rubbing elbows with power.
ProPublica’s chief complaint is that Alito went on a “luxury fishing vacation with GOP billionaire” Paul Singer in 2008 and then proceeded to preside over cases the hedge fund manager was involved in. One such case between Singer’s hedge fund and Argentina, ProPublica emphasized, resulted in a $2.4 billion win for the company.
The media outlet claimed “ethics law experts” believe Alito “appears to have violated a federal law that requires justices to disclose most gifts” and should have removed himself from hearing cases related to Singer’s financial interests. In reality, Alito’s absence would not have affected the outcome of that case, which even ProPublica acknowledges was decided 7 to 1 in favor of Singer’s hedge fund.
Alito, who noted he has “voted on approximately 100,000 certiorari petitions” since joining the bench, stated he was unaware of Singer’s involvement in the cases listed by ProPublica.
“Mr. Singer was not listed as a party in any of the cases listed by ProPublica. Nor did his name appear in any of the corporate disclosure statements or the certiorari petitions or briefs in opposition to certiorari,” Alito noted.
Even if he did know about Singer’s connection to them, Alito wrote that “recusal would not have been required or appropriate.”
“ProPublica suggests that my failure to recuse in these cases created an appearance of impropriety, but that is incorrect,” Alito continued, before quoting from the court’s Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices. “‘There is an appearance of impropriety when an unbiased and reasonable person who is aware of all relevant facts would doubt that the Justice could fairly discharge his or her duties.’ … No such person would think that my relationship with Mr. Singer meets that standard.”
In fact, Alito points out, “until a few months ago, the instructions for completing a Financial Disclosure Report told judges that ‘[p]ersonal hospitality need not be reported.’” Those reporting guidelines included the kind of “hospitality” Singer offered Alito on the fishing trip.
Alito’s explanation undermines the true point of the smear, which ProPublica disclosed seven paragraphs into its article.
“Justices are almost entirely left to police themselves on ethical issues, with few restrictions on what gifts they can accept,” ProPublica protested. “When a potential conflict arises, the sole arbiter of whether a justice should step away from a case is the justice him or herself.”
ProPublica feigned shock on Wednesday that Alito chose not to answer their questions — “we do serious, fair, accurate reporting in the public interest and have won six Pulitzer Prizes,” the outlet insisted in its comment request — and instead wrote his own defense.
“Justice Alito didn’t answer our questions. Instead, he wrote an opinion piece attacking as unfair a story he hadn’t read,” the publication’s Twitter page complained.
Alito was right not to participate.
For decades, Democrats and their allies in the corrupt corporate media have worked hand in hand to delegitimize and destroy the court, which currently has a majority of Republican-appointed justices, with one hit piece at a time. This mud-slinging campaign intensified in recent months as Senate Democrats ramped up pressure to amend the Supreme Court’s ethics rules by calling witnesses whose legal group asserts on its front page that the Supreme Court is “a threat to our democracy” in congressional hearings.
ProPublica did most of the legwork by publishing smears in April and May whining about Justice Clarence Thomas’s rich friend, the annual vacations they take together, and how the longtime acquaintance paid for the Thomases’ grandnephew Mark Martin’s tuition. Despite the fact that none of these actions are illegal according to the court’s standards, Politico, Slate, and others quickly joined in attacking Thomas as well as Justice Neil Gorsuch.
From the beginning, these twisted tales and the jaded jihad against justices’ wives including Ginni Thomas were designed to undermine the Republican-nominated justices who pose a threat to the left’s unconstitutional agenda.
ProPublica admitted in its Alito article that “experts said they could not identify an instance of a justice ruling on a case after receiving an expensive gift paid for by one of the parties.”
Democrat-nominated justices, however, have plenty of ethical shortcomings that go unscrutinized, including secret travel arrangements. Similarly, ProPublica, which masquerades as “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force,” was founded and is bankrolled by the same organization that sends millions of dollars each year to dark money funds and progressive activist groups that lobby for Democrats to pack the court.
Americans may have historically low trust in the head of the judicial branch of the U.S. government but their trust in media is far lower. That trust will only continue to drop as Americans see the clearly coordinated campaign between Democrats, court-packing activists, and corporate media outlets to disempower the judicial branch.