Senate Democrats are advancing a doomed Supreme Court “ethics” bill that would withhold $10 million in funding from Chief Justice John Roberts until the Supreme Court has “put into effect a code” for all justices.
The Senate doesn’t have the power to dictate how the Supreme Court conducts its business — any more than SCOTUS has the power to prescribe rules for the Senate. They know it. Then again, the effort to intimidate and delegitimize the court is meant to corrode constitutional governance, so perhaps the bill makes a certain amount of perverse sense.
Of course, turning to the likes of Sheldon Whitehouse and Dick Durbin for ethical guidance is much like seeking truth from Adam Schiff. And much like the Russia-collusion hoax, the effort to destroy the Supreme Court is a highly coordinated partisan scheme.
First, anti-court left-wing activist groups cook up some ethics “scandals.” These accusations are then laundered by complicit or credulous leftist media outlets for public consumption. Then, the bogus scoops are held up by partisans as proof of alleged wrongdoing. Everyone, other than perhaps the most gullible partisan hysteric, understands what’s happening.
Each week another ethics “scandal” emerges, one dumber than the next. The stories are divvied out among numerous outlets to saturate the news and create a perception of widespread wrongdoing. Some, such as ProPublica, are paid by pack-the-court groups. Others, such as Politico, Slate, and The New York Times, do it for free.
A recent Guardian hit piece on Clarence Thomas, for example, offers a good example of how all this works. The justice, the paper excitedly reports, received “seven payments” through Venmo accounts in November and December 2019 from lawyers who had once clerked for the justice. Though the amounts were not disclosed — one strongly suspects the minuscule sums would make the story even more preposterous — The Guardian explains that “the purpose of each payment is listed as either ‘Christmas party’, ‘Thomas Christmas Party’, ‘CT Christmas Party’ or ‘CT Xmas party.’”
Now, I’m going to take a wild stab at cracking this whodunnit and speculate that a bunch of people chipped in for a Christmas party. The implication that Thomas threw cases or was paid off or felt an obligation to side with former clerks because they bought him a taco and a beer at a reunion is incomprehensibly stupid. No one believes it.
Moreover, there is not, and has never been, any standard or rule or expectation that justices can’t attend parties with former clerks. Just as there is no expectation that justices have a responsibility to report every vacation they take to Senate Democrats; or that justices can’t sell their homes; or that justices can’t have rich friends; or that justices must explain in writing why they are recusing themselves from cases.
All these hit pieces rely on a kind of journalistic redundancy, one non-story propelling the other forward. Here, for instance, is The Guardian:
The payments to Rajan Vasisht, who served as Thomas’s aide from July 2019 to July 2021, seem to underscore the close ties between Thomas, who is embroiled in ethics scandals following a series of revelations about his relationship with a wealthy billionaire donor, and certain senior Washington lawyers who argue cases and have other business in front of the justice.
Thomas isn’t embroiled in any ethical scandals. Not one. Democrats and their allies keep insinuating, without any evidence, that Thomas is corrupt. If he were, Congress should impeach him. That is the tool available to the Senate, and no other. But sharing a meal with former clerks doesn’t “underscore” anything but the paranoia and/or duplicity of the pretend journalist.
A few days before the Venmo scoop, The New York Times implicated Thomas in a scheme to help a charitable organization give college scholarships to thousands of poor kids. Thomas, on occasion, would even mentor the recipients. Most of the donors to this charitable organization are wealthy — celebrities and CEOs; you know, the types of people who can afford to pay for scholarships. None of them, the Times admitted, had any “direct” business in front of Thomas (and even if they did, it wouldn’t have meant anything).
I mention it because not one of these alleged investigations or reports has uncovered a single case in which a justice has altered or deviated from his long-held judicial philosophy to help anyone benefit, much less himself. Zero.
The campaign to bully and destroy the court is the manifestation of Chuck Schumer’s illiberal threat against justices. Democrats didn’t get their way, because their way is often unconstitutional, and now the “whirlwind” — more like an impotent breeze — is here.