Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats will convene a business meeting Thursday to consider their Supreme Court “ethics” bill. But there is no “ethics problem” with the Supreme Court, and certainly not with Justices Thomas and Alito, who have been falsely smeared even though they complied with the relevant disclosure provisions in place at the time.
But it’s worth reviewing the Democrats’ reactions to Democrat-appointed justices’ conduct to show why Democrats don’t care about ethics and are using made-up “ethics” smears to undermine the court because the left doesn’t like the court’s popular recent rulings, like affirmative action, the protection of a Christian website designer’s First Amendment speech rights, and the striking down of President Biden’s wildly unconstitutional student loan forgiveness giveaway. Recall that ProPublica, the left-wing outfit funded by left-wing billionaires, did not start looking into the court’s “ethics” until after the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Ethics Probes for Conservatives Only
The Democrats claim they need to strengthen the recusal provisions for justices, but they never had any problem with Justice Ginsburg’s husband’s firm appearing repeatedly before the Supreme Court. Justice Ginsburg never recused, and in fact, she voted in favor of her husband’s firm’s client in the 2007 KSR International case. Nor did she recuse when Marty Ginsburg’s former client, Ross Perot, who had gifted him an endowed chair at Georgetown Law Center, appeared before the court in 1997. No Democrat or the media ever raised concerns about this.
The Democrats and media have claimed the court has become too partisan, with no basis for this claim. But Democrats had no problem when Justice Ginsburg accepted the Eleanor Roosevelt Award (and statue) from the National Women’s Democrat Club, a partisan organization dedicated to electing Democrats. NPR Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg even emceed this partisan event!
Imagine if Justice Thomas or Alito had accepted an award from the Republican National Committee. Heads would have exploded. Totenberg would have been first out of the gate condemning this brazenly unethical act. But no Democrat or reporter ever expressed concerns about Ginsburg’s openly political act or whether this would have any adverse effects on the court’s integrity.
Or consider that Ginsburg autographed her Virginia Military Institute opinion to be used in an auction in 1998 to raise funds for the pro-abortion group National Organization for Women (NOW) PAC. No Democrat has ever expressed concerns about Ginsburg using her position to explicitly help a pro-abortion group raise money. But imagine if Alito signed a copy of his epic Dobbs opinion and gave it to the pro-life Susan B. Anthony group to raise funds.
In January 2004, Ginsburg gave opening remarks at a lecture series, titled the “Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Distinguished Lecture Series on Women and the Law,” co-sponsored by the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. She gave these remarks two weeks after she had ruled in a case in the same manner a NOW Legal Defense Fund brief had urged. No Democrat ever expressed any concern that she spoke at this left-wing pro-abortion organization’s lecture series (which Ginsburg allowed to use her name) that regularly files briefs at the court, and Ginsburg never recused from cases involving NOW LDF.
Refusing to Recuse
In the most unethical act by any justice in modern history, Ginsburg publicly attacked candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race to stop him from being elected. She called him a “faker” and criticized him for not releasing his taxes.
But when she made some of these unethical remarks to The New York Times Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak, he mentioned nothing about how unethical her comments were. The headline was “Ruth Bader Ginsburg, No Fan of Donald Trump, Critiques Latest Term.” Other journalists like Linda Hirshman in Politico celebrated Ginsburg engaging in this completely unethical attack.
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern admitted Ginsburg’s conduct was “not just unethical, it’s dangerous,” but not surprisingly he later in the same article excused Ginsburg’s conduct as some sort of noble effort to stop Trump. I’m not aware of any Democrat members of Congress criticizing her for this outrageously unethical conduct.
To add insult to injury, when a case (Trump v. Mazars) came before the Supreme Court regarding whether Trump was required to release his taxes in response to a congressional subpoena, Ginsburg did not recuse and voted against Trump. No Democrat or anyone in the media seemed bothered by this, despite her having previously proclaimed her partisan and predetermined position on the matter.
A Newly Discovered Missing $1 Million
In a new report this week, it was revealed that Ginsburg directed the $1 million prize she received in 2019 from the Berggruen Institute to be distributed to more than 60 groups, but she required that the recipients not be disclosed. Thus, there is no way to tell whether she should have recused from one of these groups appearing before the court. But when she announced she was distributing these funds, I am not aware of any Democrat being curious as to who would be getting this funding and whether they would appear before the court. Again, just switch the names from Ginsburg to Thomas and you know what would have followed.
Democrats claim this so-called “ethics bill” is needed because some justices are traveling on private jets and vacationing with wealthy friends, regardless of whether these trips have been disclosed. Many stories criticized Thomas for having friendships with wealthy individuals, which brings Thomas in “proximity to a lifestyle of unimaginable material privilege.”
But neither Democrats nor the media had any criticism when Ginsburg traveled with billionaire Morris Kahn and toured three countries in the Middle East in 2018 right after the court ruled in his company’s favor. Kahn paid for transportation, food, and lodging. No Democrat or reporter criticized this.
In fact, while Kahn’s company’s case was still pending before the court in 2017, the Genesis Prize Foundation, a group to which Kahn was involved and provided significant financial support at the time, announced it was awarding Ginsburg a lifetime achievement award. (And the foundation appears initially to have wanted to award her its $1 million dollar Genesis Prize). Less than two weeks later, the Supreme Court ruled in Kahn’s favor.
Nor did any Democrat criticize Justice Breyer for being flown around the world by the famously Democrat Pritzker family, through its various foundations, one of them regarding an architecture prize. In addition to many domestic flights funded by the Pritzker organizations, Breyer was flown to many international locations, such as Vancouver in 2019, Paris in 2019, Toronto in 2018, Ireland and Spain in 2018, Spain and France in 2016, Beijing in 2012, London in 2012, and Norway, Sweden, and Copenhagen in 2013.
Nor did any Democrat raise concerns when Breyer flew on billionaire David Rubenstein’s private jet to Nantucket to attend a wedding.
These smears by Democrats have nothing to do with ethics. As demonstrated, Democrats are hypocrites who don’t care about ethics on the Supreme Court and are using these bogus smears to undermine the court’s legitimacy because they don’t like its rulings. Republicans should oppose this bill, not only because it is clearly an unconstitutional assault on a separate branch of government, but because the Democrats are acting in bad faith. To be in favor of it would be to give legitimacy to this dangerous attack on the court’s integrity and independence.