On Friday, September 22, 2023, the Guardian reported that the recent report exposing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s secret participation in donor events organized by the hard-right Koch network has sparked outrage and renewed calls for Supreme Court reform. The report reveals that Thomas attended Koch events at least twice, including one at the exclusive all-male resort Bohemian Grove in California. This raises serious questions about Thomas’s impartiality in cases before the court, particularly Loper Bright Enterprises v Raimondo, which involves federal agencies’ regulatory powers.
The report sparked outrage from Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Sheldon Whitehouse decried Thomas’s “undisclosed private jet travel” and “engagement with billionaire-funded organizations.” Committee Chair Dick Durbin noted the “Koch brothers are the architects of one of the largest political operations” and criticized Thomas for hiding his involvement. Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US stated that Thomas views his court position as a way to “upgrade his own lifestyle with no regard for ethics.”
The Koch network has a long history of influencing politics and the courts, and their involvement with Thomas raises concerns about the potential for undue influence. A Koch spokesperson denied any wrongdoing, stating that attending events to promote a book or give dinner remarks is standard practice for all justices. However, the fact that Thomas did not disclose these events and has been shown to have links to other right-wing donors raises questions about his impartiality and commitment to upholding the law.
Supreme court justices are subject to the same ethics rules as all federal judges, and the recent revelations about Thomas’s involvement with the Koch network have renewed calls for reform. Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer, stated that Thomas’s actions violate financial disclosure laws, laws prohibiting judges from participating in partisan fundraising, and recusal laws for judges. Painter believes that Thomas either does not understand or does not care about the law.
The revelations about Clarence Thomas’s involvement with the Koch network are part of a larger pattern of ethics scandals surrounding the Supreme Court. As the court continues to play a critical role in shaping the direction of the country, it is essential that justices are held to the highest ethical standards. The calls for reform in the wake of these scandals are a reminder that the court must operate with transparency and integrity to maintain the public’s trust.
Source: The Guardian