Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is alleging possible illegal activity around flows of cash and value that eventually involved massively pricey gifts of hospitality and other perks for members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Discussing the scandal both on the Senate floor and in a later television interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, Whitehouse raised serious potential issues including misrepresentations on tax filings of the nature of the expenses that supported these judges and the already discussed problem of the judges themselves having left many details off their required financial disclosure forms. Beneficiaries included Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and the monetary values associated with what was transpiring have skyrocketed to simply massive amounts.
And going forward, improved practices around financial disclosures are just the beginning, since there’s also the potentially serious problem of these judges later ruling — or having already ruled! — on financial or related policy issues that directly relate to their own interests and those of the extremely wealthy conservatives who’ve funded so many of their excursions. Alito already complained in an interview that he didn’t believe Congress to possess even basic powers to regulate the Supreme Court — telegraphing the position he might take should Congress successfully enact further regulations, which could then make their way to that very court. Both the public appearance of justice and protecting the established process of judicial arguments are foundational issues.
“There is very possible illegal conduct, but in order to find that out, we’ve got to complete our investigation, and the billionaires, through their lawyers, have erected all kinds of stonewalls,” Whitehouse told MSNBC’s O’Donnell. Whitehouse has previously tied some of these difficulties in getting information from wealthy conservative circles to the effective cover that Alito himself has seemingly provided with his tirades against the prospect of basic Congressional oversight. Amid all these developments, of course, the Supreme Court continues delivering massively important rulings, like their still reverberating decision to overturn national protections for abortion.