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supreme court ethics revelations

Introduction

supreme court ethics revelations

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations are being disclosed with a disturbing rapidity, that, if true, cast a shadow over the American Justice System. If the highest court in the land is the subject of influence peddling, then what must be said about the lower courts across the United States? I fear that the answer to this question is subject to a wave of secrecy, dark money, and extreme right-wing billionaire donors. Two Justices are placed under the microscope of the free press.

Justices Alito and Thomas both deny wrongdoing, however, where there is smoke there is usually some kind of fire. Where is the mainstream press in all this scandal? For my money, the corporate press and the 24-hour news cycle are serving a profit motive rather than keeping the electorate fully informed. Shame on them!

The Guardian US Edition (a British News Outlet) reported on the Manhattan Institute as one of eight extreme right-wing advocacy groups that may have had a significant influence on both Justice Thomas and Alito in the potential constitutional case of Moore v. US.

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: The Link

Stephanie Kirchgaessner and Dominic Rushe revealed that the Manhattan Institute, one of eight far-right think tanks filed amicus briefs in the case urging the Supreme Court to hear the case that contested a $15,000 tax question. Democrats, they report, feared that this case could have the permanent effect of allowing billionaires to opt out of paying fair taxes.

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: The Connection

The article reports that Paul Singer, the chair of the Manhattan Institute, and Kathy Crow, married to Harlan Crow, serve in the role of trustee of the Institute. The problem arises here because both of these billionaires have social and political ties to Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas having provided both with gifts of travel, and lavish vacations, none of which was ever revealed in financial filings required of the Justices of the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: Understanding the Consequences

Both Alito and Thomas deny wrongdoing, but the simple phrase, where there is smoke there is fire, may apply here. If the allegations are, in fact, true, confidence that one is likely to receive justice in the courts is seriously eroding public trust in the Supreme Court and the lower courts by association.

The question as to whether the lavish gifts thrown at these two justices influenced their decisions in cases before them. It also raises the question that must be asked, Will either justice recuse themselves from hearing this case? With financial ties between these two donors, and their relationship with the Manhattan Institute, why did this not ring a bell that demanded recusal? Did both Alito and Thomas put personal gain, dogma, and a sense of obligation infect their reasoning in this case?

Facts In Question

Moore v. US appeared to be a minor tax dispute between Charles and Kathleen Moore and the US government. Charles Moore spent much of his career as a software engineer for Microsoft where he encountered one of the founders of KisanKraft, a company founded to provide low-cost tools to farmers in India.

The Moores invested some $40,000 in KisanKraft in 2006, providing them with an 11% stake in the company. KisanKraft was profitable but, according to the Moores, it never paid a single dividend to investors.

In 2017 the Trump administration passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which provided for a one-time levy on US corporations’ foreign holdings called the Mandatory Repatriation Tax. This left the Moores holding an unexpected $15,000 tax liability. Through their lawyers, they argue that this tax was unfair and likely unconstitutional. They claimed that the only return they made on their $40,000 investment along with the additional $15,000 in taxes, was the satisfaction of helping people across India.

More Embroilment in the Shady Web of Secret Financial Interests

The Moores appeared in a video created by another extreme right-wing player, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a group that later took a key role in the lawsuit in question. Later the Moores solicited CEI’s help which led to the hiring of one of Washington State’s powerful law firms, Baker Hosteler to sue the US government.

Charles Moore’s father is an economist with close ties to CEI. The CEI website lists Thomas Moore as an expert. The elder Moore also served on President Reagan’s council of economic advisors. Let be understood that Thomas Moore was a player in the Republican world.

Moore’s arguments were rejected by the lower court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022 declined to hear the case, however, in its decision the court wrote that the realization of income “does not determine whether a tax is constitutional.”

That left the door open to the claim that the MRT is in violation of the 16th amendment, giving Congress the power to “lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.”

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: The Circle of Influence Rapidly Closes

One of the lawyers representing the Moores, in this case, is David Rivkin at Baker Hostetler. Rivkin also represents Leonard Leo in a criminal investigation into Leo-affiliated non-profits. This is the same Leo, that ProPublica tied directly to Justices Alito and Thomas. Dick Durbin, one of my state Senators and Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee raised questions about Rivkin’s involvement across conflicting matters that may come before the court. He also questioned Justice Alito’s ability to “fairly discharge his duties in a case in which Mr. Rivkin represents one of the parties.

Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: When is enough unmistakably enough?

While SCOTUS has not yet decided to take on Moore v. US, the very fact that they are considering such a decision that is engaged in such a web of deceit should have the American press up in arms. But, not a peep out of the corporate news outlets who are more interested in selling soap and cars than in keeping Americans informed of such devious webs of influence, especially influence on those who are supposed to be servants of Blind Justice and not pawns in some influence peddling messes.

Public trust that the courts will consider only evidence before them as any jury is asked to do is absolutely necessary if the nation is to survive. Having Judges who allow their own dogma to guide their decision-making, whether that dogma is born of influence and bribery, or out of a zealot’s belief, is an anathema to the cause of Justice.  

By Politics-as-Usual

Roger is a retired Professor of language and literacy. Over the past 15 years since his retirement, Roger has kept busy with reading, writing, and creating landscape photographs. In this time of National crisis, as Fascist ideas and policies are being introduced to the American people and ignored by the Mainstream Press, he decided to stand up and be counted as a Progressive American with some ideas that should be shared with as many people who care to read and/or participate in discusssions of these issues. He doesn't ask anyone to agree with his point of view, but if entering the conversation he demands civility. No conspiracy theories, no wild accusations, no threats, no disrespect will be tolerated. Roger monitors all comments and email communication. That is the only rule for entering the conversation. One may persuade, argue for a different point of view, or toss out something that has not been discussed so long as the tone remains part of a civil discussion. Only then can we find common ground and meaningful democratic change.

One thought on “Supreme Court Ethics Revelations: An Impairment to Justice?”
  1. […] The Seriously Flawed Supreme Court’s new ethics code is a toothless joke perpetrated by the of… Fortunately, citizens of the United States aren’t buying it. The Court, attempting to deflect ethical missteps made by some Supreme Court Justices, failed to persuade people. Because much of the ethical dalliances have the appearance of donors buying justice, the new ‘code’ utterly fails. The ethical conundrum is made worse by this slap in the face to the people of the United States. […]

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