Without a Republican present, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to authorize subpoenas for two private citizens connected to a U.S. Supreme Court ethics investigation involving conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.
Republicans challenging the legitimacy of the action and frustrated by Committee Chair Dick Durbin, D-Ill., throughout the hearing, walked out before the roll call vote, which ended 11-0 in favor of authorizing subpoenas for conservative donor and billionaire Harlan Crow and conservative activist and lawyer Leonard Leo.
Thomas, 75, the longest-serving justice, has been criticized for receiving gifts from Crow and other donors that he did not disclose on financial forms, even though the Supreme Court did not have any ethics rules in place at the time. Earlier this month, the court established a new code of conduct for justices to follow.
Alito, 73, has been criticized for not disclosing a 2008 trip to Alaska, organized by Leo, a longtime leader of the conservative Federalist Society, or the flight there on a private jet of hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer.
"I think this is a charade politically motivated to attack the integrity of the Roberts Court, to act on what they've said they wanted to do to destroy Clarence Thomas' reputation," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the committee's ranking member.
"If they really cared about the ethics practices of the court, we would be looking into [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor's situation, where staff members apparently called people [saying], 'You need to sell some books if she's going to speak.'"
Sotomayor's staff reportedly urged colleges and libraries hosting book events to buy hundreds of copies of her works for sale or distribution to attendees.
"I think this is all politically motivated," Graham said. "I think the two private citizens involved, particularly Leonard Leo, who is at the top of 'the guy [we] hate most' list in the conservative world. This is despicable what they're doing to these people. It's bad for the country."
Crow, a Dallas real estate tycoon and Leo, who advised Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump on judicial appointments, have resisted the committee's requests for records related to gifts and travel provided to members of the Supreme Court.
"Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats have been destroying the Supreme Court; now they are destroying the Senate," Leo said in a statement, according to The New York Times. "I will not cooperate with this unlawful campaign of political retribution."
Crow said in a statement from his office, the Times reported, that he remains open to discussing his ties to Thomas but that Democrats "have made intrusive demands of a private citizen that far exceed any reasonable standard and to this date have not explained why this request is necessary to craft legislation."
Michael Katz ✉
Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and politics.
© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.