In light of the revelations about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ unreported gifts from a right-wing megadonor Harlan Crow and his wife Ginni Thomas’ involvement in the attempts to overturn the 2020 election, many Democrats in Congress are calling for court reform, including Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who appeared on Meet the Press and called the Supreme Court a “fact-free” and “ethics-free zone.”
Discussing the issue of ethics on the court, Whitehouse dismissed the idea of having justices make an upfront ethics pledge. “Because if you try to do it on the front end and get a pledge of some sort in the confirmation process, well, we saw how the pledges on Roe v. Wade went in the confirmation process,” the senator said, referring to claims made by then-judicial nominees like Brett Kavanaugh, who stated that Roe v. Wade was “settled law” only to vote to overturn it after he was confirmed.
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WATCH: @SenWhitehouse (D-R.I.) says the Supreme Court is in a "fact" and "ethics-free zone," comparing the Court to "railroad barons."@chucktodd: "It just escalates —"
Whitehouse: "Unless we change the law so that dark money is no longer accepted." pic.twitter.com/uDC5eH7ryJ
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 28, 2023
Whitehouse then went on to explain that there is little accountability for justices once they are confirmed to the court: “You get onto the court, and there you are, and there’s no process for determining what the facts are. That’s part of the problem here. When Justice Thomas failed to recuse himself from the Jan. 6 investigation that turned up his wife’s communications, he made the case that that was okay because he had no idea that she was involved in insurrection activities. That is a question of fact. That’s something that could have, and should have, been determined by a neutral examination, and then we’d all know.”
“The problem with the Supreme Court is that they’re in a fact-free zone as well as an ethics-free zone,” Whitehouse concluded.
Senator Whitehouse has been focused on the right-wing’s influence over the court for years now and has written a book accusing conservative donors of plotting to “capture” the Supreme Court and using it to “achieve through the institution’s power what they cannot through other branches of government.”
In his interview with Todd, Whitehouse compared right-wing billionaires to the railroad barons of the past who would “capture” railroad commissions to do their bidding.
“The whole thing together has been estimated to be about a $580-million-spend by a bunch of right-wing billionaires,” Whitehouse said. “So in the same sense that in the old days railroad barons used to capture the railroad commissions that would do the decisions, I think there’s a very strong case to be made that that is exactly what has happened to the Court right now.”
So how do we reform the court? Whitehouse said he supports transparency, getting rid of dark money, and eighteen year term limits.
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