After New York Times Report, Sen. Whitehouse and Rep. Johnson Call on SCOTUS to End Stonewalling About Right-Wing Outside Influence Over Justices and Adopt Ethics Reforms
Courts Subcommittee Chairmen release correspondence with Supreme Court regarding tactics used by Faith and Action to influence Republican-appointed justices
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA-04), Chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Courts Subcommittees respectively, today called on the Supreme Court to end its stonewalling about right-wing outside influence over the Republican-appointed justices. Their statement follows a disturbing new New York Times report revealing how one right-wing group sought to influence the justices and was able to gain advance knowledge of the Court’s decision in a key case. The Chairmen released for the first time their correspondence with the Supreme Court about the group featured in the story, Faith and Action, and pledged to continue seeking answers and working to require the Court to adopt mandatory ethics rules in line with the other branches of the federal government.
“Today’s New York Times report is another black mark on the Supreme Court’s increasingly marred ethical record, and we intend to get to the bottom of these serious allegations. It’s clear that one of the nation’s most important institutions – an institution that claims to be above politics – has been quietly captured by far-right political groups and secretive dark money influence. The Court needs to get its house in order and adopt a binding code of ethics, just as the lower courts have, and bring its travel and gift disclosure rules in line with the other branches of government. When the American people get their day in court, they must be able to trust that the decision handed down is justly rooted in law and fact – not the wishes of right-wing political groups and megadonors who purchased access to wine and dine the justices,” said Whitehouse and Johnson.
Whitehouse and Johnson sent a previously unreleased letter to Chief Justice John Roberts in September requesting information about the operation to influence the justices, referred to as “Operation Higher Court,” orchestrated by Faith and Action.
In a response to the Chairmen earlier this month, a legal counsel for the Court did not substantively address their questions and made no mention of Faith and Action. That letter is available here. According to today’s story, Chief Justice Roberts received a letter in July stating that Faith and Action had received inappropriate advanced notice of the verdict in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, but the Court did not acknowledge that information in its November response to Whitehouse and Johnson.
Earlier this year, Whitehouse and Johnson introduced the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act to enact stronger recusal standards, require the Court to adopt a binding code of conduct, and mandate that the Supreme Court adopt more robust rules governing disclosure of gifts and travel paid for by outside parties. The bill would also require disclosure of the identity of funders of amicus briefs, and block amicus filers from making gifts or providing travel to court of appeals judges or Supreme Court justices.
Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), 401-453-5294
Andy Phelan (Johnson), 404-593-9126
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