On today's BradCast, it's yet another "tour de force" of rightwing U.S. Supreme Court Justice corruption by billionaire Republican megadonors. [Audio link to full show follows this summary.]
But, FIRST UP, a few words on the climate change-intensified heatwaves continuing to pulse through Texas and threatening to max out its rickety privatized electric grid, as officials attempt to conserve their way out of the crisis and as the state's cruel GOP Governor Greg Abbott enacts a big government ban on local ordinances mandating water breaks for construction workers.
Also, a few thoughts today on the indescribably dumb GOP House majority, hellbent on shooting themselves, repeatedly, in their collective feet --- over and over again --- and why they've decided to take out their impotency, frustration and failure, at least this week, on the very effective Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
THEN, the investigative team at non-profit news outlet ProPublica strikes again this week. On the heels of recent blockbuster reports detailing decades of corruption by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas via hundreds of thousands of dollars in undeclared luxury vacations and travel, gifts, real estate deals and cash payments from rightwing megadonor Harlan Crow (and the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo), it was apparently Justice Sam Alito's time in the barrel this week.
As ProPublica's Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan and Alex Mierjeski documented Wednesday, Alito enjoyed private jet travel to a fancy Alaskan fishing excursion some years ago courtesy of rightwing billionaire megadonor Paul Singer. The hedge fund "vulture capitalist" would go on to repeatedly sing the praises of his fishing buddy over the years as "a model Supreme Court Justice" when introducing him at rightwing fundraisers, even as Singer had repeated business before the Court. Alito never declared the subsidized travel with Singer on annual disclosure forms, nor did he recuse himself from SCOTUS cases in which Singer would eventually reap billions of dollars.
Sound familiar? It should. In both Alito and Thomas' cases, the blooming friendships between Justices and billionaires was fostered and massaged by Leo, longtime leader of the far-right Federalist Society, which has been shaping the federal judiciary via Republican Presidents --- and matchmaking between Justices and wealthy benefactors --- for decades now.
We're joined today by the great LISA GRAVES, who previously served as Deputy Asst. A.G. at the Justice Department, Chief Counsel for nominations in the US Senate, and as a Deputy Chief of the Article III Judges Division for the U.S. court system. She now rakes muck as the founder of Truth North Research, helping to expose the toxic and corrupting effect of unbridled rightwing money poured into our political and judicial system from those like Crow, Singer, Leo and the Koch network.
Graves responds to a number of claims made by Alito in his unusual op-ed published by rightwing billionaire Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal this week, where he chose to prebut ProPublica's reporting on Tuesday, instead of either responding to the journalists questions or doing so through the Court's communications office. Graves describes his remarks in the Journal as "extraordinarily deceitful and deceptive."
"Everyone knows that private jet travel is not permissible as a gift of supposed 'hospitality'," she explains. "The hospitality exception in those long-standing gift rules is basically meant to cover things like your high school friend throws you a party for your birthday at their house. Not this sort of post-appointment currying of favor by super-rich people subsidizing a luxury lifestyle through fabulous trips."
She argues the subsidized travel violates the law, along with Alito's failure to disclose it on his annual financial statements. There's false statements on those disclosure forms in which they [both Alito and Thomas] assert there's nothing more to disclose, that they've disclosed everything that they've been obligated to, and they clearly haven't."
"One of the things that this reveals is that the Court actually has no enforceable ethical code which would require the Justices to recuse themselves if there is bias or the appearance of bias, similar to the language that's in the Code of Conduct for US judges that does not apply to the Supreme Court, that they've chosen to not have any enforceable mechanism for."
"If an ordinary person would think that this sort of thing would create bias, a judge basically has an obligation to disclose it and/or to recuse themselves from cases where that bias might be raised," she says. But those rules only apply to the lower courts. When it comes to SCOTUS, the decision of whether to recuse is left entirely up to each Justice.
Graves also offers insight on the corrosive effect of "travel agent" and "matchmaker" Leo, who wields power with donors by hooking them up with Justices for "luxury travel subsidized by billionaires who have business before the Court."
When it comes to Alito, "this is a man who has acted as though he is the keeper of the kingdom in terms of strictly reading the Constitution, claiming this 'strict constructionist' or so-called 'originalist' approach, a faux neutral approach to the law. This is the man who orchestrated the overturning of almost 50 years of legal precedent on abortion. If this guy can't read the actual statute and regulations which expressly describe how [private] jets don't count as hospitality, how can we possibly have any confidence --- and I think most people don't --- that he would act impartially to read the Constitution or the case law around abortion or other issues that he doesn't like?" --- Or, other issues that his billionaire benefactors don't like.
FINALLY, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, which begins with astonishing heat in Texas and India and ends on an even more fowl note...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)