Nothing would be more satisfying than to see the reckoning come down on the conservative money power’s corruption of the federal judicial system. Certainly, it would the the cause of great celebration around the Whitehouse residence in Rhode Island. However, nothing seems less likely in the near term. The only progress toward this blessed consummation is step-by-step in the hope that what the Declaration calls a “long train of abuses and usurpations” eventually causes general nausea in the public institutions. This is no short-term deal. Our public institutions, and the public itself, has shown itself to have a very strong stomach for this kind of thing. However…
From the Guardian:
The Campaign for Accountability, a non-profit watchdog organisation based in Washington, has called for an investigation into seven non-profit groups linked to [Leonard] Leo that it said may be misusing millions of dollars for the personal benefit of insiders – a violation of their tax-exempt status. On Wednesday, the watchdog filed an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) complaint. The document concludes that Leo “caused” several recently formed non-profits “to pay him (directly or indirectly) more than $73m over a six-year period from 2016 through 2021”.
It adds that there is some evidence to suggest Leo’s for-profit businesses, BH Group and CRC Advisors, which received millions of dollars for alleged consulting, research or public relations services, “may have either not have provided those services at all or may have provided services at a level not commensurate with the payments received”. The non-profits are the Rule of Law Trust, 85 Fund (formerly known as the Judicial Education Project), Concord Fund (formerly known as the Judicial Crisis Network), Federalist Society for Law & Public Policy Studies, Freedom and Opportunity Fund, Wellspring Committee and Marble Freedom Trust.
Even if all the allegations in this IRS complaint are true, don’t expect the various corporations and individual oligarchs who finance Leo’s operations to turn on him. Each individual contribution is pretty much a rounding error for those donors, and the decisions handed down by the judges they all paid for are worth more to them than any amount Leo might be skimming from the till. Barring a change in that situation, and accepting that campaign finance reform has been a cotton-candy dream since 2010, various law enforcement options are the only hope for reining in the corruption.
Speaking of which, it’s still good to be a Justice. From our friends at ProPublica:
For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.
The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht, these experts said.
The experts clearly don’t understand what it means to be Justice Clarence Thomas of the United States Supreme Court. Rules don’t apply here. And ethics experts? Please. Insects, at best. And Harlan Crow has more than gotten what the influence he has peddled paid for.
Crow met Thomas after he became a justice. The pair have become genuine friends, according to people who know both men. Over the years, some details of Crow’s relationship with the Thomases have emerged. In 2011, The New York Times reported on Crow’s generosity toward the justice. That same year, Politico revealed that Crow had given half a million dollars to a Tea Party group founded by Ginni Thomas, which also paid her a $120,000 salary. But the full scale of Crow’s benefactions has never been revealed.
Those “benefactions” elsewhere have been lavish even by wingnut welfare standards.
Crow has deep connections in conservative politics. The heir to a real estate fortune, Crow oversees his family’s business empire and recently named Marxism as his greatest fear. He was an early patron of the powerful anti-tax group Club for Growth and has been on the board of AEI for over 25 years. He also sits on the board of the Hoover Institution, another conservative think tank.A major Republican donor for decades, Crow has given more than $10 million in publicly disclosed political contributions. He’s also given to groups that keep their donors secret — how much of this so-called dark money he’s given and to whom are not fully known.
“I don’t disclose what I’m not required to disclose,” Crow once told the Times.
Not exactly “Ask not…etc,” but an accurate epigraph for our times.
Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976. He lives near Boston and has three children.