AOC Urges DOJ Probe into Clarence Thomas’ Financial Connections – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC (D-N.Y.), a prominent member of the far-left “Squad,” is calling on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over his alleged financial ties to Republican megadonors.
AOC Declares War on the Supreme Court?
AOC and four other progressive colleagues have penned a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging him to inquire about Thomas’ relationship with wealthy individuals and whether it violated federal law.
In the document released on Friday, Ocasio-Cortez alleges that Thomas consistently failed to report significant gifts he received from Harlan Crow, a real estate developer and billionaire, as well as other affluent figures.
The gifts include private flights, yacht cruises, resort accommodations, and VIP tickets to sporting events, which legal experts argue likely violate disclosure requirements. Several proposals in Congress aim to establish a binding code of conduct for the Supreme Court and appoint an ethics officer to oversee compliance.
The letter highlights a ProPublica investigation conducted earlier this year that detailed Thomas’ friendship with Crow.
The letter points to Thomas’ duty under federal law to accurately disclose such gifts and highlights his repeated certification of financial disclosure forms as “accurate, true, and complete.”
It accuses Thomas of not recusing himself from cases with potential conflicts of interest. Additionally, it references other ProPublica reports that shed light on additional gifts Thomas allegedly received from wealthy individuals.
Responding to the letter on social media, AOC wrote, “No one is above the law. For two decades, Justice Thomas failed to report millions in gifts.”
When the initial ProPublica report emerged in April, Thomas issued a rare statement defending his relationship with Crow.
He stated that his personal hospitality with close friends who didn’t have business before the Court was not required to be reported, following guidance he received from colleagues and others in the judiciary.
Attorneys quoted in ProPublica’s articles assert that the Ethics in Government Act mandates Supreme Court justices to disclose gifts, yet differing legal experts hold varying views.
While a recent Fortune op-ed agreed that while Thomas may not have broken the law, the affair “shows how broken ethics standards are on the Supreme Court”.
Some experts contend that it is not unlawful for justices to have affluent and generous personal connections.
They highlight that since the Supreme Court’s establishment falls under the purview of the US Constitution, not Congress, lawmakers possess limited authority to regulate it.
A Hit Job?
Crow has slammed the ProPublica report as a “political hit job.”
In contrast, Democrats argue that the receipt of gifts by Justice Thomas is inappropriate for a judicial officer and constitutes evidence of corruption, irrespective of the presence of a specific quid pro quo.
The recent letter from lawmakers follows the approval of a Supreme Court ethics reform bill by the Democrat-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in July, passed on a party-line 11-10 vote. The bill’s fate in the full Senate remains uncertain.
Republicans oppose the legislation, alleging its unconstitutionality. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) characterized the bill as a means of “harassing and intimidating the Supreme Court.”
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the primary sponsor of the bill, argued during the July 20 hearing that the legislation was essential due to the perception that the court has been influenced by special interests, similar to how railroad commissions in the 1890s were swayed by railroad magnates.
Should the Democratic-controlled Senate pass the bill, it is expected to face challenges in the GOP-dominated House of Representatives.
Republicans speculate that Democrats, many of whom support expanding the Supreme Court with liberal justices, are targeting the court due to its conservative-leaning majority, which has issued decisions that Democrats find objectionable. Notably, three of the six conservative-leaning justices were appointed by former President Donald Trump.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.
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