Under Republican Pressure, Senate Democrats End Supreme Court Ethics 'Witch Hunt'

November 10, 2023

Significant Republican pressure prompted Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to abandon a Thursday vote to subpoena two prominent conservatives with close ties to Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Democratic contributor Harlan Crow and Leonard Leo, co-chairman of the influential Federalist Society, were the intended recipients of the subpoenas issued by the Democrats, as Breitbart News reported.

Democrats endeavored to ascertain whether specific individuals and organizations procured access to the justices by presenting undisclosed gifts.

Leo was not implicated in any improper conduct; however, the Republican members of the committee introduced dozens of amendments to counter the partisan subpoenas, addressing topics such as social media usage, border security, and liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Lawmakers’ Take

“You’re going to have a complete s**tshow, but if that’s what you want, that’s what you’re gonna get,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a former committee chair, said during the Thursday hearing.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said he would unveil subpoenas of Arabella Advisors, labeling it the “biggest dark money group in the country.”

The former Missouri attorney general said, “I think the Democrats will regret this, ultimately, because when Republicans retake the majority, I mean, the precedent is going to be here.”

“I’m not going to participate in a witch hunt against Justice Thomas,” Hawley continued.

A for-profit consulting firm, Arabella Advisors, oversees Marxist nonprofit organizations that provide sponsorship to entities exempt from donor disclosure requirements.

Political organizations whose donors are not disclosed are often labeled "dark money groups."

According to an analysis of the 2020 elections by The New York Times, Democrats benefited from $1.5 billion in shadowy money while Republicans gained $900 million.

Outsider Reports

CNN reported that the Democrats believed the judicial branch required ethics reform:

The effort to authorize subpoenas represents a key point in Senate Democrats’ investigation into the nation’s highest court following a series of stories this year about transparency and ethics that raised questions about whether Thomas and other justices have flouted some rules. Democrats are pushing the justices to adopt a formal code of ethics similar to what lower-court judges are required to follow.

In the last several months four justices – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan and Amy Coney Barrett – have appeared in public to express some form of support for ethics reform emanating from court itself, although no announcement has been made.

In spite of the Republican opposition to the subpoenas, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Dick Durin (D-Illinois) expressed optimism that a vote will still occur soon.

“I hope as soon as possible. I think, as I said, we’re ready to vote on those; Republicans are delaying it with amendments. In fairness, we’ve done the same thing. But, you know, I want to make sure that we’re together on major issues that they raised in the amendments.”

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