Clarence Thomas Caught Playing Footsies With The Koch Brothers

INSIDE: Kevin McCarthy ... Rudy G ... David Brooks
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Jonathan Newton /The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Oy vey, Oy vey, Oy vey

ProPublica has yet another big new reveal on the ethically challenged Clarence Thomas.

In the latest installment in its Thomas series, ProPublica unearths evidence of the Supreme Court justice playing footsies with the Koch brothers and their donor network at its annual winter conference in California in 2018.

Combine that with an earlier previously reported incident of Thomas doing a “brief drop-by” at the 2008 Koch network annual conference, and we’re left with at least two documented instances of Thomas being used as a draw for wealthy conservative donors to one of the most influential political and legal advocacy operations of the last quarter century.

The details of this particular Thomas entanglement echo the other reporting by the relentless ProPublica on his cozy relationship with the billionaire conservative donor class:

  • Thomas flew to and from the Koch conference aboard a private Gulfstream G200, but he didn’t report the trip on his financial disclosure form and it’s not clear who paid for the flight. The Koch network said it didn’t pay for it.
  • Leonard Leo, who was at the time of the 2018 conference still a top official at the Federalist Society (a big recipient of Koch network money), was the “conduit” between Thomas and the Koch network.

In a particularly telling response, Leo told ProPublica (emphasis mine):

Justice Thomas attends events all over the country, as do all the Justices, and I was privileged to join him. Justice Thomas has been a dear friend, and I would never pass up an opportunity to help him share, in his own words, his lifetime of accomplishment and judicial philosophy with new audiences. All the necessary due diligence was performed to ensure the Justice’s attendance at the events was compliant with all ethics requirements.

Read that again. Aside from the obvious chummy tone, does that sound like Leo repping himself, his orgs, the Koch network … or Thomas? It’s an extraordinary defense of Thomas in that it suggests Leo is speaking for him, kinda. The passive voice in that last sentence from Leo is doing yeoman’s work.

Perhaps the sharpest edge of the new ProPublica report is in how it ties the Koch brothers’ decades long effort to overturn the 1980s Chevron case to Thomas’ own change of heart on whether that case remains good precedent. Chevron, which is a legal cornerstone of what conservatives derisively call the “administrative state,” has been a white whale of conservative legal activists on par with Roe and stacking the Supreme Court. Thomas was not on board originally, but eventually came around. (Read all the way to the bottom of the ProPublica piece for a wonderful kicker on this point.)

Finally, ProPublica dumps a whole bunch of string on Thomas and the Kochs frequenting the Bohemian Grove together, along with Harlan Crow, the billionaire conservative donor who – and I can’t emphasis this enough – owns the house Thomas’ mother lives in.

Congrats all around. It’s a tour de force of investigative reporting by ProPublica and of boldly breaking through new ethical frontiers by a sitting justice. Bravo!

House GOP In Total And Utter Chaos

The GOP-controlled House left town yesterday with no path forward on government funding and a shutdown looming when the fiscal year ends a week from tomorrow.

That Freedom Caucus-friendly continuing resolution that was supposed to give them everything they wanted? It didn’t even get a vote as there wasn’t enough GOP support for it either.

  • WSJ: McCarthy Sends Republicans Home After Losing ‘Shock’ Vote in House
  • Dana Milbank: In a leaderless House, the ‘clowns’ stumble toward a shutdown
  • CNN: McCarthy visibly frustrated after GOP hardliners put his plan to avoid a shutdown on ice

‘Dead On Departure’

TPM’s Kate Riga and Emine Yücel captured this marvelous riff by two Democratic senators on McCarthy’s ill-fated continuing resolution:

“I don’t know how much clearer we can make it to McCarthy that what he’s looking at is dead on arrival,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) told TPM of the new bill. 

“I don’t think it’s even going to arrive — dead on departure,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) added.


What A Concept!

Intrepid reporter ventures into the wilds of suburbia in search of the elusive Republican Biden voter:

Big Trouble For Rudy G

Every day it’s something else with Rudy Giuliani.

This time he’s allegedly failed to comply with a court-ordered sanctions against him in the defamation case brought by Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss.

Giuliani was supposed to pay a total of $132,856 in attorney fees for his failure to turn over discovery. He’s neither paid them by the Sept. 20 deadline nor furnished them with the discovery that got him in hot water to begin with, they told the federal court in DC on Thursday.

Rupert Murdoch Relinquishes The Reins Of His Empire

The man who has done more damage to American civic life than anyone else this century is stepping down from the leading roles of Fox Corp. and News Corp.

Off Message

TPM alum Brian Beutler today launched his new independent publication Off Message. Make it part of your news diet. It may seem like a scramble among like-minded journalists for the remaining crumbs of the collapsing news industry would lead to competitive pressures to ignore each other’s work. But love is not a pie. We need more indy news outlets at every level and with a variety of business models.

David Brooks Is At It Again

The dunking on David Brooks over this tweet damn near broke the internet:

(Note that even Elon Musk’s Twitter added a user fact check to the tweet.)

A sample of the dunking here, here, and here. But the prize goes to the Newark airport restaurant that Brooks’ complained about:

Enjoy your weekend! 🥃

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