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Sam Alito Is Just Humble Fisherman Drinking $1,000 Bottles Of Wine Served By Billionaires
Like Alice, the Supreme Court justice just stumbled into this wonderland.
Supreme Court Justice and human Sour Patch Kid Sam Alito appears to be the latest member of SCOTUS to get his grubby fingers stuck in a billionaire’s cookie jar.
ProPublica, having so recently crushed whatever illusions anyone might have for some ungodly reason harbored about the robustness of Clarence Thomas’s integrity, has a new bombshell out about Alito accepting a luxury Alaskan fishing vacation from a supremely wealthy Republican donor and then – oopsie! – not reporting it on his financial disclosure statements for that year.
Ha ha, those scamps. How is this all not yet a sitcom about a bunch of bumbling, absent-minded Supreme Court justices sharing a house and juggling romantic and family entanglements in between stripping away most of the judicial rights won by the public over the last 150 years or so?
ProPublica, as good reporters do, sent Alito a list of questions about this vacation with a warning that they needed a response by Tuesday before the story’s publication on Wednesday. Instead of responding, Alito, as do all innocent naifs who have absolutely nothing to hide, published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday night trying to get ahead of the story.
Alito took this particular fishing trip in July of 2008, when a billionaire hedge fund vulture by the name of Paul Singer flew him to Alaska on his private jet, a trip that ProPublica estimates would have cost the justice over $100,000 if he had chartered the jet himself. Once at the lodge, which was owned by a mere multi-millionaire Republican donor, the guests (who included Leonard Leo, the infamous judicial whisperer of the Federalist Society) were well-attended to:
At night, the lodge’s chefs served multicourse meals of Alaskan king crab legs or Kobe filet. On the last evening, a member of Alito’s group bragged that the wine they were drinking cost $1,000 a bottle, one of the lodge’s fishing guides told ProPublica.
Sounds nice! This Supreme Court justice gig is quite the racket.
In defending himself, Alito made it all sound almost accidental, as if he happened to be heading to this luxury lodge at the same time as Singer, and the billionaire out of the goodness of his heart offered to give the justice a lift:
As for the flight, Mr. Singer and others had already made arrangements to fly to Alaska when I was invited shortly before the event, and I was asked whether I would like to fly there in a seat that, as far as I am aware, would have otherwise been vacant. It was my understanding that this would not impose any extra cost on Mr. Singer.
Flying commercial, Alito points out, would have “imposed a substantial cost and inconvenience” on the US Marshals who would have tagged along as his security detail. See? Sam Alito just wanted to save the American taxpayers a few bucks!
And the expensive lodging and meals? Pish-posh, declaims Alito:
I stayed for three nights in a modest one-room unit at the King Salmon Lodge, which was a comfortable but rustic facility. As I recall, the meals were homestyle fare. I cannot recall whether the group at the lodge, about 20 people, was served wine, but if there was wine it was certainly not wine that costs $1,000.
Okay, a) how would Alito know what the wine cost if he wasn’t, as reported by ProPublica, paying for his stay, and b) Sam Alito knows what a $1,000 bottle of wine tastes like, and it does not taste like whatever swill he does not recall drinking in Alaska.
Did Singer, the everyday billionaire who generously offered Alito a lift like the justice was hitchhiking on the Alaska Highway and Singer just happened by in his truck with his fishing buddies, have business before the Supreme Court? Funny you should ask:
In the years that followed, Singer’s hedge fund came before the court at least 10 times in cases where his role was often covered by the legal press and mainstream media. In 2014, the court agreed to resolve a key issue in a decade-long battle between Singer’s hedge fund and the nation of Argentina. Alito did not recuse himself from the case and voted with the 7-1 majority in Singer’s favor. The hedge fund was ultimately paid $2.4 billion.
Cheese and crackers! harrumphs the innocent babe in the ethical woods Sam Alito:
To ensure that I am not required to recuse, multiple members of my staff carefully check the names of the parties in each case and any other entities listed in the corporate disclosure statement required by our rules. See Supreme Court Rule 29.6. Mr. Singer was not listed as a party in any of the cases listed by ProPublica. Nor did his name appear in any of the corporate disclosure statements or the certiorari petitions or briefs in opposition to certiorari.
It was his staff’s fault. So hard to hire good help from the top law schools these days.
In the one case in which review was granted, Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd., No. 12-842, Mr. Singer’s name did not appear in either the certiorari petition, the brief in opposition, or the merits briefs. Because his name did not appear in these filings, I was unaware of his connection with any of the listed entities, and I had no good reason to be aware of that.
No good reason, no.
Alito also blamed the apparently vague ethics guidelines that he has a lot of latitude interpreting anyway:
When I joined the Court and until the recent amendment of the filing instructions, justices commonly interpreted this discussion of “hospitality” to mean that accommodations and transportation for social events were not reportable gifts.
Eh, not so fast. According to ProPublica:
The law has a “personal hospitality” exemption: If someone hosts a justice on their own property, free “food, lodging, or entertainment” don’t always have to be disclosed. But the law clearly requires disclosure for gifts of private jet flights , according to seven ethics law experts, and Alito appears to have violated it.
The King Salmon Lodge had been recently bought by a multi-millionaire businessman and Republican donor named Robin Arkley II. ProPublica found paperwork describing Alito as a guest of Arkley, and two members of the lodge staff said they understood that Alito was not paying his own way. At the time, the ethics guidelines did not distinguish between personal and commercial property, so Alito might technically be on solid ground legally if not morally. There does not appear to be any question about the flight, however, no matter how much Alito pretends otherwise.
When Clarence Thomas’s entanglements with Harlan Crow first came to light, Thomas and his wife Ginni defended themselves by claiming that Crow and his wife were two of their dearest friends in the world . Alito, on the other hand, acts as if hitching a ride with a billionaire who happened to be traveling to the same luxury resort was a happy coincidence. That is because the public is not so gullible as to believe the pettiest bitch alive Sam Alito has friends who like Sam for Sam. Even Alito knows he can’t sell that one.