ProPublica: US Supreme Court justice Alito failed to disclose luxury fishing trip News
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ProPublica: US Supreme Court justice Alito failed to disclose luxury fishing trip

ProPublica reported Tuesday that US Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito accepted and failed to disclose a 2008 luxury fishing trip with Paul Singer, a hedge fund billionaire who—in the time since—has had business before the court at least ten times. Alito responded to the report on Tuesday in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece, arguing that he followed “standard practice” in choosing not to report the trip. Alito also said that, despite Singer’s business before the court, Alito had no duty to recuse himself.

After reviewing a series of documents and conducting dozens of interviews, ProPublica discovered that Singer flew Alito on a private jet to Alaska for a luxury fishing trip. Once there, Alito stayed for three days in a commercial fishing lodge owned by Robin Arkley II, another “donor to the conservative legal movement.” The report includes multiple photographs which capture Singer and Alito alongside Leonard Leo, the leader of a conservative interest group known as the Federalist Society.

Alito never reported the 2008 trip in his annual financial disclosures.

In response to the article, Alito said:

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. The flight to Alaska was the only occasion when I have accepted transportation for a purely social event, and in doing so I followed what I understood to be standard practice.

Singer, a one-time attorney and now manager of Elliott Investment Management, devotes significant financial sums to conservative legal activism. According to ProPublica, over the past ten years, Singer donated more than $80 million to Republican political groups and millions more to a conservative think tank known as the Manhattan Institute. Singer is also a long-time supporter of Leo’s Federalist Society.

Individuals familiar with Singer’s hedge fund strategy described his business method as “shrewdly litigation-driven,” which has landed Singer before the US Supreme Court on multiple occasions. In one such case, Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Alito not only heard oral arguments, but he also found in favor of Singer’s company in a 7-1 decision. As a result of that decision, Singer’s hedge fund obtained a $2.4 billion settlement from Argentina.

Alito responded, “I had no obligation to recuse in any of the cases that ProPublica cites.” Alito stated he was unaware of Singer’s connection to the various cases that appeared before the court. He said, “My recollection is that I have spoken to Mr. Singer on no more than a handful of occasions.”

ProPublica’s Tuesday report follows a series of previous reports on Justice Clarence Thomas. Similar to Alito, ProPublica and the Washington Post also uncovered multiple instances in which Thomas and his wife failed to disclose payments and gifts from wealthy conservative donors.

The reporting has drawn the attention of US lawmakers, who argue for greater oversight and transparency amongst the Court. In response to ProPublica’s most recent reporting, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the committee would begin marking up ethics reform legislation for the Supreme Court after the July 4 recess.