Common Cause started as a bipartisan organization that had considerable merit, but as always seems to happen, it was taken over by the left and is now just another arm of the Democratic Party. Which is why the organization wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder to lodge an ethics complaint against Supreme Court justices Scalia and Thomas. This is the bottom line:
Common Cause hereby formally requests that the Justice Department promptly investigate whether Justices Thomas and Scalia should have recused themselves from the Citizens United case under 28 U.S.C. § 455. If the Department finds sufficient grounds for disqualification of either Justice, we request that the Solicitor General file a Rule 60(b) motion with the full Supreme Court seeking to vacate the judgment.
So, why should Scalia and Thomas have recused themselves? Because they have participated in seminars sponsored by Koch Industries, and Koch Industries has benefited from Citizens United. Seriously, that is the claim. Of course, Common Cause adds a sinister spin:
In October 2010, news reports revealed that Justices Scalia and Thomas have attended one or more invitation-only retreats sponsored by Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held corporation in the United States and a major political player that directly benefited from the Citizens United decision.
That revelation comes from a letter and information packet, dated September 24, sent by Koch Industries CEO Charles Koch to potential attendees of the next Koch retreat, planned for January 30-31, 2011 in Palm Springs, California. Common Cause has obtained those materials, attached, courtesy of Think Progress, which broke the story.
The description of the Palm Springs program, entitled “Understanding and Addressing Threats to American Free Enterprise and Prosperity,” states that:
This action-oriented program brings together top experts and leaders to discuss -and offer solutions to counter – the most critical threats to our free society. …Past meetings have featured such notable leaders as Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas; Governors Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour; commentators John Stossel, Charles Krauthammer, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh; Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn; and Representatives Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, and Tom Price.
The Koch Industries retreats are highly political, and attended by an elite group of Republican donors and officials, conservative leaders, and captains of finance and industry.
I happen to know a bit about this, since I was also, several years ago, a speaker at one of the Koch Industries events in Aspen. Common Cause describes them as “highly secretive” “political strategy sessions” which can be attended by invitation only. Based on my experience, I would describe them as extraordinarily high-level seminars that are, indeed, attended by a remarkably distinguished roster of guests. The speakers, with occasional exceptions, are also distinguished. The guy who spoke after me was Arnold Schwarzenegger; this was back in the days when Arnold was a Republican.
Common Cause writes that “no mention of such an event is listed on the Justices’ disclosure forms for 2008 and 2009.” I assume they are talking about financial disclosure forms, and that the justices’ speeches at the Koch seminars weren’t listed because they weren’t compensated.
So, let’s add this up: Justices Thomas and Scalia accepted invitations to give speeches, presumably on legal topics, to a high-level audience of business people and other leaders. They weren’t paid for doing so. The events were sponsored by one of America’s most respected companies. That company, like every corporation in the United States, had its First Amendment rights confirmed in the Citizens United case. And Common Cause seriously claims that Scalia and Thomas violated ethics rules by failing to recuse themselves from that case?
The claim is risible, but then, Eric Holder is the Attorney General, so perhaps anything is possible.