Fake News Conveniently Trivializes Supreme Court Ethics Violations

Supreme Court of the United States - Roberts Court 2022

Ah, the merry month of May — and US Supreme Court justice Samuel Alito once again faces questions relating to his ethics.

Well, no, not really. What’s under question is his “impartiality.” That’s a different thing entirely … and not really a thing at all.

Fake news item number one: Alito sold his stock in Anheuser-Busch InBev last year, at the same time the company found itself boycotted by “conservative” randos who objected to the company sending a special can of beer to a social media influencer “conservative” randos don’t like.  There’s no question of insider trading or anything like that involved. Alito took a loss on his Anheuser-Busch InBev shares. Maybe he did it because he agreed with the “conservative” randos, or maybe he just needed some quick cash. To the best of my knowledge, there are no cases before the court relating to the conflict between Anheuser-Busch InBev and “conservative” randos.

Fake news item number two: In early 2021, someone (Alito says it was his wife, not him) flew an American flag upside down outside the Alitos’ home. That’s a traditional sign of emergency or distress, and coming around the time of the January 6 Capitol riot and the inauguration of a new president, it seems to convey political overtones. But there’s no law against Supreme Court justices (or their spouses) having, and expressing, political opinions.

These two fake news items are fake news neither because they’re necessarily untrue nor because they may not reveal political opinions the public might not like. They’re fake news items because they’re silly and trivial distractions from Alito’s REAL ethics problems and those of his fellow justice, Clarence Thomas.

As revealed by ProPublica last year, both Alito and Thomas accepted (and conveniently “forgot” to report) bribes … er, “gifts” … from wealthy friends with business before the court they sit on.

In Alito’s case, an expensive charter flight to Alaska and a $1,000+ per day stay at a luxury resort seemingly sufficed to buy his (non-decisive — he was one of a 7-1 majority) vote in a case worth $2.4 billion to bribe-payer … er, “gift-giver” … hedge fund manager Paul Singer.

Thomas likewise accepted unreported “gifts,” loans, and sweetheart property deals from the deep pockets of plutocrats with cases before the court. And he also got some fake news cover-up action focused on his wife’s associations with the Cult of Trump.

It doesn’t bother me if Samuel Alito takes a loss on stock because he doesn’t like a company’s politics, or if his wife flies a flag upside down over a supposed argument with a neighbor.  Nor do I think it’s reasonable to expect Alito or Thomas to control their spouses’ actions just because those actions are or might be “political.”

It does bother me that the over-the-top whining about such things obscures the real story: These two Supreme Court justices put their jurisprudence up for sale and got caught doing it. They should have been impeached and removed by now.

The bribes, and Congress yawning instead of acting, are the real scandals.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.