Koch-backed Groups Linked to Scalia Trip, Speech Last Summer

Posted on June 23, 2014

Ethics thumbnail for issue buckets

Minutes after a lawyers’ group funded in part by industrialists Charles and David Koch welcomed Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia for a luncheon speech last August, another Koch-backed entity led a “stop government spending” rally in the same Montana hotel, a Common Cause analysis of Scalia’s annual financial disclosure report indicates.

Released last week, Scalia’s 2013 personal financial disclosure statement says the Federalist Society picked up the tab for the jurist’s trip and meals on August 19 at the Best Western Plus GranTree Inn in Bozeman.

Thirty minutes after the scheduled end of the lunch, another Koch group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), convened the anti-government spending rally elsewhere in the hotel.  AFP also posted a notice of the Scalia speech on The Liberty Guide, a project of the Institute for Human Studies, which is chaired and funded by Charles Koch

Americans for Prosperity is a central node in the Kochs’ elaborate political network. The group plans to spend $125 million on the 2014 midterm elections. AFP spent an estimated $122 million in the 2012 election, part of the $400 million invested by the Koch network during that election cycle.

This isn’t the first time that Justice Scalia’s Federalist Society-funded trips have raised eyebrows.  On Jan. 21, 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported comments by Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg stating that Justices Scalia and Thomas had attended Federalist Society dinners in southern California during January 2007 and ’08, respectively, and that Justice Thomas made “a brief drop-by” at a separate, Koch-sponsored event during his trip.

The Federalist Society listed no events matching with those trips, and the group’s president, Eugene Meyer, told the Washington Post that it had “no meetings of its own” at the exclusive resort in Indian Wells, California where Scalia spoke.  However, the trips coincided with the Kochs’ secret annual retreats in the Palm Springs area, and in 2010, one of the dinners was sponsored by Charles and Elizabeth Koch;a Koch Industries invitation letter for that event boasted of fpast “featured” appearances by both justices.

Over the years, the Federalist Society has received at least $2.8 million from the Koch family foundations and over $11.2 million from the secretive Koch-linked Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund groups.  The Federalist Society has also received significant funding from other well-known conservatives, including the Coors family (of Coors Brewing Company), North Carolina’s Art Pope, the DeVos family, the Roe Foundation, the Searle Freedom Trust, and the Bradley Foundation. 

Scalia took two other trips paid for by the Federalist Society in 2013, to Park City, Utah in August and to Baton Rouge, Louisiana in October.  He also disclosed receiving a travel reimbursement from John’s Island Club, a beach-front exclusive gated luxury golf resort in Vero Beach, Florida.  Membership initiation fees for John’s Island Club ranges from $83,000 to $200,000 per member.  Scalia was reimbursed for a total of 25 trips in 2013.

Common Cause research has uncovered several ethical breaches and questions over the past four years.  In 2011, Common Cause identified Justice Thomas’ failure to report his wife’s income from the Heritage Foundation and others over more than two decades, causing Thomas to go back and amend years’ of disclosure forms.  Common Cause has also identified potential ethical breaches relating to private jet travel and benefits provided by Dallas developer Harlan Crow.  As a result of this work, judicial ethics legislation has been introduced in Congress that would require Supreme Court justices to follow the same code of conduct as every other federal judge in America.


Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Ethics

Tags: Judicial Ethics

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