A democracy grabbag for your Friday
If you live in or around the nation’s capital, you have a chance to make your voice heard in support of an important cause while enjoying some glorious Fall weather on Saturday.
Two marches highlighting racial justice issues, and particularly the challenges facing women of color, will converge in a neighborhood near the Capitol on Saturday morning and march down the National Mall to the Department of Justice.
The March for Racial Justice (#M4RJ) and the March for Black Women (M4BW) will have separate rallies in Lincoln Park and Seward Park, respectively, before linking up at Lincoln Park and heading down the Mall. Details are on the websites linked above. Common Cause activists will be among the marchers; we hope to see you.’
The Price of luxury travel
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced Thursday that he’ll write the federal government a check for $51,887 as payment for his seat on a series of charter flights that have embarrassed him and enraged President Trump.
It was certainly too little and it may have been too late to save Price’s job.
The secretary’s check covers just a fraction of the cost of the flights, which were chartered solely for his convenience; members of his staff filled other seats on the planes.
Politico reported last week that Price took five chartered trips in mid-September alone to Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. The last of those, from Dulles International Airport outside Washington to Philadelphia, cost taxpayers $25,000; Price could have taken a train – round-trip – for just $72.
On C-SPAN this morning, Paul Seamus Ryan, Common Cause’s vice president for policy and litigation, reviewed the rules governing the use of private aircraft by members of the president’s cabinet and other federal officials.
A case of bad judgment
You’d think a lawyer smart enough and dedicated enough and lucky enough to snare a seat on the Supreme Court would take care to protect and enhance his or her reputation – and that of the court – for impartiality.
But in the case of Justice Neil Gorsuch, it looks like you’d be mistaken.
Justice Gorsuch rode down Pennsylvania Avenue from the court on Thursday to deliver a speech at the Trump International Hotel. The Washington Post reports that his remarks to a supporters of a conservative education nonprofit group were “a tribute to civility and free speech.”
The sentiment was noble but the venue was terrible. The Trump hotel, whose revenues enrich the president and his family, is at the center of a constitutional dispute that is likely to wind up in the laps of Gorsuch and his fellow justices. A suit filed earlier this year alleges that in retaining his stake in the hotel, the president is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits him from accepting compensation other than his official salary.
Against that backdrop, Gorsuch’s appearance at the hotel, just a few months after he secured his seat on the court thanks to a Trump nomination and the president’s vigorous support, raises serious questions about the justice’s impartiality.
“Justice Gorsuch speaking to a conservative group in the Trump Hotel, where the president continues to hold a financial stake, is everything that was wrong with his nomination,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY
This isn’t the first time Gorsuch’s off-the-bench activities have raised questions about his judgment. Just a few weeks ago, the justice joined Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, mastermind of the obstructionist strategy that for more than a year kept open the high court vacancy Gorsuch ultimately filled, for what looked like a victory tour through McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. The justice delivered lectures and answered student questions at two universities where McConnell earned his undergraduate and law degrees.
Office: Common Cause National