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Common Cause Letters

 

February 28, 2011

 

The Honorable Clarence Thomas

Associate Justice

United States Supreme Court

1 First Street Northeast
Washington
D.C., DC
20543

 

Dear Justice Thomas:

 

As you know, Common Cause has raised a number of questions about reports of your attendance, and that of Justice Scalia, at twice-yearly political strategy and fundraising “seminars” hosted by Koch Industries and about your reporting of Mrs. Thomas’ employment on your annual financial disclosure forms. We appreciate your quick response to our concerns about reporting on Mrs. Thomas; I’m writing today to ask for your assistance in clarifying the extent of your connections with Koch Industries and its top executives, Charles and David Koch.

 

On Jan. 21, the Los Angeles Times reported comments by Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg that you and Justice Scalia had attended Federalist Society dinners in southern California during January 2007 and ’08, respectively, and that you made “a brief drop-by” at a separate, Koch-sponsored event during your trip.

 

Ms. Arberg’s statements are inconsistent with an account of the trips reported in Thursday’s editions of the Washington Post. Recounting an interview with Federalist Society President Eugene Meyer, the Post said that while the society reimbursed you for your travel expenses it had “no meetings of its own at the venue, an exclusive resort in Indian Wells, Calif.”

 

The Post went on to quote Mr. Meyer as saying the society “knew the justices were going to be out there," and paraphrased his comment that “the attendees would be interested in hearing what they had to say.”

 

In a separate letter today, we’ve asked Mr. Meyer to help resolve these conflicting accounts; I hope you can be of assistance as well. Your 2008 disclosure form reports that you were reimbursed by the Federalist Society for four days worth of transportation, meals and lodging. This seems a lengthy stay for what Ms. Arberg has described as a single speech and a “drop by;” your voluntary disclosure of additional details of your schedule, including all meetings that occurred during your trip, and the text of your remarks to the Federalist dinner and/or any Koch-sponsored meeting would help clarify the nature of the trip.

 

The court provides its members with a splendid platform to encourage civic involvement and respect for the rule of law by all Americans; we commend your willingness and that of other justices to speak to legal forums, law students and other gatherings about the court and its work.

 

But we also believe the involvement of any judge or justice in partisan political activity, particularly secret strategy and fundraising meetings like those hosted by Koch Industries, tends to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice. I note that you’ve expressed similar concerns about connections between politics and the judiciary in explaining your decision not to attend the President’s annual State of the Union address.

 

With that in mind, Common Cause respectfully suggests that the public interest, and the court’s, would be best served by your prompt and full disclosure of your attendance and activities at the 2008 Koch seminar and/or any other partisan political gathering.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Arn H. Pearson, Esq.

Vice President for Programs