A billionaire flew Samuel Alito to Alaska before his hedge fund put cases in front of the court, according to ProPublica
US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas flew to Alaska for a fishing trip aboard a wealthy Republican donor’s plane before hearing cases brought by the donor’s hedge fund, ProPublica reported on Tuesday. Alito insists that he did nothing wrong, and simply took a spare seat on the plane.
According to the report, Alito flew to Alaska in 2008 aboard a plane belonging to hedge fund manager Paul Singer, a flight that allegedly would have cost the conservative justice $100,000 to book privately. Once there, he stayed in a lodge paid for by another GOP donor, Robin Arkley II.
The logistics of the trip – booking the hotel and arranging Alito’s seat on Singer’s jet – was reportedly handled by Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group that counts Alito as one of its most distinguished members.
ProPublica claimed that the trip placed Alito under obligation to recuse himself from a dozen cases brought before the court by Singer’s hedge fund since the trip.
However, Supreme Court justices are allowed to determine whether their “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” in any particular case. Alito insists that he was never swayed by the trip or by Singer.
“My recollection is that I have spoken to Mr. Singer on no more than a handful of occasions, all of which (with the exception of small talk during a fishing trip 15 years ago) consisted of brief and casual comments at events attended by large groups,” he wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.
Furthermore, the most significant case – in which the court sided with Singer’s fund against the government of Argentina in a $2.4 billion debt dispute – was decided by a 7-1 majority, with Alito’s input not necessary to secure a payout for Singer.
Alito explained that the seat on Singer’s jet would have been vacant had he not taken it, and that his lodgings in Alaska were less luxurious than ProPublica made them out to be. “If there was wine it was certainly not wine that costs $1,000,” he wrote, directly contradicting a claim in the report.
The associate justice said that he did not report the trip as the court’s rules at the time did not require him to.