by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
ProPublica continues its non-stop smear campaign against Justice Clarence Thomas, this time because he delivered remarks to some attendees at a non-profit seminar event in 2018. It’s their trademark tactic: ProPublica strings together perfectly ethical conduct, adds lots of innuendo, and then falsely claims Justice Clarence Thomas acted unethically.
It’s a lie. Justice Thomas acted ethically and appropriately, and consistently with how other justices have conducted themselves.
Contrary to ProPublica’s claims, this Koch Network event was not a fundraiser and Justice Thomas was not involved in any way with raising funds for this group. Yes, donors attended, but donors often attend events at which justices speak, such as those through the American Constitution Society, the Federalist Society, or even at university commencements.
ProPublica cites unnamed organization staffers (they’re always unnamed and therefore unreliable, as I proved in another story) claiming they wanted to leverage Thomas’s appearance to raise more money from donors: “The justice was brought in to speak, staffers said, in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving.” The report continues, “That puts Thomas in the extraordinary position of having served as a fundraising draw for a network that has brought cases before the Supreme Court.”
ProPublica smears Thomas by suggesting he had some role in any fundraising effort. He did not. Moreover, it’s not unusual for any organization or school to highlight leaders who have attended events to burnish the organization or school’s reputation and, yes, raise funds. Contrary to ProPublica’s warped narrative, this does not present any reason for a justice to recuse from a case regarding that entity.
A recent AP story revealed that when Justice Sonia Sotomayor agreed to attend a private luncheon at Clemson University, officials “made sure to invite $1 million-plus donors.” Donors got access to and had photos taken with Justice Sotomayor.