Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday criticized the plan of his Democratic colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to hold a vote to authorize subpoenas for three conservative benefactors of Supreme Court justices as part of the panel’s ethics investigation into the high court.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who leads the committee, along with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), announced they intend to subpoena Texas billionaire Harlan Crow, conservative activist Leonard Leo and Republican donor Robin Arkley II for information over their ties to right-leaning Supreme Court justices.
But McConnell thinks the move is wrong.
“What he’s targeting here is private citizens with no legislative purpose,” McConnell told reporters. “I think it’s completely and totally inappropriate.”
Durbin and Whitehouse issued a statement Monday saying the three men “have either refused to comply or offered to produce certain limited information that fell well short of what the Committee needs and to which it is entitled,” therefore prompting the panel to pursue the “compulsory process to obtain the information they hold.”
According to reporting by ProPublica, Crow paid for several luxury vacations for conservative Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over 20 years without Thomas disclosing them. Crow also covered private school tuition for Thomas’ grandnephew, among other things, while he had business before the court.
The news outlet has also revealed that Leo helped plan and attend a luxury fishing trip in Alaska for Justice Samuel Alito while Arkley provided free lodging for them. Alito did not disclose the trip.
“By accepting these lavish, undisclosed gifts, the justices have enabled their wealthy benefactors and other individuals with business before the Court to gain private access to the justices while preventing public scrutiny of this conduct,” Durbin and Whitehouse said.
While the Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that would force the high court to adopt an ethics code for justices to abide by, the legislation faces slim chances of passing the full Senate as Republicans object to it.