On the final day of the Supreme Court’s term, we speak with David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect, about recent revelations detailing many of the Supreme Court conservative justices’ close relationships to Republican megadonors, and how allegations of financial impropriety further delegitimize the court’s standing as an objective legal authority. “These are lifetime appointments,” says Dayen. “This is what arrogance looks like.”
AMY GOODMAN: David Dayen, before we end the show, I want to ask you about another SCOTUS point. And for people who are not familiar, ”SCOTUS” is Supreme Court of the United States. As we reported today in headlines, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito leased land to a fossil fuel company for oil and gas exploration around the same time the firm stood to benefit from a major environmental case before the high court. The Intercept has just reported that Justice Alito did not recuse himself from the case, even though his family stood to profit from the outcome, and he ended up writing the 5-to-4 majority opinion in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, which gutted protections for U.S. wetlands under the Clean Water Act. At the time, his wife, Martha Ann Bomgardner Alito, had an agreement with the firm Citizen Energy to earn revenue from any oil and gas produced on her land in Oklahoma, which she inherited from her father.
And, of course, this following the bombshell report in ProPublica that found that Justice Alito took this undisclosed luxury fishing vacation with Republican megadonor Paul Singer in 2008, then later ruled in Singer’s favor in several cases — Singer, a major donor to the Manhattan Institute, the Republican think tank that supports blocking student debt relief. Members of the Debt Collective demanding Alito recuse himself from today’s Supreme Court ruling on President Biden’s plan to give 40 million student borrowers up to $20,000 each in debt relief.
Your response to these latest revelations, which, of course, follow the revelations around Clarence Thomas and his relationship with the billionaire donor Harlan Crow?
DAVID DAYEN: Well, I mean, the fact is that the Supreme Court is really a rogue institution. It’s an example of self-regulation. Justices decide on their own whether or not to recuse. The documents that they file, while journalists can scrutinize those documents and maybe find other cases where they didn’t disclose certain gifts or other personal financial windfalls, there’s basically no sanction for it. These are lifetime appointments. I mean, this is what arrogance looks like in a manifested form. And there’s nothing much that the public can do about it, except bring pressure to bear.
And I think that some of the rulings that we’ve seen this year, which have been a little more moderate, could be a result of the legitimacy crisis sort of at the heart of the Supreme Court. And it’s good that journalists and other people are paying more attention to this circumstance, but it’s really frustrating.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, of course, we’ll continue to follow all of these issues. David Dayen, executive editor of The American Prospect. His piece, we will link to, “The Student Loan Case’s Unwilling Participant.”
Tune in Monday and Tuesday to Democracy Now!'s holiday specials. On Monday, we'll be bringing you the voice of the late great Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower. And on Tuesday, we’ll bring you James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is Your Fourth of July?” and other Voices of a People History of the United States.
Happy birthday to Isis Phillips! Democracy Now! is produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Messiah Rhodes, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Tami Woronoff, Charina Nadura, Sam Alcoff, Tey-Marie Astudillo, John Hamilton, Robby Karran, Hany Massoud and Sonyi Lopez. Our executive director is Julie Crosby. Special thanks to Becca Staley, Jon Randolph, Paul Powell, Mike Di Filippo, Miguel Nogueira, Hugh Gran, Denis Moynihan, David Prude. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.