Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is being urged to recuse himself from a key case after new reporting has revealed deep ties between the justice and corporate plaintiffs seeking to destroy a crucial consumer protection agency.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case brought by payday lenders who are challenging the funding mechanism for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The case could result in the death of the agency, which was created after the Great Recession to protect consumers from fraud and predatory practices, and also threatens to disrupt the funding mechanism for a wide range of other government programs that are crucial to the financial health of the U.S.
According to new research by the Revolving Door Project, Thomas has a number of deep connections with groups who have been trying to kill the agency since before it was even established.
Former Donald Trump lawyer John Eastman, for instance, has filed an amicus brief supporting the payday lender plaintiffs in the case. Eastman is a former law clerk for Thomas who recently signed onto a letter defending the justice’s ethics in the wake of revelations of his extensive corruption, and who once texted Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, to organize the January 6, 2021, attempted coup.
Another supporter of the case to kill the agency is the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, an advocacy group run by the Koch network, which dubiously called the CFPB a “mockery of the separation of powers.” Thomas is reportedly cozy with the Koch family, with ProPublica reporting that the justice has attended at least two Koch family fundraisers, arriving at least once by private jet and serving as a strong fundraising draw.
Through his membership in the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive group comprised of the U.S. elite, Thomas has numerous other potential conflicts of interest that could affect his ability to impartially rule on the case, Revolving Door writes in The American Prospect. Horatio Alger is packed with financial industry leaders who have a vested interest in seeing the CFPB gutted.
Horatio Alger Association President Gregory Abel, for instance, has been named the eventual successor to Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett and is a top executive for the powerful hedge fund. Berkshire Hathaway has been scrutinized numerous times for violating consumer protection laws — once resulting in a 2022 settlement from the company for $22 million for illegal redlining in a case led by the Department of Justice and the CFPB.
Other Alger members are leaders at companies like JPMorgan Chase, TD Bank and USAA, which have previously been fined by the CFPB. One Alger member, Tom Donohue, is the former CEO and a current board member of the ultra-conservative lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which formerly lobbied against the creation of the agency under Donohue’s leadership.
Thomas has shown himself willing to take great lengths to benefit Horatio Alger and its members. As a member for over three decades, Thomas has been invited to attend lavish events across the world. In return, Thomas provides, quite literally, unfettered access to the Supreme Court — each year, he invites Alger into the chambers of the Court to induct its new members, despite the Supreme Court chambers normally being kept sealed tightly.
Justice Samuel Alito also has ties to people who would benefit from the death of the CFPB, most notably his billionaire benefactor Paul Singer, who holds at least $90 million in financial companies overseen by the CFPB. Alito has already previously ruled in favor of Singer’s hedge fund — after Singer took Alito on a luxury fishing trip in his private jet.
“Though we at the Revolving Door Project called for Thomas’s and Alito’s recusal from this case in light of these ethics scandals, the Court’s well-established contempt for accountability and integrity offers little hope they will heed our advice,” wrote Revolving Door Project senior researcher Vishal Shankar. “Should both of them persist in hearing CFPB v. CFSA on Tuesday despite their glaring conflicts of interest, the case for their impeachment and for rebalancing the Court to create an ethical majority will become even stronger.”
Both justices have also personally benefited from Leonard Leo, the conservative dark money puppetmaster behind the nomination of every sitting conservative member of the Supreme Court. A report by Accountable.US this week found that Leo-backed groups have funneled over $9 million to groups that have filed amicus briefs in favor of the plaintiffs in the case.
“Leonard Leo spent years stacking the court with ideological kindred spirits. Now he’s funding a dark web of special interest groups to push an extreme agenda,” Accountable.US president Caroline Ciccone said in a statement. “If Leo has his way, the Supreme Court will toss American consumers overboard to loan sharks and predatory lenders hungry to line their pockets by any means necessary.”
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