WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats said Monday they plan to subpoena Republican megadonor Harlan Crow and conservative activist Leonard Leo for more information about their roles in organizing and paying for luxury travel for Supreme Court justices.
The announcement by Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee comes as the court is being pressed to adopt an ethics code, a move that has been publicly endorsed by three of the nine justices.
The committee could act as soon as next week to authorize Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the panel’s chairman, to issue subpoenas to Crow, Leo and another wealthy donor, Robin Arkley II.
Crow has been identified as a benefactor of Justice Clarence Thomas for more than two decades, paying for nearly annual vacations, purchasing from Thomas and others the Georgia home in which the justice’s mother still lives and helping pay for the private schooling for a relative.
Leo, a Federalist Society executive who worked with former President Donald Trump to move the court and the rest of the federal judiciary to the right, and Arkley helped arrange and pay for a private jet trip to Alaska for Justice Samuel Alito in 2008.
Arkley and Leo have refused to cooperate with the committee’s investigation of the justices’ largely undisclosed private travel, the committee said.
Crow “offered to produce certain limited information that fell well short of what the Committee needs and to which it is entitled,” Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said in a joint statement.
In a statement after Durbin’s announcement, Crow’s office called the subpoena politically motivated and said Crow had offered information to the committee.
“It’s clear this is nothing more than a stunt aimed at undermining a sitting Supreme Court Justice for ideological and political purposes,” the statement said.
Leo voiced a similar objection. “I will not bow to the vile and disgusting liberal McCarthyism that seeks to destroy the Supreme Court simply because it follows the Constitution rather than their political agenda,” Leo said in a statement.
In July, the Judiciary panel approved legislation that would force the justices to abide by stronger ethics standards. The bill would set ethics rules for the court and a process to enforce them, including new standards for transparency around recusals, gifts and potential conflicts of interest.
The bill has little chance of passage in the closely divided Senate. Republicans have united against it, saying it could “destroy” the court.
Apart from the Judiciary Committee, Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee issued the results of their separate probe of the $267,000 loan that enabled Thomas to buy a luxury, 40-foot motorcoach in 1999. The committee found that the loan, made by longtime friend Anthony Welters, appears to have been largely if not totally forgiven after Thomas made payments of interest, only, over nine years.