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Conservative judicial activist Leonard Leo spanked two Democratic senators on Tuesday for demanding information related to some of his personal relationships.
What is the background?
Two weeks ago, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) sent Leo a letter requesting itemized lists of:
- "[A]ll gifts, payments, and items of value exceeding $415 provided" that he provided to any Supreme Court justice or their family member,
- "[A]ll transportation or lodging provided" that he provided to any Supreme Court justice or their family member, and
- "[O]f any other instance in which you have lodged or traveled with any Justice of the Supreme Court or a member of the Justice’s family."
They also demanded to know about a 2008 fishing trip to Alaska that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito attended. Underneath the letter were suggestions that Alito is guilty of ethics violations because he did not disclose the trip.
Alito has fiercely defended himself from those allegations.
How did Leo respond?
Responding through his lawyer, David B. Rivkin Jr., Leo essentially told Durbin and Whitehouse to pound sand.
"While we respect the Committee's oversight role, after reviewing your July 11 Letter, the nature of this investigation, and the circumstances surrounding your interest in Mr. Leo, we believe that your inquiry exceeds the limits placed by the Constitution on the Committee's investigative authority," Rivkin wrote in response on Tuesday.
Specifically, Rivkin asserted that Durbin and Whitehouse are infringing on Leo's First and Fifth Amendment rights.
"By selectively targeting Mr. Leo for investigation on a politically charged basis, while ignoring other potential sources of information on the asserted topic of interest who are similarly situated to Mr. Leo but have different political views that are more consistent with those of the Committee majority, your inquiry appears to be political retaliation against a private citizen in violation of the First Amendment," Rivkin explained.
"For similar reasons, your inquiry cannot be reconciled with the Equal Protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment," he added.
Rivkin went on to explain the "one-sided" nature of Durbin and Whitehouse's inquiry, noting they are concerned only with alleged ethical violations committed by justices appointed by Republican presidents. Allegations against Democrat-appointed justices, on the other hand, are "ignored," he argued.
What did Durbin and Whitehouse say?
The pair of senators maintained their suggestive allegations that Leo is connected to unethical behavior by Supreme Court justices.
They said, according to The Hill:
Mr. Leo turns up over and over again across a spectrum of questionable behavior: he developed the infamous Federalist Society list of Trump nominees; he was impresario of the Judicial Crisis Network’s anonymously funded ads; he’s in Harlan Crow’s painting of Justice Thomas’s holiday; he accompanied Justice Alito on his billionaire-funded Alaskan fishing adventure; he directed payments to Justice Thomas’ wife, and more.
"The American people are only seeing the tip of a very big iceberg, and the Judiciary Committee has the responsibility to look into it," they added.
To be sure, neither senator has offered proof of any wrongdoing committed by any Supreme Court justice. And, to Rivkin's point, they've said nothing about the court's left-leaning justices.
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News