Senate Democrats announced plans to subpoena two GOP megadonors and a conservative judicial activist, seeking details about their reported role in paying for lavish gifts and luxury trips for conservative Supreme Court justices that triggered calls for an ethical code for the judges serving on the court.
In a statement on X, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee said they plan to authorize the committee’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), to issue subpoenas to donors Harlan Crow, Robin Arkley and conservative activist Leonard Leo.
The statement said the Supreme Court is “in an ethical crisis of its own making” and pointed to reports of justices receiving expensive gifts from wealthy donors, allowing them to “gain private access to the justices” without public scrutiny.
The committee said it intends to understand the full extent of “people with interests before the Court” gaining access to the judges in return for undisclosed gifts.
The statement accuses Crow, Leo and Arkley of failing to comply with its earlier demands for information about these secret gifts, saying this has forced them to go down the subpoena route.
In a statement on X, Durbin said: “The Chief Justice could fix this problem today and adopt a binding code of conduct. As long as he refuses to act, the Judiciary Committee will.”
An investigative report by ProPublica earlier this year revealed Justice Clarence Thomas received multiple gifts, including luxury trips from Crow, for several years, which he did not disclose. The reported gifts include multiple trips onboard Crow’s private jets and yachts, the private school tuition fee for Thomas’ grand-nephew and real estate purchases in Georgia. Leo, a conservative judicial activist, reportedly helped organize a fishing trip in 2008 for Justice Samuel Alito with billionaire investor Paul Singer—whose hedge fund has appeared before the top court several times. Leo also reportedly arranged for Thomas’ wife Ginni Thomas to be paid at least $25,000 for her consulting work for a nonprofit he advises—while ensuring there is “no mention” of her name in the paperwork. During his 2008 fishing trip, the cost of Alito’s stay was reportedly covered by Arkley, who owned a luxury fishing lodge in the area.