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OPINION

Instead of Smearing Justices, Senators Should Be Asking Them For Ethics Lessons

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The concerted effort by the media and Democrats to delegitimize the Supreme Court is the most consequential attack on our institutions in memory.

Make no mistake. The "Supreme Court Ethics Reform" hearing this week was meant to discredit the high court and slander justices with innuendo. Nothing else. Democrats are angry because the court happens to occasionally uphold basic constitutional principles of American governance.

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The recent hit pieces on Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch were shoddy and transparently partisan. They did not uncover any conflict of interest or corruption. They exist to give politicians fodder and hackish outlets like The Washington Post the freedom to contend that the Senate is "consider(ing) strengthening ethics rules for the Supreme Court in response to a cascade of revelations about unreported lavish travel and real estate deals."

Most Post readers will, no doubt, be unaware that there has been no "unreported" lavish travel or real estate deals. There is one amended note in a financial disclosure by Thomas -- who had no ethical or legal obligation to check in with Democrats whenever he travels. In Politico's Gorsuch hit, the reporter didn't even know how to read a basic disclosure form. Everything, including a real estate deal that Gorsuch was allegedly attempting to conceal, was reported.

The fact that the same histrionic coverage did not accompany Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's amended financial disclosures in 2022 nor Justice Sonia Sotomayor's amended financial disclosures in 2021 nor Justice Stephen Breyer's long-term travel arrangements, which were often reimbursed by the wealthy Pritzker family, is no accident.

The committee chair, Dick Durbin, contends he merely wants the justices to abide by the ethics rules that Congress has drafted for itself. If they did, it would mean a complete degradation of standards in the court.

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Because while there has not been a scintilla of evidence offered by anyone that the originalist justices have altered their judicial philosophy or approach for personal benefit, one could not say that same thing about the leader of the delegitimization effort, Durbin, who, according to a 2014 Chicago Tribune investigation, used his office and power to help enrich his lobbyist wife:

Among the areas of overlap in the Durbins' careers: her firm getting a one-year contract with a housing nonprofit group around the time the senator went to bat for the organization and others like it; a state university receiving funds earmarked by Durbin when his wife was its lobbyist; and Durbin arranging federal money for a public health nonprofit when his wife was seeking state support for the same group.

Durbin did not pay a fine or face any repercussions for this conflict of interest. Then again, do you know how many officials the Senate Select Committee on Ethics has issued disciplinary sanctions to since 2007? Zero.

Not Judiciary Committee member Dianne Feinstein, whose husband Richard Blum, an investment banker, made some amazingly prescient trades in the biotech sector during COVID-19.

Not Judiciary Committee member Richard Blumenthal, D-Stolen Valor, and his wife, who happened to trade shares of Robinhood before calling for an investigation and then lie, not surprisingly, about the family's significant stock ownership.

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Not Judiciary Committee member Sheldon Whitehouse, who not only traded health care stock through his and his family's accounts while pushing to pass a medical bill directly related to that sector but also used his seat to prop up a green energy concern that supported his campaign.

Nor Judiciary Committee member Peter Welch, who was buying stock in a German coronavirus test producer after hearing intelligence briefings on the matter.

Nor Durbin himself, who unloaded investments right after a private meeting with the then-Treasury secretary and Federal Reserve chairman during the 2008 financial collapse.

After years of slandering members of the court for the purpose of delegitimizing them, Democrats will bring up the fact that the polls show a diminishing trust in the Supreme Court as if it happened in a vacuum or as if they did not intend for this to happen. This is their doing. They are the ones creating the perception of corruption where there is none. And why? Because the Constitution is a hindrance to their agenda. It's that simple.

Durbin tried to get Chief Justice John Roberts to participate in his partisan clown show, claiming it was time "for Congress to accept its responsibility to establish an enforceable code of ethics for the Supreme Court, the only agency of our government without it." The Supreme Court is an equal branch of the government, not an agency for Durbin to bully. And, outside of impeaching someone, Congress has no power to dictate how it conducts business. If anything, Congress should be looking to the justices to learn how to act decently.

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David Harsanyi is a senior editor at The Federalist. Harsanyi is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of five books - the most recent, "Eurotrash: Why America Must Reject the Failed Ideas of a Dying Continent." His work has appeared in National Review, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Reason, New York Post and numerous other publications. Follow him on Twitter @davidharsanyi.


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