U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett is facing backlash for her refusal to recuse herself from a case involving the Koch billionaires who spent a substantial amount of money on political ads ahead of her confirmation.
According to Law & Crime, on Monday, April 26, the Supreme Court heard verbal arguments for two cases: Americans for Prosperity Foundation v. Rodriquez and Thomas More Law Center v. Bonta. Both cases center on First Amendment opposition to a California law requiring select non-profit groups to disclose donor information to the U.S. Department of Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The top petitioner listed in the case is a non-profit organization spearheaded by billionaires David Koch and Charles Koch. When Barrett was nominated for the nation’s highest court by former President Donald Trump, the group shelled out more than $1 million to cover the cost of advertisements to amplify Barrett’s image.
During an interview with Forbes, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) expressed concern about the presumed conflict of interest Barrett is treading toward by refusing to recuse herself from the case.
“Justice Barrett is ignoring important ethical standards to rule on a case that could open our democracy to further infiltration by dark-money influence, perhaps permanently,” Whitehouse told Forbes. “Her choice to press forward in spite of recusal laws also creates a troubling new precedent, and undermines public confidence in the integrity of the Court.”
Whitehouse and other Democratic lawmakers also penned a letter last week to express their concern.
“Statute, constitutional case law, and common sense all would seem to require your recusal from [the case],” Whitehouse, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) they wrote. “At a minimum, there should be a public explanation as to why you think recusal is not required under federal law, since your participation in the case on these facts would appear to both conflict with 28 U.S.C. § 455 and effectively overturn [relevant case law]. Understanding this determination will also aid Congress in its ongoing consideration of judicial ethics and transparency rules.”
“The American people are alarmed about the seemingly dominant influence of special interests on our politics and government,” the trio of Democrats continued. “And the [Koch-funded group’s] operation’s ‘full scale campaign’ for your confirmation makes plain that our judiciary is a target of this massive influence apparatus. Now, in AFPF, the Court takes up an important case that squarely implicates the power of big special interests to exercise their influence from behind veils of secrecy.”
“We hope you will consider seriously and address publicly the question of recusal in this case,” that letter concluded.