Antonin Scalia, RIP, RIH

I think what’s needed here is a life-saving dose of reality, without which the glowing tributes (streams of rancid filth) dedicated to deceased Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia will surely carry us all away in a stinky flood. This is the man whose ethics the Los Angeles Times questioned back in 2004 ((David G. Savage and Richard A. Serrano, Scalia was Cheney Hunt Trip Guest; ethics concern grows. Los Angeles Times, Feb. 5, 2004. Available: http://articles.latimes.com/2004/feb/05/nation/na-ducks5)) when he was an official guest of Vice President Dick Cheney at secluded private hunting camp in California. It was a timely criticism on the part of the L.A. Times. Three weeks earlier the Supreme Court had decided to hear the case of Cheney’s bid to keep secret the details of his energy policy task force. Furthermore, the ranch was owned by an oil industry businessman.

As a result of this trip, experts in legal ethics questioned whether Scalia should have anything to do with this case. As New York University law professor Stephen Gillers put it, “It is not just a trip with a litigant. It’s a trip at the expense of the litigant. This is an easy case for stepping aside.”

If you want to split hairs, I suppose you could say ‘the litigant’ didn’t actually foot the bill. The taxpayer did. The Vice President and the the Supreme Court justice flew together from Washington on a small government jet that served as Air Force Two, and ‘were accompanied by a second, backup Air Force jet that carried staff and security aides to the vice president’. After landing in California, ‘two military Black Hawk helicopters were brought in and hovered nearby as Cheney and Scalia (and I presume the staff and security aides) were whisked away in a heavily guarded motorcade’ to the private hunting camp.

Cheney’s aides defended the Vice President’s right to travel to vacation spots on government jets and to take along guests at no cost. Well of course they did, however the rules governing the behavior of judges are not nearly so…accommodating. “Federal law says that ‘any Justice or judge shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might be questioned’.”

When questioned about this trip Scalia said he didn’t see a problem. In a written response to the Times, he insisted that his impartiality could not reasonably be questioned and he refused to withdraw from the case.

If you find yourself thinking of Hillary Clinton and her amazing talent for maintaining her integrity in the face of large speaking fees and super PACs, you’re not alone, but it seems the Supreme Court was developing its corruption rationale long before HRC’s second presidential run.

And of course, the culmination of this effort is Citizen’s United. ((Zephyr Teachout, Antonin Scalia’s Bad Law, Bad History: How the Supreme Court Legalized Corruption. Salon, September 20, 2014. Available: http://www.salon.com/2014/09/20/antonin_scalias_bad_law_bad_history_how_the_supreme_court_legalized_corruption/))One of the many danger signs leading up to the Citizens United decision was the 1993 case of Sun Diamond Growers’ gifts to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. During the attempt to bring Espy to justice, the Supreme Court consistently held that the government had to prove that the gift was given for a particular official act. This made it nearly impossible to prove a violation of the gratuities act for any gift given before a official action. Although this case illustrated the need for clear rules, the Court concluded that a clear rule would lead to ‘absurdities’. Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the Court, found it incomprehensible that the statute could criminalize ‘a complimentary lunch for the Secretary of Agriculture’ given by Sun Diamond, if he had matters before him that affected their work. Never mind that this particular repast was somewhat more than a free lunch—unless we’re talking about a lunch that cost $6,000.

“Scalia outright rejected the argument that the statute criminalized the ‘buying of favor or generalized goodwill from an official who either has been, is, or may at some unknown unspecified later time, be in a position to act favorably to the giver’s interests…

“He rejected the claim that it criminalized presents ‘motivated, at least in part, by the recipient’s capacity to exercise governmental power or influence in the donor’s favor.”

Read as political theory, this suggests that using money to influence power through gifts is both inevitable and not troubling. This was an obvious setup for the Court’s decision in Citizens United.

In the Citizens United ruling, a case which was already before the Court was broadened at the request of the justices from a decision about a movie critical of Hillary Clinton to a decision about the constitutional legitimacy of limits on corporate election spending. In other words, the Supreme Court launched a premeditated attack on our republic.

According this exert from “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United” as quoted in Salon, “This opinion comprehensively redefined corruption, and in so doing, redefined the rules governing political life in the United States.” Corruption now means only ‘quid pro quo corruption’ where there are ‘direct example of votes being exchanged for expenditures.

Here we can see more clearly the relevance of the arguments between Senator Sanders and Hillary Clinton about what is expected of a candidate or official who takes money from corporate entities. Her response has consistently been that corporate largess hasn’t changed any of her votes to which Sanders answers that these corporations don’t make donations for the fun of it. And in fact, Elizabeth Warren’s research has revealed that Hillary Clinton has changed votes after receiving gifts from her courtiers.((Glenn Kessler, Elizabeth Warren’s Critique of Hillary Clinton’s 2001 Bankruptcy Vote. The Washington Post, February 9, 2016. Available: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2016/02/09/elizabeth-warrens-critique-of-hillary-clintons-2001-bankruptcy-vote/))

We should take comfort in knowing that Justice Antonin Scalia came to the same end as the poor and the downtrodden, his wealth and power notwithstanding. I’ll be damned if I’ll give him a hero’s farewell.

Justice Antonin Scalia is dead, may he rot in Hell.

This represents my own opinion.  I don’t speak for any of the candidates mentioned here or in any other post on this website. 

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