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Justice Alito refutes report of improper relationship with megadonor Paul Singer

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ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization known for its investigative journalism, recently released a report alleging that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito took a luxury fishing vacation in 2008 that was funded by a GOP megadonor. The report claimed that Alito failed to disclose the trip on his annual financial disclosures, accusations which the justice has labeled as “misleading.”

The report included an image showing Alito alongside GOP megadonor and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer together on the vacation in question. In addition to the trip, ProPublica accused Alito of accepting a series of expensive gifts from Singer, who later had high-stakes business cases heard by the Supreme Court.

According to ProPublica’s report, in July 2008, Alito allegedly accepted a lavish vacation that included accommodation costing $1,000 a night and a trip on a private jet, paid for by Singer. If Justice Alito had paid for the jet himself, it could have cost more than $100,000 one way. However, this “gift” was never documented or reported on Alito’s financial disclosures for 2008.

ProPublica further cited instances where Singer’s hedge fund had cases before the Supreme Court. Notably, in 2014, a case involving Singer’s hedge fund and the nation of Argentina was ruled in Singer’s favor by the high court, with Alito choosing not to recuse himself.

“If you were good friends, what were you doing ruling on his case?” Charles Geyh, an Indiana University law professor and leading expert on recusals told ProPublica. “And if you weren’t good friends, what were you doing accepting [these gifts]?”

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Alito disputed the charges made against him, stating that he had no obligation to recuse himself in any of the cases cited by ProPublica. He asserts that the flight to Alaska was the only instance where he accepted transportation for a purely social event, and he followed what he understood to be standard practice. Alito also claimed that at the time of Singer’s cases before the court, he was unaware of Singer’s involvement, as most petitions require little personal attention.

“ProPublica has leveled two charges against me: first, that I should have recused in matters in which an entity connected with Paul Singer was a party and, second, that I was obligated to list certain items as gifts on my 2008 Financial Disclose Report,” Alito wrote. “Neither charge is valid … On no occasion have we discussed the activities of his businesses, and we have never talked about any case or issue before the Court.”

Alito went on to cite the rules for completing financial disclosures, arguing that accommodations and transportation for social events were not reportable gifts based on the language of the rules. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Singer told ProPublica that “any pending matters before the Supreme Court, nor could Mr. Singer have anticipated in 2008 that a subsequent matter would arise that would merit Supreme Court review.”

These ethics questions concerning Alito come as the Supreme Court recently laid out its ethics practices in a statement signed by all nine justices in response to lawmakers calls for an enforceable code of conduct to be imposed on members of the court.

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