Justice Alito says ProPublica “Misleads” with Story of his Travel with Donor

June 21, 2023

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito accused the non-profit media outlet ProPublica of “misleading” its readers following a story Tuesday about a fishing trip he took in 2008.

ProPublica published its story on Tuesday, reporting on Alito’s Alaska vacation in July 2008 “at a luxury fishing lodge that charged more than $1,000 a day.”

It goes on to note that “hedge fund billionaire” Paul Singer had flown Alito to Alaska on a private jet. 

“If the justice chartered the plane himself, the cost could have exceeded $100,000 one way,” said ProPublica, though Alito did not report the trip on his financial disclosures. 

Further, the report says that in the years since the 2008 trip, Singer’s hedge fund came before the Supreme Court at least 10 times, including during a 2014 case involving a dispute between the hedge fund and the nation of Argentina, during which Alito did not recuse himself.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday evening, Alito wrote that “an examination of the photos and information on the lodge’s website shows that ProPublica’s portrayal is misleading.”

“In brief, the relevant facts relating to the fishing trip 15 years ago are as follows. I stayed for three nights in a modest one-room unit at the King Salmon Lodge, which was a comfortable but rustic facility,” wrote Alito.

He added that the meals there were “homestyle fare” and though he “cannot recall if there was wine,” if there was he insists “it was certainly not wine that costs $1,000.”

As for the flight in Singer’s private jet, Alito defends it by saying, “I was asked whether I would like to fly there in a seat that, as far as I am aware, would have otherwise been vacant. It was my understanding that this would not impose any extra cost on Mr. Singer.”

The latest ProPublica report comes in the wake of earlier stores by the outlet regarding Justice Clarence Thomas. They included that he’d received gifts and business transactions from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow for years, including six-figure luxury trips, six-figure real estate deals and payments for his grandnephew’s high-priced boarding schools, without disclosing them.

Those revelations have led the Senate Judiciary Committee to launch an investigation, with committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) warning Chief Justice John Roberts to end the Supreme Court’s practice as virtually the only court in the U.S. operating without a formal code of ethics, or Congress will create a code for it.

Supreme Court Justices are required to disclose gifts of over $415, but the rules around gifts involving personal hospitality are less clear. However, the Court’s policymaking body, the Judicial Conference, changed its disclosure rules in March to require that Justices and other federal judges report more details of gifts. These rules would include free stays at hotels or sporting lodges. They further clarify that travel such as private jet rides must also be disclosed.

On June 7 both Alito and Thomas were granted 90-day extensions to file their financial disclosures for this Supreme Court term.

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