Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas attends a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 26, 2020.

(Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

'He Cannot Be Trusted': Thomas Urged to Recuse From CFPB Case Over Koch Ties

"All justices personally close to proprietors of shady financial services firms should recuse themselves, full stop," said Revolving Door Project's Jeff Hauser.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Monday faced mounting pressure to recuse himself from a case that experts warn "poses an existential threat" to a consumer-focused federal agency in the wake of revelations that he secretly served as an in-person "fundraising draw" for Koch network donor events.

ProPublica's Friday reporting on Thomas' Koch connections came amid heightened scrutiny of the justice's ties to billionaires with business before the court. Next week, the court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) v. Community Financial Services Association of America (CFSA)—a case challenging the agency's funding structure brought by a group that represents payday lenders.

"His repeated abuse of his office for personal gain is a national disgrace."

"Clarence Thomas' close ties to the Koch network—which has spent billions trying to make it easier for corporate predators to rip off everyday Americans and face zero accountability—are grounds for his immediate recusal from the CFPB case," Revolving Door Project (RDP) senior researcher Vishal Shankar argued Monday.

"He cannot be trusted to rule impartially on matters that would financially benefit his billionaire benefactors, and by extension himself," Shankar said of Thomas. "His repeated abuse of his office for personal gain is a national disgrace."

Critics—including Democrats in Congress and watchdog groups—have called for new Supreme Court ethics policies, a U.S. Department of Justice probe, and even Thomas' resignation over recent reporting about his relationship with billionaire Harlan Crow and other rich GOP donors who have showered the justice with luxury vacations and other gifts.

Crow's "real estate empire has bankrolled the National Multifamily Housing Council—a landlord lobbying group that has opposed CFPB regulation of the tenant screening industry," RDP highlighted Monday.

"While the artificial 'Community Financial Services Association of America' is the named litigant opposite the CFPB, all observers understand that the stakes in this litigation are shared by every investor in the types of companies that profit from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices," said RDP executive director Jeff Hauser. "Just because Koch and others have used a shell organization to back this lawsuit doesn't mean that their ties to justices are any less relevant."

RDP also noted that attorney John Eastman—an ex-adviser to former President Donald Trump who was indicted in the Georgia election interference case and corresponded with right-wing activist Ginni Thomas, the justice's wife, before the January 6, 2021 insurrection—filed an amicus brief in CFPB v. CFSA supporting the payday lenders.

RDP's recusal demand echoed Accountable.US senior adviser Kyle Herrig's response to ProPublica's reporting last week.

"It's clear that Justice Thomas sees his position on our nation's highest court as a way to upgrade his own lifestyle with no regard for ethics or consequences," Herrig said Friday. "It was his own decadeslong improper financial relationship with Harlan Crow that sparked the Supreme Court corruption crisis in the first place—and that was just the tip of the iceberg."

"As ethics violations by Thomas and others keep piling up, Chief Justice Roberts' lack of action becomes more egregious," he added. "The chief justice must demand Justice Thomas recuse himself from upcoming cases with Koch network conflicts of interest. We need accountability and reform now."

As Common Dreams reported last Monday, Justice Samuel Alito, another member of the court's right-wing supermajority, has also faced calls to recuse himself from CFPB v. CFSA, given his private jet travel with billionaire Paul Singer, whose investment management firm holds at least $90 million in financial companies overseen by the agency.

"All justices personally close to proprietors of shady financial services firms should recuse themselves, full stop," Hauser declared Monday. "And if any justices persist in hearing this case despite being self-evidently biased, the case for rebalancing the Supreme Court to create an ethical majority will become even stronger."

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