Over at Slate, legal reporters Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern discuss why ProPublica’s latest revelations about Clarence Thomas and the Koch network are so significant: Clarence Thomas’ Latest Pay-to-Play Scandal Finally Connects All the Dots. As Stern points out, Thomas brags about his judicial steadiness, which he (implausibly) cites as proof that no outside influences affect his rulings.
But conspicuously, Thomas changed his mind on so-called “Chevron deference,” i.e., the notion that agencies’ “reasonable interpretation of ambiguous federal laws” should stand. And he flipped on that standard after being corruptly coopted by the Koch network:
Thomas was a strong supporter of Chevron deference and even wrote a major decision expanding it. But after he was cultivated by the Kochs and became their close friend, he drifted away from Chevron, ultimately renounced and repudiated Chevron deference and is now on the brink of issuing or joining a decision that will overturn Chevron deference this coming term, in a case that is partly funded and supported by the Koch network…
Stern: There’s no speculation required to connect those dots. There had been previous reporting on why Clarence Thomas changed his mind about Chevron deference, because it is a big question. It’s a huge anomaly in his jurisprudence to have an about-face like this, and I think the ProPublica report makes any kind of remaining subtext very clear. He was initiated into this circle through a conscious effort—basically recruited, right?
Lithwick: Groomed. Let’s say groomed… Last go round, we called it quid pro Crow, and now we’re calling it quid pro Koch, but it’s the same pay-to-play.
Thomas has demonstrated repeatedly that he has absolutely no shame. In 2021, he issued a ruling that favored shielding communications among a group of coup plotters that we now know included his wife. So it makes sense to assume he will not recuse in the case this term and will rule in favor of deregulation, just as the Koch network’s long-term strategy envisioned.
It’s hard to get normies to pay much attention to the SCOTUS, though the Dobbs decision seems to be an exception. Maybe that’s a crack in the dam or maybe not. In any case, kudos to ProPublica for keeping the heat on Crooked Clarence. I have a feeling they aren’t done digging up examples of plutocrats plying Thomas and his Fed Soc-approved colleagues with luxuries.