A former religious-right activist told Congress on Thursday how he took advantage of the lack of a code of ethics at the U.S. Supreme Court to wage an intense lobbying campaign with its conservative justices .
Prayers, dinners, trips… Pastor Robert Schenck detailed his efforts during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on ethical issues surrounding the high court.
Unlike their colleagues in the federal courts, or elected officials in Congress, the nine justices of the Supreme Court must not disclose the gifts made to them, the lobbyists they meet and are not obliged to recuse themselves in the event of a conflict. interests.
Pastor Schenck, who claimed to have discovered late in life that politics corrupted religion and now wanted to tell “the truth”, said that he had taken advantage of this vacuum to animate, for 20 years, an influence campaign called “Operation High Court”.
It “involved the recruitment of wealthy donors who befriended like-minded judges,” he explained, citing judges Samuel Alito and the late Antonin Scalia in particular.
The aim was to “strengthen their will to issue solid, uninhibited judgments, particularly on abortion”.
Some of its donors, nicknamed “stealth missionaries”, prayed with the judges, others invited them to dinner with their wives, even on vacation at their homes, and were invited back, he continued.
Unlike Congress, where the amount of gifts is limited, for example, “we knew there was more latitude in the Supreme Court, it made our campaign easier,” he said.
In 2014, during one of these dinners, Judge Alito revealed to a couple the content of an upcoming decision on contraception, said Pastor Schenck, who had already reported on this “leak” in a letter addressed to the head of the Court.
The interested parties denied everything and, during the hearing, the elected Republicans accused the witness of being a “liar”.
Judge Alito authored the June ruling that blasted abortion rights in the United States and was also leaked before publication, sending shock waves through the country.
These events reignited efforts to increase transparency within the Court and a bill was passed in committee in the House, but it is expected to be dropped e by the Republican majority, who will take office in January.