WPRI 12 News Washington DC Bureau

Sens. Whitehouse, Graham say US Supreme Court lacks financial transparency

Politics

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — On most issues, U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Lindsey Graham look to be about as far apart as anyone in Washington.

Whitehouse, D-R.I., is a vociferous critic of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority; Graham, R-S.C., pushed through the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett last fall. Whitehouse railed against President Trump throughout his term; Graham was one of Trump’s chief Capitol Hill allies.

But on at least one issue, Whitehouse and Graham see eye to eye: federal judges should be subject to the same level of financial disclosure as other high officials in the federal government.

The two senators sent a letter Wednesday to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, writing, “the justices of our highest court are subject to the lowest standards of transparency of any senior officials across the federal government.” They noted that while Congress and the executive branch are both subject to the Ethics Reform Act of 1989, the justices are exempt from some of its provisions.

“We believe a legislative solution may be in order to bring the judiciary’s financial disclosure requirements in line with other branches of government if the Court does not address the issue itself,” the pair told the chief justice. Whitehouse and Graham serve together on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The pair posted five questions to Roberts, zeroing in on why the high court’s justices do not disclose more about any “gift, travel, and hospitality” perks they receive. The senators also asked whether Roberts plans “to make the justices’ financial disclosure reports more accessible to the public.”

Whitehouse’s interest in the topic is no surprise.

For years, the third-term Rhode Island Democrat has been speaking out about his belief that the federal judiciary is being influenced by the deep pockets of outside groups. He even got into a public back-and-forth with Justice Samuel Alito last year for targeting the high court’s conservative majority.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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