Supreme Court Now Target Of Senate Investigation

( Two senators are requesting travel documents for justices on the Supreme Court, as the pair seeks to investigate whether there needs to be better requirements for transparency on the high court.

Republican John Kennedy from Louisiana and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island sent a letter that requested the travel records for any trips a Supreme Court justice took outside of the nation’s capital.

They want to examine any trips from January 1, 2011, onward. Included in the letter was a request for the location of the trip, the cost of security for the trip and which justices made those trips.

The senators are two of the members on the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. They said they are reviewing the standards for financial disclosure for how senior government officials receive gifts and travel. This is being done under both the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and the Ethics Reform Act of 1989.

They said they are concerned that Supreme Court justices have less stringent rules for financial disclosure than other members of Congress as well as people who serve in the executive branch.

The letter read:

“The Judicial Branch’s comparable guidelines are significantly less stringent. Even those requirements, however, do not formally apply to the justices of the Supreme Court. As a result, the justices of our highest court are subject to the lowest standards of transparency of any senior officials across the federal government.”

The senators sent their letter to both Merrick Garland, the Attorney General, as well as Donald Washington, the director of the U.S. Marshals Service. The Marshals provide security to any justice as they travel out of the nation’s capital.

Kennedy and Whitehouse said the records from the Marshals would be used to compare travel disclosures to other senior officials with the federal government.

This isn’t the first time that the travel of Supreme Court justices has been broached in recent years. The New York Times once reported that late Justice Antonin Scalia traveled frequently on trips that were paid by private sponsors.

The Times reported that between 2004 and 2014, Scalia took at least 259 trips that were subsidized by private sponsors.

The newspaper also reported that when Scalia died in February of 2016, he was actually staying at a hunting lodge in West Texas. He was staying there free of charge, and the lodge was owned by a businessman whose company had a matter that was recently before the Supreme Court.

It’s instances like this that bring the scrutiny of Senators Kennedy and Whitehouse, as Scalia wasn’t required to disclose the details of that trip.

Now, the two senators from opposite sides of the political aisle say more travel documents are necessary to see whether the transparency standards for the Supreme Court stack up to other branches of the federal government.

They also say they want to look into whether the government needs to “improve the consistency of disclosure standards across the three branches” of the federal government.