Jun 21, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Alito defends using "vacant" seat on private jet for Alaska fishing trip

Justice Samuel Alito testifies in front of a House committee in 2019.

Justice Samuel Alito testifies in front of a House committee in 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Justice Samuel Alito defended going on an Alaska fishing trip with a politically active Republican megadonor without disclosing it in a rare Wall Street Journal op-ed on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The op-ed was posted hours before ProPublica published an investigation saying Alito took a luxury vacation with billionaire Paul Singer, who later had cases before the Supreme Court.

  • An editor's note at the top of Alito's Journal op-ed noted that ProPublica had reached out to the justice on Friday asking him to respond to a request for comment by Tuesday at noon.
  • ProPublica wrote that a spokesperson for the court informed them that Alito would not comment.

Driving the news: The ProPublica investigation details a trip that Alito and Singer took to a luxury fishing resort in Alaska in 2008.

  • Singer flew Alito to the resort on a private plane, while the costs of the stay at the resort were covered by another major Republican donor — Robin Arkley — the then-owner of the fishing resort.
  • Singer's hedge fund went on to have business before the Supreme Court at least 10 times in the following years.
  • Alito didn't include the fishing trip or private jet trip in his financial disclosures and didn't recuse himself from any of the cases involving Singer, ProPublica reported.

What they're saying: In his op-ed, Alito argued that he had "no obligation to recuse in any of the cases" cited by ProPublica.

  • He and Singer had never discussed Singer's business activities or any cases before the court, Alito said, adding that he had no knowledge of Singer's connection to any of the cases because his name did not appear in any of the court documents or briefs.
  • Alito noted that his flight on Singer's private jet was not consequential because it "would have otherwise been vacant" and imposed no extra cost on Singer.

While ethics law experts told ProPublica that Alito likely violated disclosure rules by not disclosing his private jet travel, Alito countered that he had "followed what I understood to be standard practice."

Zoom out: This is the latest in a spate of revelations in recent months about Supreme Court justices accepting luxury gifts.

Go deeper: More ethics questions rise for Supreme Court justices

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