EXCLUSIVE — A Supreme Court “ethics” watchdog taking aim at justices over alleged ethics violations scrubbed its website of blog posts tied to its lobbying that went undisclosed on tax forms, records show.
Executive Director Gabe Roth of Fix the Court, a charity that spun off from the liberal Arabella Advisors-managed New Venture Fund nonprofit group, admitted last week his organization failed to report lobbying on tax forms in 2021 and 2022. Now, Fix the Court has removed website posts that multiple tax attorneys previously said appear to demonstrate how it lobbied during those years.
“No man so dishonest in his legal disclosures has standing to judge anyone’s disclosures,” Scott Walter, president of the conservative Capital Research Center think tank, told the Washington Examiner.
The revelation concerning Fix the Court’s updated website comes after the group, which is helping to lead a seemingly coordinated campaign calling on justices such as Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to disclose more about their finances, came under fire from charity experts for likely skirting federal law for checking the box “no” on tax forms to the question of whether it lobbied in 2021 and 2022. The scrutiny was because Fix the Court has endorsed certain pieces of legislation and, in separate blog posts, urged members of the public to demand lawmakers support them.
Fix the Court filed amended 2022 tax forms affirming “yes” to the lobbying question, documents reveal. The group also filed a Schedule C showing it spent $6,400 trying “to influence foreign, national, state, or local legislation” through “publications, or published or broadcast statements” and $6,300 on “direct contact with legislators, their staffs, government officials, or a legislative body.”
Roth, a former vice president at the Democratic-aligned consulting firm SKDK, said on a recent podcast hosted by attorney David Lat, “I have been corrected,” referring to Fix the Court’s lack of lobbying disclosure. He said Fix the Court directly lobbied members of Congress or their staff on legislation, as well as engaged in grassroots lobbying, which the IRS defines as efforts “to influence legislation by attempting to affect the opinion of the public,” including by demanding people contact their representatives to support certain bills.
“So yeah, my confusion was I didn’t hire lobbyists, so like, why does the IRS care how much time I spend?” the executive director told Lat. “But turns out they do. I have been corrected, and that’s being worked on as we speak.”
Fix the Court houses an “action center” page on its website, which as of this writing has no content. However, the center used to display a variety of posts, including one titled, “The Judiciary Must Do More to Prevent Harassment in the Courthouse,” which requested people to “ask your senators and representatives to protect the employees of the Judiciary!”
Charity experts said this post, and others, appeared to show that Fix the Court lobbied on a grassroots level. This is because Fix the Court in October 2022 also published a blog post on its website detailing its support for the Judiciary Accountability Act, which would mandate certain workplace conduct policies for the court in connection to harassment and whistleblowers — along with other measures.
Similarly, Fix the Court in 2022 touted its endorsement of the Open Courts Act, which would make PACER, the online federal court documents service, free. It also published a “Cash Cow” blog post on its website dubbed “The Left and Right Agree: Court Documents Should Be Free,” with the description, “Ask your representatives to make court filings free to the public and end the PACER cash cow that is extracting $140 million from the public every year!” according to archived records.
“When Fix the Court was part of New Venture Fund, I never had to fill out these forms,” Roth also told Lat. “This is really my first time doing it, and at first, I didn’t get help, which, again, was the wrong idea. I think if you’re a justice, and you’ve been a justice for five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, you don’t have an excuse because you have done this every year, No. 1.”
Fix the Court came under the national spotlight in May after Roth unwittingly leaked the group’s donors, including the New Venture Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, to the Washington Examiner and expressed panic. Fix the Court initially did not file a Form 990 in 2021 until the Washington Examiner pointed out the discrepancy to Roth. The judiciary watchdog was slapped with an IRS complaint in June from the conservative watchdog National Legal and Policy Center over allegations it illegally overpaid Roth.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have decried hypocrisy over Fix the Court’s own lack of transparency, given its efforts to, for instance, blast Thomas for not disclosing details about his relationship with Texas real estate mogul Harlan Crow, and Alito after he penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in defense of not making public a 2008 trip he took with businessman Paul Singer.
“I definitely see the irony,” Roth said in the Lat podcast interview when asked, “So, what if some people say, ‘Well, isn’t it a bit rich or at least ironic for Fix the Court to be going around calling out the justices for disclosure problems when you can’t get your own disclosures right?”
Fix the Court did not return a request for comment.
“Look, here’s the thing — we at Fix the Court are working to be better at compliance,” Roth told Lat. “I’ve made that clear. The board has made that clear. We have finally hired professionals to help us out, which obviously I should have done from the start, and they’re helping ensure that all of our paperwork is bottomed up and good to go.”
Original Location: Democratic-linked Supreme Court ‘ethics’ group scrubs lobbying posts from website
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