Sunday, June 25, 2023

There Is An Old Adage…

... about not getting into a fight with the guy who buys ink by the gallon. The technology has changed, but the spirit of that adage remains the same.
Alito had sent his response to us, we’d have asked some more questions. For example, Alito wrote that Supreme Court justices “commonly interpreted” the requirement to disclose gifts as not applying to “accommodations and transportation for social events.” We would have asked whether he meant to say it was common practice for justices to accept free vacations and private jet flights without disclosing them. 
We also would have asked Alito more about his interpretation of the Watergate-era disclosure law that requires justices and many other federal officials to publicly report most gifts. The statute has a narrow “personal hospitality” exemption that allows federal officials to avoid disclosing “food, lodging, or entertainment” provided by a host on his own property. Seven ethics law experts, including former government ethics lawyers from both Republican and Democratic administrations, have told ProPublica that the exemption does not apply to private jet flights — and never has. Such flights, they said, are clearly not forms of food, lodging or entertainment. We had already combed through judicial disclosures, so we knew that several federal judges have disclosed gifts of private jet flights. 
We might also have sent Alito some of the contemporaneous stories about Singer’s dispute with Argentina that were readily available online. Given Alito’s previous ties to the Journal’s editorial page — he granted it an exclusive interview this year complaining about negative coverage of the court — it’s probable that the stories we sent him would have included the page’s 2013 piece titled “Deadbeats Down South” that approvingly noted that “a subsidiary of Paul Singer’s Elliott Management” was holding out for a better deal from Argentina. We would have asked how his office checks for conflicts and whether he is concerned it didn’t catch Singer’s widely publicized connection to the case.
The whole thing pretty much screws Alito right into the ground.
And the readership of our story has been robust: 2 million page views and counting. It’s possible that Alito has won the argument with the audience he cares the most about. But it seems equally plausible that he drew even more attention to the very story he was trying to knock down.
The final note is on the practice of asking for a response before a story is written, a practice Alito tried to turn against Pro Publica:
Nevertheless, following our practice, we asked the Journal editorial page, Alito and McCabe for comment before this column appeared. We did not immediately hear back from them.

This is the way. 

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