UNITED STATES NEWS

Inside the AP’s investigation into the ethics practices of the Supreme Court justices

Jul 11, 2023, 2:30 AM

An email from Kim Patterson, the executive director of the McLennan Community College Foundation, a...

An email from Kim Patterson, the executive director of the McLennan Community College Foundation, about who to invite to a private dinner with Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his visit to McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, in 2017, is photographed on June 27, 2023. An Associated Press examination of the ethics practices of the U.S. Supreme Court relied on documents obtained from more than 100 public records requests to public colleges, universities and other institutions that have hosted the justices over the past decade.(AP Photo/Jon Elswick)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

WASHINGTON (AP) — public colleges, universities and other institutions that have hosted the justices over the past decade.

Here’s a look at how the reporting was done:

To conduct its review, the AP surveyed local news stories and social media and obtained data from ScotusTracker, a website that logged justices’ activities, to develop a list of appearances over the past 10 years.

In late 2022 and early this year, the AP submitted records requests to the public institutions on that list, citing individual state statutes that require the disclosure of certain documents to the public.

The requests sought a broad range of information, including details about any contracts or riders for the appearances; transportation to and from events as well as food and lodging; the recording policy for the event; and any gifts or honorarium discussed or offered, including books.

The AP separately queried more than 100 private colleges, universities and charities that have also hosted justices or organized events for them, requesting that they provide the same information that was asked of public institutions. Some confirmed basic details of the visits, but few provided substantive information.

The AP cataloged the travel and perks afforded to the justices. The AP also compiled lists of guests, including donors and politicians, who were invited to private receptions with justices and vetted them wherever possible against information in federal court records, Federal Election Commission filings, online photo albums of events and other publicly available data.

The responses among public institutions varied widely. Some schools, including the University of Rhode Island, Ohio State University, Stony Brook University and the University of California, Davis, provided records free of charge. Some schools turned over thousands of pages of records, including George Mason University and the University of Kentucky.

McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, produced 104 pages of records in March and then, following a $110 payment, shipped by mail a box of blue folders containing hundreds more pages. A reporting trip was also taken there so that a journalist could observe firsthand the site of a dinner that the college organized for Justice Clarence Thomas.

In some instances, AP filed multiple requests with the same institution, either because the school asked that the initial request be substantially narrowed or because an initial response suggested that even more details might be available. In the case of the University of Texas at Tyler, for instance, the AP filed a follow-up request to obtain a guest list for a dinner with Thomas. A follow-up request was filed with the University of Mississippi for the cost of a flight that carried Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Antonin Scalia and Scalia’s son and grandson in 2014.

Some institutions were less forthcoming. The AP went to the Illinois state attorney general to get a binding opinion directing the Chicago Public Library to produce documents related to a visit by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Other schools, including the University of Arizona, have said their search for records remained ongoing after more than six months.

The AP did pay some schools for documents, including $350 to the University of Utah; $140 to Michigan State University; $159.24 to the University of Minnesota; and roughly $150 to the University of Mississippi.

But some schools responded to records requests with fee demands that the AP deemed unreasonable. The initial fee cited by the University of Georgia for processing two requests was $18,800.50, though it was later reduced after the AP narrowed its request.

___

The Associated Press receives support from several private foundations to enhance its explanatory coverage of elections and democracy. See more about the AP’s democracy initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

United States News

Associated Press

2 arrested in drive-by attack at New Mexico baseball stadium that killed 11-year-old boy

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Two people were arrested Thursday in connection with a shooting outside an Albuquerque baseball stadium that killed an 11-year-old boy and prompted the New Mexico governor to issue a controversial gun ban. Jose Romero, 22, and Nathen Garley, 21, were held for the Sept. 6 shooting after an Albuquerque Isotopes game […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Some crossings on US-Mexico border still shut as cities, agents confront rise in migrant arrivals

EAGLE PASS, Texas (AP) — The week began in Eagle Pass with rumors that large crowds of migrants might show up. On Friday, the small Texas border city was scrambling: nearly 9,000 asylum-seekers and counting had crossed from Mexico, an international bridge remained closed and a 3-year-old boy had drowned in the Rio Grande. “Before […]

2 hours ago

In a frame grab from video, Kyan Bovee flies over Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023. The Detroit teen...

Associated Press

Black teens learn to fly and aim for careers in aviation in the footsteps of Tuskegee Airmen

DETROIT (AP) — Marie Ronny and Kyan Bovee expect their futures to take off. Literally. The Black teens from Detroit are part of a free program teaching young people how to fly, while exposing them to careers in aviation, an industry in which people of color are traditionally underrepresented. Their classrooms are the skies above […]

3 hours ago

Adnan Amin, CEO and number two official at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, ans...

Associated Press

Top warming talks official hopes for ‘course correction’ and praises small steps in climate efforts

NEW YORK (AP) — A top official helping to oversee upcoming international climate negotiations hopes to prove critics wrong — and surprise them with a “course correction” for an ever-warming world. But don’t expect that big a turn. Adnan Amin, the CEO and No. 2 official at the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai […]

3 hours ago

A volunteer from the GAF Roofing Academy helps replace the roof of Joe Capers, who has lived in New...

Associated Press

Back at old job, Anthony Mackie lends star power to New Orleans’ post-Ida roof repair effort

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Movie star Anthony Mackie was back in his home town — and back at an old job — as he took part in a program to repair roofs damaged by natural disasters for people who aren’t financially or physically able to get the work done themselves. The New Orleans-born Mackie, perhaps […]

3 hours ago

Becky Hormuth poses for a photo with her son Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, in Wentzville, Mo. About fo...

Associated Press

Some providers are dropping gender-affirming care for kids even in cases where it’s legal

ST. LOUIS (AP) — As Republican-led states have rushed to ban gender-affirming for minors, some families with transgender children found a bit of solace: At least they lived in states that would allow those already receiving puberty blockers or hormone therapy to continue. But in some places, including Missouri and North Dakota, the care has […]

3 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Sanderson Ford...

Sanderson Ford

Sanderson Ford congratulates D-backs’ on drive to great first half of 2023

The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a red-hot first half of the major league season, and Sanderson Ford wants to send its congratulations to the ballclub.

...

Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

...

DAY & NIGHT AIR CONDITIONING, HEATING AND PLUMBING

Here are the biggest tips to keep your AC bill low this summer

PHOENIX — In Arizona during the summer, having a working air conditioning unit is not just a pleasure, but a necessity. No one wants to walk from their sweltering car just to continue to be hot in their home. As the triple digits hit around the Valley and are here to stay, your AC bill […]

Inside the AP’s investigation into the ethics practices of the Supreme Court justices