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Press Release | September 25, 2023

Clarence Thomas Must Recuse From Koch-Backed CFPB SCOTUS Case

Consumer ProtectionEthics in GovernmentFinancial RegulationIndependent AgenciesJudiciarySupreme Court
Clarence Thomas Must Recuse From Koch-Backed CFPB SCOTUS Case

Contact: Vishal Shankar, [email protected]

A new ProPublica investigation has found that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas secretly attended donor summits of the Koch Network, the right-wing advocacy organization funded by billionaire Charles Koch. These revelations come as Thomas is slated to participate in October 3rd oral arguments for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau v. Community Financial Services Association of America, a lawsuit filed by predatory payday lenders seeking to strike down the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) independent funding mechanism. Americans For Prosperity, a Koch-funded advocacy group that has spent years lobbying to gut the Dodd-Frank law that created the CFPB, has filed an amicus brief in the case urging the Supreme Court to side with the payday lending lobby. The Koch business empire includes investments in the financial industry that are “directly threatened” by Dodd-Frank and other consumer protection measures.

In response to these bombshell revelations, Revolving Door Project Senior Researcher Vishal Shankar issued the following statement:

“Clarence Thomas’ close ties to the Koch Network – which has spent billions trying to make it easier for corporate predators to rip off everyday Americans and face zero accountability – are grounds for his immediate recusal from the CFPB case. He cannot be trusted to rule impartially on matters that would financially benefit his billionaire benefactors, and by extension himself. His repeated abuse of his office for personal gain is a national disgrace.”

Thomas’ ties to the Koch Network constitute the latest ethics scandal surrounding the Supreme Court and this pivotal case:

  • Thomas has received lavish undisclosed gifts from billionaire property developer Harlan Crow, whose real estate empire has bankrolled the National Multifamily Housing Council – a landlord lobbying group that has opposed CFPB regulation of the tenant screening industry. 
  • Indicted “coup memo” author John Eastman – a former Thomas law clerk who corresponded with Thomas’ wife Ginni ahead of the January 6th attack on the Capitol – has also filed an amicus brief in CFPB v. CFSA supporting the payday lender plaintiffs.
  • Justice Samuel Alito – who is also slated to participate in CFPB v. CFSA oral arguments – went on a luxury vacation with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, whose investment management firm holds at least $90 million in financial companies overseen by the CFPB. 

In response to these Supreme Court ethics scandals, Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser issued the following statement:

“While the artificial `Community Financial Services Association of America’ is the named litigant opposite the CFPB, all observers understand that the stakes in this litigation are shared by every investor in the types of companies that profit from unfair, deceptive, or abusive practices. Just because Koch and others have used a shell organization to back this lawsuit doesn’t mean that their ties to Justices are any less relevant. All Justices personally close to proprietors of shady financial services firms should recuse themselves, full stop. And if any Justices persist in hearing this case despite being self-evidently biased, the case for rebalancing the Supreme Court to create an ethical majority will become even stronger.”


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this press release misstated the nature of the Koch empire’s holdings in the financial sector.

Consumer ProtectionEthics in GovernmentFinancial RegulationIndependent AgenciesJudiciarySupreme Court

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