Ethical Behavior, Politics, and SCOTUS

It was, maybe, the late eighties and I was at Oscar Mayer buying packaging for products such as Lunchables, hot dogs, bacon, etc. and the labels. This buy included the graphics. Management thought they were overwhelming me. Indeed, I was thriving having commandeered on OM Wiener mo-jet to visit suppliers in Minnesota and Massachusetts. I did not ask, they offered one of the planes up.

A side category responsibility for me was the purchase of stationary supplies for corporate and the plants. It was not a big category and maybe $3.5 million in size. The company wanted minority suppliers. I found one by the name of Gale Sayers, the former running back for the Bears. He had a small stationary supply company in Chicago which was adequate in size to handle our computer supplies. Moved about $1.2 million in business to his company.

About six months passed and our contact at the company asked me if I wanted to go to the Bears dinner in which all the former and present players showed up. I could have went and not told my boss. A flip of the old ethical coin. Is it ethically acceptable to do so? Could it be construed as a gift? Did I compromise myself by doing so? Would anyone know? Take a day off as vacation and go.

Having run all of these scenarios through my head, I finally just went to my boss asked him. I got the answer I expected which was a polite “no.” Mind you, this was the Jim McMahon Chicago Bears. I would have brought two footballs with me for signatures.

My boss was probably (maybe) right . . . But, but, it was just a dinner!

I could have went and not told anyone. But then if it got out, I would have played the 20-questions game about my decision making and put my job in jeopardy. There was not a lot of place to work in Madison Wisconsin which could absorb my capabilities and salary. Why risk my family?

Here we are, decades later.

I worried my decision to death and decided on what was best for me. Off to a different topic.

There has been only one Supreme Court Justice impeached since the start of this nation. Justice Clarence Thomas does not appear to be worried about such happening to him. There is no code of ethics to guide justices that can be used to point to as being violated. Every justice is expected to act ethically and be guided by the interpretive law to which we all are exposed too.

Keep in mind, Justice Samuel Chase was impeached in 1804. The grounds?

The House voted to impeach Chase on March 12, 1804, accusing Chase of  refusing to dismiss biased jurors and of excluding or limiting defense witnesses in two politically sensitive cases. The trial managers (members of the House of Representatives) hoped to prove that Chase had “behaved in an arbitrary, oppressive, and unjust way by announcing his legal interpretation on the law of treason before defense counsel had been heard.” Highlighting the political nature of this case, the final article of impeachment accused the justice of continually promoting his political agenda on the bench, thereby “tending to prostitute the high judicial character with which he was invested, to the low purpose of an electioneering partizan.”

The House did impeach him and it went to a Senate made up of 25 Jeffersonian Republicans and nine Federalists. A majority found Chase guilty. However, a 2/3rds majority is needed to impeach. Chase was acquitted.

It appears Justice Clarence Thomas has no scruples or feelings of doubt or hesitation regarding the  morality or propriety of an action. I do not believe Thomas is ignorant of what he is doing. I believe he feels safe from anything occurring. I am sure he is aware of the Chase impeachment. He knows there is no law or code restricting him. He is just doing what he can do.

Propublica (April 13) is reporting Billionaire Harlan Crow Bought Property from Clarence Thomas which was not disclosed. So far not a big deal. $133,000 went to Thomas.

The transaction marks the first known instance of money flowing from the Republican megadonor to the Supreme Court justice. The Crow company bought the properties for $133,363 from three co-owners; Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother. This according to a state tax document and a deed dated Oct. 15, 2014, filed at the Chatham County courthouse.

Still not really big deal even though he did not report it. If you read the Propublica article, I believe you will find out he did nothing wrong other than not report the purchase and the sale. However I would say, Clarence Thomas errored on the wrong side of ethical behavior by not reporting the transactions. There is a question of violating the law by many. Others have dismissed that also.

Back to me, could I have went and not been caught? I saved the company $millions of dollars in negotiations, satisfied a need by sourcing a minority supplier, and provided my planning expertise. Even so, I was expendable. Clarence the Justice who runs the edge of ethical and legal behavior is not expendable to political interests, it appears. He just writes some rather weak decisions which make it very hard for others to follow.

This is just a beginning. More will pop up.