ProPublica’s piece entitled “Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire” merits a response.
Justice Thomas’s apparent ethical violation was to enjoy multiple lavish vacations sponsored by Republican megadonor billionaire, Harlen Crow. Justice Thomas according to two unnamed “ethics law experts” is supposed to report these vacations on financial disclosure forms. Yet the article admits, “There are few restrictions on what gifts justices can accept.” Furthermore, the article admits “It is unclear if Crow has had any influence on the justice’s views.”
ProPublica is an independent non-profit (501c) collection of elite journalists, many of who have previously worked for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and other prestigious news organizations. Several of the journalists have received the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in journalism, as has ProPublica itself.
Its mission statement is as follows:
To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.
Thus, when one peruses ProPublica’s web site, one would expect to find paragons of investigative journalism featuring such articles attacking abuses of power such as:
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen received $7,000,000 in speaking fees from Wall Street.
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) Bailed Out by Janet Yellen Protecting the Assets of Billionaires While the Middle Class Will Have to Pay Higher Banking Fees.
Billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried arrested in Cryptocurrency Scam
Yet, when one uses ProPublica’s search engine for the past several months to find articles on such abuse, what does one come up with?
If you said any of the following “Zip,” “Nada,” “Zilch,” “Absolutely Nothing.” Then go to the head of the class.
There is one article entitled “Regulatory Failure 101: What the Failure of Silicon Valley Bank Reveals.” Off course this article blames Donald Trump. Perhaps the author was asleep on Election Day on November of 2020. In fact, Biden-appointed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is not even mentioned in the article!
Why is this? Again, if you said ProPublica was financed by wealthy liberals who manipulate our political system to get bailed out while fleecing the middle class and working poor: Go to the head of the class.
The Chairman of ProPublica’s Board in Paul Sagan. He is the Managing Partner of General Catalyst Partners, a venture capital firm who – drum roll please – had a large position in SVB and was bailed out.
Sam Bankman-Fried, the cryptocurrency crook, donated $1.6 million to ProPublica and there was nary a word about his scam, although it should be mentioned in all fairness that ProPublica returned the money.
Another Board member is Samuel Daetz, who is Chairman of the Sandler Foundation. It was Herbert Sandler, the patriarch of the Sandler Foundation who founded ProPublica with a $10 million contribution. According to the ProPublica’s web site:
Mr. Sandler and his late wife, Marion, founded Golden West Financial Corporation in 1963. They were Golden West’s chief executive officers and chairmen of the board from 1963 until 2006, when the company was sold to Wachovia Corporation. Under the Sandlers’ leadership, Golden West became the second-largest thrift institution in the United States and was considered to be one of the best managed financial institutions in the country by many industry observers. Fortune magazine ranked Golden West as the nation’s most admired mortgage services company, and on seven separate occasions named Golden West America’s most admired savings institution.
Herbert Sandler was involved in the predatory lending scandal that was the precursor to the 2008 financial fiasco. It was Sandler who created what is called “the adjustable-rate mortgage,” in which the unsuspecting home buyer is bamboozled into a low interest rate that balloons at later time.
The savvy Sandler sold his mortgage company to the suckers at Wachovia Bank in 2006 for $2.3 billion. A couple years later when their payments on these loans ballooned, Wachovia went belly up and eventually the taxpayer got the bill.
I could go on but you get the point. If ProPublica wants to bash Clarence Thomas because he is harmlessly hanging out with some billionaire, that is their business. But they should not pose as [the watchdogs of] “abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust” unless they are becoming bored with their careers as journalists; and are practicing to become stand-up comedians.