"Not a bad return on investment": AOC calls out Justice Alito for luxury fishing trip with GOP donor

An ethics expert told Rep. Ocasio-Cortez that Alito would have had to recuse himself if he served on a lower court

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published September 13, 2023 6:36PM (EDT)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

If Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito were serving on a lower court, he would have been required to recuse himself from hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer's cases before the court, an ethics expert told New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on third-party litigation in the nation's courts Wednesday. His failure to do so resulted in Singer's hedge fund winning ruling worth $2.4 billion after the high court returned a decision in his favor in a dispute between his hedge fund and the nation of Argentina. 

"Not a bad return on investment for a fishing trip," Ocasio-Cortez said during the hearing. The Democratic representative referenced ProPublica's report earlier this year revealing that Alito failed to disclose a 2008 luxury fishing trip in Alaska and $100,000-one-way flights on Singer's private jet to and from the destination. Since that trip, ProPublica reported, Singer's hedge fund had come before the Supreme Court at least 10 times, including in the dispute with Argentina. 

"He did not recuse himself from this case, and in fact, he used his seat on the Supreme Court after all of this to rule in Singer's favor," Ocasio-Cortez told witness Kathleen Clark, a Washington University in St. Louis law professor, gesturing to a blown-up image of Singer and Alito from the fishing trip. "And following the decision, Mr. Singer's hedge fund was ultimately paid $2.4 billion because of this ruling. Not a bad return on investment for a fishing trip there."

Ocasio-Cortez then asked Clark if a federal judge on a lower court would be required to recuse themselves if they were in Alito's shoes. "Yes, there's a federal statute — I believe its 28 USC 455 — that does require recusal by both justices and judges under certain circumstances," Clark responded after Ocasio-Cortez's time expired. The statute Clark cited requires recusal when the justice knows that he, as an individual or a fiduciary, "has a financial interest in the subject matter in controversy or in a party to the proceeding" or other interest that could be greatly impacted by a case's outcome.