A Democratic lawmaker expressed concerns on Tuesday about a well-funded advocacy campaign compromising the independence of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) noted that conservative donors are anonymously spending $10 million on lobbying for Gorsuch’s appointment. He said the initiative raises questions about Gorsuch needing to recuse himself from future cases, should his nomination pass the Senate.
Those queries, however, cannot currently be answered, with the money having been given anonymously. When asked by Whitehouse about the source of the funding, Gorsuch said he was unaware.
“I could speculate, based on what I’ve read and what I’ve heard,” the appellate circuit judge said. “But I don’t know individuals who are contributing. I don’t know that.”
Whitehouse then asked if the campaign was being wholly or partially-funded by “your friend,” Colorado billionaire Phillip Anschutz.
“I don’t know,” Gorsuch emphatically answered.
Anschutz is a conservative heir-turned-businessman who has thrown a lot of money at right-wing causes. The New York Times reported last week that, while an attorney, Gorsuch regularly represented Anschutz’s companies.
In 2006, Gorsuch was appointed to the federal appellate circuit, after Anschutz’s lawyer lobbied the White House and Anschutz lobbied then-Sen. Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) for the appointment.
Gorsuch has since “been a semi-regular speaker” at Anschutz retreats for the well-connected, according to the Times. The judge has recused himself from appellate circuit cases involving Anschutz’s interests.
When asked by Whitehouse on Tuesday, the second day of confirmation hearings, Gorsuch did not deny that the advocacy campaign concerned him.
“The fact of the matter is – it is what it is. And it’s this body that makes the laws,” Gorsuch told Whitehouse.
“If you wish to have more disclosure, pass a law and a judge will enforce it, senator,” he added.