As state supreme courts consolidate power and corporate money, shoddy oversight allows justices to hide their financial conflicts of interest from the public.

by Katya Schwenk, The Lever

In Arizona, a deep-pocketed anti-abortion group has been wining and dining a lawmaker who may be a deciding vote on a new effort to repeal the state’s draconian abortion ban — and the senator might have been accompanied by her husband, an Arizona Supreme Court justice who ruled earlier this month that the ban could take effect.

But the public doesn’t know for sure whether the justice attended the meals, because Arizona law doesn’t require justices to disclose gifts that don’t add up to more than $500 a year, even if these perks could have a direct bearing on cases they are deciding.

ro-choice activists celebrate the Supreme Courtâ??s ruling on abortion access in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 27, 2016

As the U.S. Supreme Court rolls back long-standing federal protections, leaving such matters to the states, judicial watchdog groups say they are increasingly concerned about ballooning special-interest money influencing state justices. Now a new report has found that thanks to weak financial disclosure laws, many state justices do not have to disclose gifts and perks that they or their spouses receive that could influence their increasingly momentous decisions on issues like abortion rights.

On the federal level, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s refusal to disclose lavish gifts, real estate deals, and travel perks from a billionaire benefactor with a vested interest in cases that came before the high court almost certainly violated federal disclosure laws.

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