Sotomayor caught muscling universities into buying thousands of her books for a pretty penny
With a media campaign going on against conservative Supreme Court justices in the wake of Dobbs v. Jackson, the Associated Press decided to do a little digging on the others — and came up with a doozy on Justice Sonia Sotomayor, starting with a softball lede:
WASHINGTON (AP) — For colleges and libraries seeking a boldfaced name for a guest lecturer, few come bigger than Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice who rose from poverty in the Bronx to the nation's highest court.
She has benefited, too — from schools' purchases of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of the books she has written over the years.
Sotomayor's staff has often prodded public institutions that have hosted the justice to buy her memoir or children's books, works that have earned her at least $3.7 million since she joined the court in 2009. Details of those events, largely out of public view, were obtained by The Associated Press through more than 100 open records requests to public institutions. The resulting tens of thousands of pages of documents offer a rare look at Sotomayor and her fellow justices beyond their official duties.
In her case, the documents reveal repeated examples of taxpayer-funded court staff performing tasks for the justice's book ventures, which workers in other branches of government are barred from doing.
In other words, she and her personal henchwoman, Anh Le, who lives off the public dime, spend an enormous amount of time on shaking down colleges and other venues for book purchases. The AP laid out the raw emails, where nothing was couched in delicate terms, leaving it pretty clear that Sotomayor has a pay-to-play operation going, muscling universities into having her speak and meet and greet their denizens — in exchange for absurdly high numbers of book purchases they aren't shy about demanding. It has made her a pretty penny.
Let's take a look at some of these numbers available on Amazon:
My Beloved World — which is a book about herself. (Current Amazon rank: 53,479 in books)
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You — a kid's book, and she needed a co-author for it for illustrations. (Current Amazon rank 3,552)
Just Help!: How to Build a Better World — another kid's book, with a co-author (Current Amazon rank 19,254)
Turning Pages: My Life Story — another book about herself, done as a kid's book, with a co-author for illustrations (Current Amazon rank 172,621)
The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor — yet another book about herself (Current Amazon rank 967,754)
Three of those books are also available in Spanish editions.
In other words, these aren't serious books about legal reasonings or legal history, which seem natural topics for Supreme Court justices. These are ego trips — Sotomayor casting herself as the hero on the identity politics train, and then getting paid for it.
Any questions as to why it got out that the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg considered Sotomayor the dumbest member of the Court?
These are very dumb books, books that take no challenge to read and offer little more than Sotomayor's biography and trite advice to kids as money-making fodder. These are phone-it-in books, and it says something that Sotomayor needed a professional writer to serve as co-author in the kids' fare. Sotomayor doesn't even have kids, so it's odd that she should be so focused on writing children's books. That rather suggests that these books are vehicles for raking in the dough.
Some of these books sport really low rankings these days, suggesting that they aren't terribly interesting to the book-buying public. They are tripe. That suggests that were it not for the Sotomayor team's musclings of universities, there wouldn't be any sales at all.
These aren't books anyone would buy unless he had to. Sotomayor's right-hand woman made sure a lot of educational institutions had to.
Look at how tough she was, demanding universities cough up. Here is one passage, and the story contained many others:
"For an event with 1,000 people and they have to have a copy of Just Ask to get into the line, 250 books is definitely not enough," the aide, Anh Le, wrote staffers at the Multnomah County Library. "Families purchase multiples and people will be upset if they are unable to get in line because the book required is sold out."
It was not an isolated push. As Sotomayor prepared for commencement weekend at the University of California, Davis law school, her staff pitched officials there on buying copies of signed books in connection with the event. Before a visit to the University of Wisconsin, the staff suggested a book signing.
At Clemson University in South Carolina, school officials offered to buy 60 signed copies before a 2017 appearance; Sotomayor's staff noted that most schools order around 400. Michigan State University asked Sotomayor to come to campus and in 2018 spent more than $100,000 on copies of her memoir, "My Beloved World," to distribute to incoming first-year students. The books were shipped to the Supreme Court, where copies were taken to her chambers by court workers and signed by her before being sent to the school.
The Sotomayor team had a cow when an event was offered with free tickets and the public declined to buy her book to get it signed.
"Can you please show me the screen where people can purchase books?" Le wrote library staffers as they prepared to make the tickets available. "Are you just placing Just Ask … on the portal or all of the Justice's books."
When the free tickets were quickly snapped up, she asked library officials to publicize that those who could not get tickets could still meet the justice if they purchased a book.
"Please also let them know that they can attend the signing line to meet the Justice even if they are not able to attend the event," Le wrote in an Aug. 26, 2019, email.
A day later, she followed with another email, concerned that not enough of the people who got tickets had also purchased a book. Records indicate that the roughly 550 free tickets made available to the public (the rest were reserved for VIP guests) resulted in the advance purchase of only 28 books.
"Is there a reminder going out that people need to purchase a book at the event or bring a book to get into the signing line?" Le wrote. "Most of the registrants did not purchase books."
Still, when she found out event organizers had only purchased 250 copies of Sotomayor's book, she sent an email telling library officials that the quantity was "definitely not enough."
What's more, it was obvious the universities didn't want these tripe-filled books. When Sotomayor broke her shoulder in 2018 and had to cancel her event at Michigan State, the university asked for a $110,000 refund on the 11,000 books it had been forced to buy. The Sotomayor team tried to talk them out of that, but the university insisted. They didn't want that crap on their hands — nobody was going to buy them, and since Sotomayor didn't deliver on her end in this quid pro quo, they wanted their money back.
What can anyone call this other than disguised bribery or else the marketing and branding of Sotomayor as some kind of consumer durable on the identity politics model?
Either one of these possibilities is repellent in the extreme. If a justice wants to write a book and makes money on it because it's a good book, more power to him. But Sotomayor doesn't write books; she issues money vehicles for her own benefit. What kind of sorry picture is this?