According to ProPublica, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted lavish vacations from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow for over 20 years, almost annually, without disclosing them on financial disclosure forms.
The nonprofit investigative journalism group lists Thomas’s journeys on Crow’s yacht and a private plane and to Crow’s exclusive property in the Adirondacks in a lengthy piece released on Thursday.
According to the report, if Thomas had chartered the yacht and jet himself, the trip to Indonesia in 2019 may have cost more than $500,000, ProPublica.
Like other federal judges, Supreme Court justices must submit an annual financial disclosure form, which includes a question about gifts they have received.
It was unclear why Thomas left out the travels, but according to a court policy guide, The Associated Press checked, food, housing, or entertainment received as “personal hospitality of any individual” and taken place at that person’s or their family’s home is exempt from reporting requirements.
But, “transportation that substitutes for commercial transportation” and assets owned by a business are not expected to be included in the exception to reporting.
An email from the AP asking Thomas for comment was acknowledged by a Supreme Court spokesperson, who did not, however, offer any further details. According to ProPublica, Thomas didn’t respond to the group’s thorough list of inquiries.
Last month, the federal judiciary strengthened the disclosure rules for all judges, including the justices of the supreme court. Still, overnight visits at friends’ private holiday homes remain exempt from publication.
When it was revealed that Thomas continued to handle election issues after the 2020 election despite his wife, conservative activist Virginia Thomas, contacting politicians and the White House to call for disobeying the results, ethical concerns over Thomas’ conduct surfaced last year.
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The most recent news will probably lead to more calls for the justices to adopt an ethics code and improve travel and other gift disclosure.
In a statement, Crow told ProPublica that he and his wife had been friends of Thomas and his wife since 1996, five years after Thomas joined the high court.
Crow said that the “hospitality we have extended to the Thomas’s over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends” and that the couple “never asked for any of this hospitality.”
He said they have “never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue.”
According to a ProPublica report, Thomas has spent over 20 years on summer vacations at Crow’s opulent Topridge lodge. Other travelers on one journey in 2017 included executives at “Verizon and PricewaterhouseCoopers, major Republican donors, and one of the leaders of the American Enterprise Institute, a pro-business conservative think tank,” ProPublica reported.
Crow wrote that he is “unaware of any of our friends ever lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone who I believe had any intention of doing that.”
The revelation of the expensive trips runs counter to what Thomas has said about his preferred modes of transportation.
Thomas raised in poverty in Georgia, has admitted that he prefers “Walmart parking lots to the beaches” and enjoys traveling in his motorhome.
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For almost 4 years, Jason Martin has been a freelance writer for newspapers, journals, blogs, books, and online material. He covers the most recent news as well as many other topics.