A new bombshell claims that Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, conservative activist Ginny Thomas, are staying at properties owned by a GOP megadonor, with subsidies to go on several luxury trips. ProPublica reports Published on Thursday.
Hospitality was not disclosed in Thomas’ public finance filing with the Supreme Court, ProPublica reported.
Reports of a connection between Thomas and conservative businessman Harlan Crowe are already adding to calls for Congress to investigate potential ethics violations. Key Senate Democrats previously used this year’s funding bill for the Supreme Court to try to pressure the justices to adopt some sort of ethics code.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, said in a statement that the ProPublica report was a “call to action” and that “the Senate Judiciary Committee will act.”
A new ProPublica report details Thomas’ acceptance of travel hospitality from Crowe that included lavish trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, California, Texas and Georgia. Some of these trips are said to have taken place on Crow’s superyacht or stayed at properties owned by Crow or his company. Many of Thomas’s trips on Crowe’s private jet were not disclosed in his public ethics records, although ProPublica identified one Thomas trip on Crowe’s jet in 1997 that was disclosed.
In a statement to ProPublica sent to CNN on Thursday, Crow said he had been friends with Thomas and his wife, Ginny, for more than 30 years, and that the hospitality he extended to Justice over the years was “no different than hospitality.” We have also extended to many of our dear friends.
“Judge Thomas and Ginny never asked for any of this hospitality,” Crow said in the statement. “We’ve never heard of a pending or lower court case, and Judge Thomas has never discussed it,” he said.
The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment, and Thomas did not respond to a detailed list of questions, according to ProPublica. In response to CNN’s inquiry about the report, a representative for Crow sent CNN the same statement provided to ProPublica.
Thomas, nominated by former President George HW Bush in 1991, is the court’s most senior justice and intellectual leader of the current 6-3 conservative majority. The justice is also scrutinizing his wife’s political activities, including her exchanges with key stakeholders in former President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Crowe, a Dallas businessman with deep ties to Republican politics, has contributed more than $10 million in publicly disclosed political contributions, according to ProPublica.
The ProPublica report documents a painting hanging on Crows’ Adirondacks property depicting Thomas, Crow and influential figures in Republican politics, including former Federalist Society president Leonard Leo, who played a key role in Trump’s reshuffle of the federal bench.
Executives from major corporations and leaders of major conservative organizations have attended trips with Crowe that Thomas has joined, ProPublica reported.
“I am not aware of any of our friends trying to coerce or influence Justice Thomas in any case, and I will not invite anyone who I believe is intent on doing so. These are gatherings of friends,” says Crow’s statement.
In his 2001 filing, Thomas disclosed a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and was given to him by the Crow family. ProPublica details a portrait of the justice and his wife that Crowe’s foundation donated $105,000 to for the “Justice Thomas Portrait Fund” at Yale Law School, where Thomas is an alumnus.
of the crow “As we have done with other great leaders and historical figures, he has contributed to programs celebrating the life and legacy of Justice Thomas,” the statement acknowledged. Neither Thomas nor his wife asked for those contributions, he said.
The report comes after the federal Judiciary’s policymaking body quietly adjusted its interpretation of what judges must disclose as part of their gifts and hospitality transparency obligations.
Some court ethics experts told ProPublica that Thomas’ financial disclosures about the lack of Crow-subsidized trips — specifically his yacht and jet travel — violated disclosure rules. Under the old guidance, there was some ambiguity about what had to be disclosed. For example, recent changes have clarified that personal hospitality subsidized by a third party requires that disclosure. Thomas’ stay at the Adirondack property is relevant because it is owned by Crowe’s company, ProPublica said.
Stephen Gillers, an ethics expert at New York University School of Law, told CNN in an email Thursday that ahead of recent revisions to the disclosure guidelines, Thomas could request it because the call came from an individual — not an organization or business. Company – No need to report the gift regardless of its value.
But under the newly announced changes, Gillers said, “certain information and all information about trips” must be released. Reporting deadline is May 15 of the year following receipt of the award.
Judges face more lax “hospitality” requirements than members of Congress, who must get approval for sponsored trips and report certain financial details about other guests and hospitality within 30 days, Gabe Roth says. , a group advocating for ethics and transparency reforms for the judiciary.
“It’s clear that the personal hospitality rules adopted by the Justice Department last month don’t go far enough: The Supreme Court and lower courts require stricter gift and travel rules than members of Congress,” Roth said in a statement. .
In his statement Thursday, Durbin said Thomas’ conduct was “grossly inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a justice on the Supreme Court.”
Even the turbine said Time for an “Enforceable Code of Conduct for Judges”.
Rep. Hank Johnson, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, said in a statement that Thomas should resign. He has made the same point in response to other allegations of judicial ethics violations.
“Furthermore, the Justice Department should investigate whether he violated federal law by failing to disclose his private yacht and jet travel as required by law, and the state bar associations to which Judge Thomas belongs should begin an investigation to determine whether he is eligible to retain his license to practice law,” Johnson added.
Updates to the hospitality disclosure guidelines were announced in late March by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who pressed the Office of the Administrator of the US Courts to clarify what is included in the so-called “personal hospitality” reporting exemption.
Whitehouse chairs the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that oversees the judiciary. He said on Twitter A new report on Thomas’ trip says, “The Supreme Court — and the Supreme Court alone — is crying out for an independent hearing that the entire government refuses to do.”
“Who were Thomas’ companions on these free undisclosed vacations, and what interests did those undisclosed companions have before the court? The question is obvious,” Whitehouse said on Twitter. “All of this requires a robust investigation, and it is the Chief Justice’s job to make sure that happens.”
Even before the new revelations, some Senate Democrats called on Congress to include ethics language for judges in legislation funding the Supreme Court next year.
Democratic Senate. Chris Van Hollen, who leads the appropriations subcommittee tasked with writing the funding legislation for the courts, has stressed that the idea will need Republican support.
“Americans’ faith in our Supreme Court is waning because of this type of behavior,” he said in a statement responding to ProPublica’s report. “We need answers. And the court needs an ethical code of conduct.”
This story has been updated with additional updates.
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