In April, ProPublica released a shocking report on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. ProPublica had extensive documentation that Justice Thomas took millions in undisclosed gifts and travel from a top Republican donor named Harlan Crow. None of this is some tricky ethical quagmire – for years, Thomas has broken federal law in his failure to disclose to gifts AND by receiving the gifts. Well, funny story: it’s so much worse than that. ProPublica just published a new report, once again with extensive documentation, about Thomas also receiving millions in gifts, vacations and private-plane flights from other GOP-affiliated billionaires.
During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events and sent their private jets to fetch him — including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It’s a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood. Like clockwork, Thomas’ leisure activities have been underwritten by benefactors who share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence. Their gifts include:
At least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.
This accounting of Thomas’ travel, revealed for the first time here from an array of previously unavailable information, is the fullest to date of the generosity that has regularly afforded Thomas a lifestyle far beyond what his income could provide. And it is almost certainly an undercount. While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure, Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts.
Perhaps even more significant, the pattern exposes consistent violations of judicial norms, experts, including seven current and former federal judges appointed by both parties, told ProPublica. “In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” said Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served for years on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
The New York Times recently surfaced VIP treatment from wealthy businessmen he met through the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive nonprofit. Among them were David Sokol, a former top executive at Berkshire Hathaway, and H. Wayne Huizenga, a billionaire who turned Blockbuster and Waste Management into national goliaths. (The Times noted Thomas gives access to the Supreme Court building for Horatio Alger events; ProPublica confirmed that the access has cost $1,500 or more in donations per person.)
The total value of the undisclosed trips they’ve given Thomas since 1991, the year he was appointed to the Supreme Court, is difficult to measure. But it’s likely in the millions.
You can read more at the ProPublica link – this kind of blatant criminality is shocking, and it’s shocking that no one reported it before now. Thomas has been on the Supreme Court since the early ‘90s! Three decades of five-star vacations, rides on private jets, shady real estate deals and on and on. Where were the reporters on the SCOTUS beat? The only thing I’ll say in Justice Thomas’s defense is that he’s such a morally bankrupt hack that he would have voted in these Republican donors’ favor anyway, without the gifts. It’s not so much a quid pro quo or an explicit bribe – these donors are simply rewarding him for always voting in a way that aligns with their interests.
Photos courtesy of Cover Images, Avalon Red.