‘Bout Time! Clarence Thomas Discloses Trips Paid By GOP Billionaire Harlan Crow
Clarence Thomas is finally opening up about the gifted private trips made public in early 2023.
The Supreme Court Justice disclosed on Aug. 31 that Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid for private jet trips in 2022 for Thomas to attend a speech in Texas and a vacation at Crow’s New York estate, CNN reports. Getting more specific, Thomas says he took Crow up on his private transportation offer as an “increased security risk” following the leak of the Dobbs opinion overturning Roe v. Wade.
As ethical values continue to form a dark cloud around the Supreme Court, the announcement comes after Thomas received an extension to file the yearly reports, originally due in May 2023. The controversial justice has been under fire for bypassing ethics laws by failing to properly disclose real estate transactions, luxury trips, and gifts from wealthy friends. In a statement, Thomas’s lawyer said there were “no willful ethics transgressions” and alleged that prior reports were “strictly inadvertent.”
The legal team also disputed claims against the justice described as a “partisan feeding frenzy.”
ProPublica was the first publication to break the news of Thomas’ long-time friendship with Crow and broke down the extent of the travel arrangements. After the scandal broke, Thomas never denied a friendship with Crow but claimed the super donor did not have business before the court. Defending keeping the trips a secret, he claims he never disclosed the travel because he was advised then that he didn’t have to report it. According to NBC News, the rules of disclosure were changed in March 2023, shortly before the ProPublica report was released. The U.S. Judicial Conference advises on ethics issues, and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have called for new Supreme Court ethics rules.
Initially, Thomas said the gifts from Crow were categorized as “personal hospitality,” and while Gabe Roth, executive director of judicial ethics watchdog Fix the Court, agreed to the disclosures, he said more could have been done on Thomas’s end. “Justice Thomas’ lengthy explanation as to why he omitted various gifts and free trips on previous disclosures does not countermand his decades of willful obfuscation when it comes to his reporting requirements,” Roth said.
Fellow justices like Chief Justice John Roberts agreed that more needs to be done.