Justice Clarence Thomas Allegedly Involved In Undocumented Koch Network Donor Events
Flashback to January 25, 2018, several private planes landed ahead of a weekend that would be filled with fundraising events for the annual winter donor summit of the Koch Network, a conservative political organization founded by billionaires Charles and David Koch.
Among the people on those planes was Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. According to Pro Publica, the trip raised some eyebrows as far as who paid for it. If the Koch Network had paid for the flight, Justice Thomas would have violated federal laws that mandate reporting of gifts. However, a spokesperson said the Koch Network did not fund the flight, and Justice Thomas did not report it on his financial disclosure form, so it remains unclear who funded the travel.
Thomas is no stranger to Koch events. Interviews showed that he had been a guest at least twice in hopes of encouraging donors to give.
A donor revealed that Thomas had been in attendance for at least one of Koch’s annual summits, which requires a minimum $100,000 a year in donations to the Koch Network to score an invite to the dinner. A spokesperson for the Koch Network, formally known as Stand Together, said, “Thomas wasn’t present for fundraising conversations.”
Reportedly, Thomas has a long history with the real estate mogul Harlan Crow and the Koch brothers dating back to years of trips and retreats to Bohemian Grove.
“All of the sitting Justices and many who came before them have contributed to the national dialogue in speeches, book tours, and social gatherings. Our events are no different. To claim otherwise is false,” the spokesperson said.
As previously reported by BLACK ENTERPRISE, Justice Thomas has been on several luxurious trips funded by Crow and other very wealthy men. Crow is reported to have purchased Thomas’ mother a home and funded private school for a relative Thomas was raising as his son. In a previous statement he regarded Crow as a close friend with whom he attended “family trips.” Thomas said he was not required to report these vacations, however, in August the Supreme Court Justice disclosed that Crow paid for private jet trips in 2022.
The Guide to Judiciary Policy states, that judges are urged to not associate with groups that have “publicly identified with controversial legal, social, or political positions.” However, Supreme Court justices make their own judgment calls as far as affiliations.
John E. Jones III, a retired federal judge appointed by President George W. Bush, described Thomas’ actions as a “slow creep toward unethical behavior.”
The Koch network is branded as the most influential political organization and seeks to influence American law. Their network has shoveled out over $65 million in support of republican candidates in the previous election. An upcoming Supreme Court ruling, if passed, will limit federal agencies ability to regulate a plethora of issues such as environment and labor rights.
Charles and his late brother, David, are known for their opposing views on governmental regulation. And, 2021 records show the company brought in $700 million, which was disbursed to groups in the network to fund social and political agendas. Each network group is located in the same building in Arlington, Virginia, and there is significant overlap in the staff and leadership.
A former staffer for the Koch Network said Thomas was considered a valuable asset to the organization because he gave donors the opportunity to meet someone of his caliber.
“All the necessary due diligence was performed to ensure the Justice’s attendance at the events was compliant with all ethics requirements,” said Leonard Leo, the Federalist Society leader, who a donor said helped coordinate the events for Thomas in response to the cross-country events he has attended with Justice Thomas.
Thomas was first linked to the network in 2010. The New York Times reported that an invitation showed Thomas was featured at a former summit. However, a court spokesperson said the event, sponsored by Charles Koch, was for Thomas to discuss his memoir at a Federalist Society dinner not connected to the summit, although he made a “brief drop-by” at the summit. Thomas said he “was not a participant.”
Thomas has been a regular guest of Crow for 25 years at the Grove, a private two-week party featuring a $500 bottle of wine, according to documents and interviews with members, guests, and workers at the retreat. Members have to fork over a thousand dollars to bring a guest.
Crow said he has never heard Thomas him “discuss pending legal matters with anyone,” when asked about trips to the Grove with Thomas.