“Personal, Not Business”: Clarence Thomas Didn’t Report Trips From GOP Donor Because They Were Gifts
Clarence Thomas is speaking out about the report that exposed his relationship with GOP billionaire donor Harlan Crow.
Thomas allegedly received luxury trips from Crow for more than 20 years, without reporting them on his financial disclosures. But, NBC News reports, the Supreme Court justice said he didn’t report the trips due to them being personal gifts. After all, Thomas and his wife, Ginni, are “dearest friends” with the Crows.
“Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas said in a statement. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”
Prior to the report by ProPublica, rules weren’t clear if Thomas wasn’t required to report the trips. However, recent revisions for “personal hospitality” make it crystal clear that trips on private jets and stays at privately owned resorts, such as Crow’s resort in the Adirondacks, will have to be disclosed.
“Personal hospitality” exemption means judges and justices don’t have to disclose specific gifts, like accommodations and food, when the person gifting is a friend. The new interpretation says that travel by private jet and stays at resort-type facilities owned by private entities will need to be reported.
Ethics experts, like Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University, said Thomas not reporting the trips is “arguably legal, the key word being ‘arguably'” but he said, as far as anyone knows, the trips are “outside the norm.”
“Thomas has made no effort to defend his conduct except to say he was misled by those he consulted,” Gillers said. “Thomas’ statement was effectively “a confession that he violated the rules albeit because he was misled.”