Clarence Thomas Took Free Vacations with a Republican Billionaire

The Supreme Court justice says he didn’t need to mention the luxury trips because he and the Republican donor were ”close, personal friends”

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — the most scandal-prone justice sitting on the bench today — has enjoyed luxury trips paid by Dallas businessman and billionaire GOP donor Harlan Crow for more than two decades, a new report by ProPublica revealed this week.

There were jaunts in private to exotic locales, relaxing days at sea on Crow’s yacht, and tête-à-têtes with Crow’s mega-powerful friends at Crow’s personal resort. They included trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, Texas (where Crow lives) and Georgia (where Thomas is originally from). They even went to Bohemian Grove — a semi-secret meeting of the rich and powerful — one year. (Nixon went, too, but grumpily called it “the most faggy goddamn thing you could ever imagine.”)

More importantly, Crow picked up the bill for Thomas and his wife Ginni every time, since Thomas made just $285,000 per year as a Supreme Court Justice. (He does not report Ginni’s current income from her consulting work to conservative causes, and he failed to disclose nearly $700,000 of it in the mid-2000s, according to CNBC.)

Responding to ProPublica’s report on his luxurious journeys paid for by a billionaire Republican donor from Texas, Thomas said it had been his understanding at the time that “this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends” who had no business before the court was exempted from disclosure requirements.

Not disclosing the flights does, however, seems to violate a law that requires justices, judges, members of Congress, and federal officials to disclose gifts, ProPublica reported.

Thomas released a statement of his own and vowed to disclose more going forward.

“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over 25 years,” Thomas said in a statement. “As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. 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.”

“I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” he added.

“These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance,” he finished. “And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.”

While Crow did not provide specific responses to a list of questions from ProPublica, he did release a statement, which said in part: “My wife Kathy and I have been friends with Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni since 1996,” clarifying that they are “dear friends.”

Thomas was confirmed as a justice to the Supreme Court in 1991.

“The hospitality we have extended to the Thomas’s over the years is no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends. We have been most fortunate to have a great life of many friends and financial success,” he added. “Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality. We have never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one, and we have never sought to influence Justice Thomas on any legal or political issue… These are gatherings of friends.”

Crow did not specify which of his wealthy and powerful friends were also in attendance, or whether any of them could conceivably have been looking to influence Thomas.

While it may all in good fun with dear friends — and board members of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute — for Crow and Thomas, Washington insiders are shocked.

“It’s incomprehensible to me that someone would do this,” Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton, told ProPublica.

“This is precisely why the public respect for the Supreme Court has plummeted,” a retired judge appointed by Republicans told CNN. “This is far greater than mere ethics violations. It’s about the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”

I guess the party’s over, kids.

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