Justice Clarence Thomas Discloses Trips Paid for by GOP Donor Harlan Crow

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in a new financial disclosure report that Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid for his travel expenses for three trips last year, including private plane rides and a stay at Crow’s resort in the Adirondacks.

(Bloomberg) — US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said in a new financial disclosure report that Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid for his travel expenses for three trips last year, including private plane rides and a stay at Crow’s resort in the Adirondacks.

The disclosure, which covers the justice’s finances in 2022, marks the first time in at least two decades that Thomas has listed travel funded by Crow, a Dallas real estate developer who for years has hosted Thomas and his wife on luxury trips. 

The justice also noted that he sold three properties to Crow in 2014, which were located in Savannah, Georgia, and belonged to him and his family members. It was the first time Thomas included the sale, writing that he “inadvertently failed to realize” that he was required to disclose the transaction.

This is the first report Thomas has filed since a series of ProPublica stories this year about his longstanding financial ties to Crow, including luxury vacations, private jet flights, real estate transactions, and school tuition payments for a family member. The reports have heightened scrutiny of the justices and come amid a lack of transparency and an ethics code at the court.

Read more: Thomas’s Billionaire Friend Had Business Before Supreme Court

In a statement sent to reporters on Thomas’s behalf Thursday, attorney Elliot Berke said the justice’s amended report “answers — and utterly refutes — the charges trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”

“No Justice, Justice Thomas included, should be subjected to such political blood sport,” he said. “It is painfully obvious that these attacks are motivated by hatred for his judicial philosophy, not by any real belief in any ethical lapses.”

The federal judiciary also released the latest disclosure from Justice Samuel Alito. Reports filed by the other justices were shared in June; Thomas and Alito received 90-day extensions.

Thomas did not report earlier vacations with Crow over the years that ProPublica revealed. In a note at the bottom of his disclosure, he wrote that he was reporting the “personal hospitality” he received from Crow as well as the other private plane trips based on new rules that the federal judiciary adopted earlier this year. 

He also shared that he’d arranged for private transportation to an event in May — speaking at a conference of the American Enterprise Institute — after being advised by his security detail to avoid commercial travel due to the “increased security risk” following the leak of a draft opinion signaling the court’s intention to overturn the nationwide right to abortion in Roe v. Wade.

Thomas separately reported bank accounts and a life insurance policy for his wife, conservative activist Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, that he said he’d “inadvertently omitted” from his disclosures since 2017. He said Crow had paid $133,000 for the three Savannah properties in 2014, adding that it resulted in a capital loss for the justice and his wife since they had invested $50,000 to $75,000 in one of the properties, which was his mother’s home. 

Alito Fishing Trip

ProPublica separately reported that Alito failed to disclose a luxury fishing trip he took with billionaire Paul Singer in 2008 and then declined to recuse himself from cases involving the hedge fund founder. Alito took the unusual step of responding to the ProPublica story before it was even published, writing a Wall Street Journal commentary that said the portrayal was misleading.

Alito didn’t reference the 2008 trip or the controversy that followed the ProPublica story in his latest report. He disclosed two reimbursed travel expenses: a May trip to teach a class at Duke Law School and one in July for a “religious liberty summit” in Rome paid for by Notre Dame Law School. 

Neither justice reported receiving gifts last year. Thomas shared that he earned $12,000 for teaching at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, while Alito reported earning $29,250 for teaching at Regent University School of Law, Duke Law School and Duke’s Bolch Judicial Institute.

The US Judicial Conference, which makes policy for the federal judiciary, narrowed the personal hospitality exemption earlier this year, clarifying that a broader array of trips should be reported going forward, including private jet travel and stays at commercial properties. 

Thomas wrote in his latest report that he was advised by unnamed Judicial Conference staff, court officers and colleagues “early in his tenure” that he did not need to report private jet travel and lodging that was “personal hospitality.”

“In fact, filer is not aware of anything in the Judicial Conference regulations issued for more than thirty years or in any advice provided by the Judicial Conference to judges that is inconsistent with this position,” he wrote.

Ethics controversy

ProPublica reported in April that, as he generally has for years, Thomas vacationed last year at Crow’s Topridge resort in the Adirondacks. Crow’s jet traveled from Dulles airport in northern Virginia to an airport near Topridge on dates that coincided with Thomas’s stay, ProPublica said. The publication also said the plane tracked Thomas’ trip to a conservative think tank conference Crow hosted last year.

The financial disclosure rules don’t require judges and the justices to report the value of reimbursed travel. Chartering a large private jet similar to Crow’s to fly round-trip from Dulles to Adirondack Regional Airport would probably cost more than $100,000, according to Stephen Noto, general manager of Florida-based Skyway Aviation Services Inc. A smaller Cessna Citation jet would cost $23,500 to $27,500, he said.

In addition to Crow, Thomas took trips funded by oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly, private equity executive David Sokol and Waste Management Inc. founder H. Wayne Huizenga, according to ProPublica. Thomas’s wife accompanied him on many trips.

Congressional Democrats and advocacy groups filed ethics complaints against Thomas with the federal judiciary earlier this after the news reports. Those complaints were directed to the Committee on Financial Disclosure, which oversees the reporting process for the justices and lower court judges.

The committee doesn’t hold public meetings and hasn’t announced any action or updates on the status of those complaints.

Public confidence in the Supreme Court has declined amid ethics controversies and set of blockbuster conservative rulings, including the 2022 decision that overturned the constitutional right to abortion.

–With assistance from Sabrina Willmer, Lydia Wheeler, Kimberly Robinson and Greg Farrell.

(Updates with disclosure of property sales and attorney’s statement.)

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