Panorama of United States Supreme Court Building at Dusk

US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been taking secret lavish vacations on a private jet and yacht paid for by a GOP megadonor for years without disclosing them, according to a bombshell ProPublica report published Thursday.

Thomas, a conservative who joined the nation’s highest court in 1991 and is currently the longest-serving member, has accepted the trips from real estate magnate and Republican donor Harlan Crow nearly every year for more than two decades, ProPublica reported, citing flight records, internal documents, and interviews.

According to the report, Thomas has vacationed with Crow on his 162-foot yacht around the world, flown around on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet, and stayed at his private resort in the Adirondacks almost every summer.

A June 2019 Indonesia vacation that Thomas and his wife went on, thanks to Crow, could have cost more than an estimated $500,000 if Thomas had chartered the yacht and plane himself, according to the report.

On a July 2017 trip at Harlan’s Adirondacks resort, guests on the vacation besides Thomas included Republican donors, corporate executives, and a leader at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank.

Inside the resort, there’s a painting of Thomas, Crow, and conservative lawyers — including the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo — smoking cigars outdoors, a meeting that took place around five years ago, the artist told ProPublica. Leo, through his conservative group, has been considered key to bringing about the Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority.

A Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on Thursday.

Crow, in a statement to ProPublica, said he has been friends with Thomas and his wife, Ginni, since 1996 and said: “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.”
“Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality,” Crow said.
Crow also told ProPublica he is “unaware of any of our friends ever lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone who I believe had any intention of doing that.”
“These are gatherings of friends,” Crow said.
“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,” he added.

Ethics experts and former and current judges that ProPublica spoke with said Thomas violated the normal conduct of judges by accepting such trips and may have violated the law by failing to disclose them on his annual financial records.

The bombshell report comes as the Supreme Court has been under increased scrutiny over ethics concerns. Critics have called for the justices to adopt an enforceable code of conduct and to be subject to stricter financial reporting rules.

Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, all federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, are required to file annual financial disclosures that include reporting on gifts received. Yet they are exempt from disclosing “personal hospitality” they receive, which covers food, lodging, and entertainment. And unlike the rest of the federal judiciary, the Supreme Court is not bound by a code of conduct.

Thomas in particular has faced criticism after reports revealed that his wife, Ginni, a longtime conservative activist, sought to challenge the 2020 election results. Congressional Democrats raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest for Thomas, who also did not recuse himself from a Supreme Court ruling that rejected former President Donald Trump’s bid to withhold White House records from the now-defunct House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot. Thomas was the only justice to dissent.

Following Thursday’s report, several congressional Democrats condemned Thomas’ behavior and renewed calls for greater transparency and accountability in the federal judiciary.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *