Clarence Thomas belatedly discloses lavish travel expenses paid for by Harlan Crow

by Admin
Clarence Thomas belatedly discloses lavish travel expenses paid for by Harlan Crow

Justice Clarence Thomas belatedly acknowledged that Republican billionaire Harlan Crow paid for Thomas’ accommodations during trips in 2019 to Bali and Sonoma County — a disclosure that comes amid unprecedented scrutiny of the Supreme Court and the wealthy benefactors close to the justices.

The acknowledgment of Crow’s largesse was included in an annual financial disclosure report filed by Thomas and made public on Friday. Financial reports for eight of the nine justices were also released Friday. Justice Samuel Alito received a 90-day extension to file his report, as he did last year.

Three justices reported receiving six-figure amounts last year from book deals or royalties. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson said Beyonce gave her four concert tickets worth about $3,700.

According to Thomas’ newly-released report, Crow and his wife provided food and one day of hotel lodging during Thomas’ trip to Indonesia in July 2019, and Crow also picked up the tab for a four-day stay by the justice a few days later at a private club in Monte Rio, California, which is home to the Bohemian Grove, an all-male retreat.

Thomas has faced criticism for accepting lavish trips from Crow, a Texas real estate mogul and Republican megadonor, without disclosing them. Thomas has called Crow a close and longtime personal friend.

Thomas’ new filing explained that he “sought and received guidance from his accountant and ethics counsel” as part of a “review of prior filings that began last year.” The gifts from the Crows were “inadvertently omitted at the time of filing,” Thomas said on the new form, which primarily covers the 2023 calendar year.

Thomas’ 2019 trip to Indonesia with the Crows — some of it spent aboard a private yacht — was first reported last year by ProPublica, which noted it was not included on the justice’s disclosure form for that year.

Thomas later said he’d been advised by ethics officials that “personal hospitality” from friends did not need to be reported. However, the new filing appears to be a concession that whatever ambiguity may have existed around travel on private jets or yachts, gifts of stays at hotels or clubs owned by third parties have long been required to be disclosed.

For the past two years, the court’s ethics practices have been the subject of intense attention and criticism, as journalists, court-reform advocates and legal ethics experts have increasingly questioned the financial and personal ties of the justices, as well as the political, business and personal activities of some of the justices’ spouses. Senate Democrats have subjected the high court to withering criticism, with many suggesting that ethics lapses show the Republican-appointed justices to be under the sway of conservative activists.

Amid the firestorm, the Supreme Court took the unprecedented step last November of adopting a formal ethics code, although it lacks an enforcement mechanism and in some respects is weaker than vaguer ethics principles endorsed earlier by the justices.

Alito, like Thomas, has faced particular scrutiny. He flew on a private jet and vacationed in Alaska with a hedge fund billionaire with interests before the court, ProPublica reported, and two controversial flag displays associated with the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol flew at his homes, the New York Times reported. A spokesperson for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, which processes the financial disclosure forms, confirmed that Alito had received an extension to file his report but did not provide a rationale for the delay.

Various justices reported cashing in on book deals last year. Jackson reported nearly $900,000 in a book advance, paid through a limited liability company. Justice Brett Kavanaugh earned $340,000 in book royalties in 2023, and Justice Neil Gorsuch reported $250,000 in royalty income, according to the filings. Justice Sonia Sotomayor saw about $87,000 in book royalties and was paid about $1,900 for her voice performance in the PBS Kids animated show Alma’s Way.

In addition to receiving the four tickets from musician Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Jackson also received artwork for her chambers valued, in total, at $12,500.

Thomas reported his wife, Ginni Thomas, again received an undisclosed salary and benefits from Liberty Consulting, a consulting firm she established in connection with work she did for various conservative organizations. Public officials are not required to disclose their spouses’ salaries, but Thomas’ form put the value of his wife’s business at between about $15,000 and $50,000.

The Thomases also received two photo albums valued at $2,000 from Terrence and Barbara Giroux. Terrence Giroux appears to be the former executive director of the Horatio Alger Association, a nonprofit whose board of directors counts Thomas as an honorary member, according to Thomas’ filing.

Chief Justice John Roberts reported some rental income from a cottage in Maine and share of a cottage in Ireland. Additionally, his wife Jane Sullivan Roberts received a base salary and “commission” from the attorney search firm for which she works. After POLITICO and other outlets reported on Jane Sullivan Roberts’ work, the chief justice began reporting in his disclosures that some of her income comes from commissions.

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