Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Received Undisclosed Trips from GOP Megadonor

Jimmy Williams

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted several undisclosed trips from GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, according to documents released by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. These trips, which took place in 2017, 2019, and 2021, were not included in Thomas’s financial disclosure forms.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who chairs the Judiciary Committee, made the records public. Durbin stated, “As a result of our investigation and subpoena authorization, we are providing the American public greater clarity on the extent of ethical lapses by Supreme Court justices and the need for ethics reform.”

The documents came out just one day after Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempt to pass Supreme Court ethics legislation. This legislation had been advanced by the committee nearly a year ago.

Crow’s office confirmed an agreement with the Judiciary Committee to provide information dating back seven years. In a statement, Crow’s office said, “Despite his serious and continued concerns about the legality and necessity of the inquiry, Mr. Crow engaged in good faith with the Committee. As a condition of this agreement, the Committee agreed to end its probe with respect to Mr. Crow.”

A spokesperson for Durbin explained that the committee “reached an agreement with Mr. Crow for information and materials that were sufficient for compliance with the Committee’s request and subpoena authorization.”

An attorney for Thomas, Elliot S. Berke, defended the justice’s disclosure practices. Berke stated, “The information that Harlan Crow provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee fell under the ‘personal hospitality exemption’ and was not required to be disclosed by Justice Thomas.” He added that the Judicial Conference — the administrative office of the U.S. courts — “changed this provision last year, and Justice Thomas has fully complied with the new disclosure requirement.”

Last week, Thomas acknowledged a pair of trips in 2019 with Crow in his annual financial disclosure report. These trips correspond to those reported by ProPublica last year. Thomas had previously referred to the undisclosed travel as “personal hospitality from close personal friends,” rather than business.

Democrats on the Judiciary Committee cited a statute detailing financial disclosure requirements for federal personnel. They argued that while “food, lodging, or entertainment received as personal hospitality of an individual need not be reported,” the law does require disclosing travel given as gifts. They plan to release a report on their investigation of Supreme Court ethics this summer.

A Supreme Court spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday regarding the travel records the committee released.

This revelation has intensified calls for ethics reform in the Supreme Court, with Durbin emphasizing the need for greater transparency and accountability among the justices.

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One comment

  1. The legislative branch cannot constitutionally impose ethics upon the court justices without violating separation of powers.

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