Justice Clarence Thomas Discloses Three Trips on Private Plane Owned by Republican Donor

by Gabriel Martinez
Ethical Disclosures

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has publicly acknowledged that he undertook three journeys during the past year on a privately owned aircraft belonging to prominent Republican donor Harlan Crow. This disclosure marks a departure from Thomas’s previous practices, as it’s been years since he last reported receiving any form of hospitality from Crow. In a report made available to the public on Thursday, the 75-year-old justice indicated that his actions were in accordance with the new travel reporting guidelines established by the federal judiciary.

However, it’s noteworthy that these reported trips do not encompass any prior instances of travel facilitated by Crow, which includes a 2019 voyage in Indonesia aboard Crow’s private yacht. This wealthy businessman and advocate of conservative causes had previously funded such excursions for Thomas.

The revelation arrives amidst a heightened scrutiny of ethics within the Supreme Court. Reports have recently surfaced, exposing that Justice Thomas had received undisclosed valuable gifts, including international travel, from Crow over the course of several years. Furthermore, Crow has also played a role in purchasing a residence in Georgia where Thomas’s mother currently resides, and has covered two years’ worth of private school tuition for a child raised by Thomas and his wife, Ginni.

These revelations were brought to light by investigative news outlet ProPublica, which also disclosed that Justice Samuel Alito failed to report a privately funded trip to Alaska in 2008, which was financed by two affluent Republican donors, one of whom frequently had matters before the court. Additionally, it was revealed by The Big Big News in July that Justice Sonia Sotomayor had leveraged college visits over the past decade to bolster sales of her books, with the assistance of her staff.

Interestingly, while the Supreme Court justices lack a mandatory code of ethics and have thus far resisted calls for its adoption or imposition by Congress, all nine justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, recently signed a statement of ethics presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Despite this, Senate Democrats remain unconvinced, having approved an ethics code for the court along party lines in July. This legislation, however, faces significant obstacles to passing the Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

One of the trips that Justice Thomas reported was to Crow’s lodge in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, a location that investigative news source ProPublica has indicated Thomas visits annually. The other two journeys took him to Dallas, where he participated in conferences hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

Notably, Thomas highlighted that court officials had advised him to avoid commercial travel for one of these trips in mid-May, due to concerns regarding the justices’ security following a leak of the court’s draft abortion opinion, which ultimately led to the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Additionally, the disclosure belatedly acknowledged Crow’s purchase of a home in Savannah, Georgia, where Thomas’s mother resides. This property, along with two neighboring residences, was co-owned by Thomas and other family members. The sale, concluded in 2014, was previously unreported due to Thomas’s mistaken belief that it did not necessitate disclosure, as it resulted in a capital loss.

In the amended financial report, Thomas and his wife revealed assets ranging from $1.2 million to $2.7 million. The report also addressed several previously overlooked details, such as accounts at a credit union valued between $100,000 to $250,000, and a life insurance policy in his wife’s name, valued below $100,000.

As Thomas contemplates the possibility of revising prior reports, it’s important to note that the annual financial reports for both Thomas and Alito were released after a delay of nearly three months, in contrast to the reports of the other seven justices. This delay was due to the 90-day extensions granted to Thomas and Alito.

Alito’s financial disclosure revealed assets ranging from $2.8 million to $7.4 million, with the majority of his holdings residing in mutual funds. Notably, Alito also retains shares in energy and other companies, which sometimes necessitates his recusal from Supreme Court cases involving these industries. In a somewhat unconventional move, Alito authored a column in the Wall Street Journal asserting that he had no obligation to report the Alaska trip or to recuse himself from cases involving the benefactor behind the trip.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ethical Disclosures

What is the main focus of the article?

The main focus of the article is the disclosure by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of his private plane trips and financial ties, which has raised ethical concerns.

Why did Clarence Thomas disclose these trips?

Clarence Thomas disclosed these trips in compliance with new travel reporting guidelines established by the federal judiciary.

What is the significance of these disclosures?

These disclosures are significant because they reveal Thomas’s previously undisclosed relationships with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, leading to questions about potential ethical implications.

What other revelations were made in the article?

The article also highlights Justice Samuel Alito’s failure to disclose a privately funded trip and Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book promotion strategy through college visits.

How has the Supreme Court responded to ethics concerns?

While lacking a binding code of ethics, the Supreme Court justices, including Chief Justice John Roberts, signed a statement of ethics, although Senate Democrats remain unconvinced, pushing for an ethics code.

What trips did Thomas report, and where did he travel?

Thomas reported trips to Crow’s lodge in the Adirondack Mountains and conferences in Dallas sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute.

What was the reason for avoiding commercial travel?

Security concerns related to a leaked draft abortion opinion prompted court officials to recommend that Thomas avoid commercial travel.

What other financial details were revealed in the disclosure?

Thomas and his wife revealed assets ranging from $1.2 million to $2.7 million, including previously unreported accounts and a life insurance policy.

What about Justice Alito’s financial disclosure?

Alito reported assets ranging from $2.8 million to $7.4 million, with holdings in mutual funds and shares in energy companies that occasionally require his recusal.

How did Justice Alito address his Alaska trip?

Alito wrote a Wall Street Journal column asserting he was under no obligation to report the Alaska trip or recuse himself from related cases.

More about Ethical Disclosures

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Alex August 31, 2023 - 7:24 pm

wow this is sum intresting stuff i dint no bout Thomas trips n finance ties seems ethix r a big issue in court!

Jane August 31, 2023 - 8:40 pm

so thomas had trips on a rich donor’s jet, n gifts 2? n other justices 2? this a big deal!

David September 1, 2023 - 6:33 am

seriously, thomas trips, alito stocks, sotomayor books – all these r makin me wondr, what’s goin on here?

Michael September 1, 2023 - 2:57 pm

lol these justis folks r quite somthin. thomas n his jet, alito and stocks, sotomayor n book sales. juicy!

Emily September 1, 2023 - 3:18 pm

omg, ethics in court? suprme court? this needs more attn. congress shld do somthin abt it!


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