Judge Clarence Thomas accepted multiple luxury trips paid for by GOP megadonor, ProPublica report finds

(CNN) justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, conservative activist Ginny Thomas, have stayed at properties owned by the GOP megadonor and gone on several luxury trips with travel grants, according to a new bombshell. ProPublica reports Published on Thursday.

Hospitality was not disclosed in Thomas’ public finance filing with the Supreme Court, ProPublica reported.

Reports of a connection between Thomas and conservative businessman Harlan Crowe are already adding to calls for Congress to investigate potential ethics violations. Key Senate Democrats previously used this year’s funding legislation to the Supreme Court. Pressure judges to adopt some sort of code of ethics.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, said in a statement that the ProPublica report was a “call to action” and that “the Senate Judiciary Committee will act.”

A new ProPublica report details Thomas’ acceptance of travel hospitality from Crowe that included lavish trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, California, Texas and Georgia. Some of these trips are said to have taken place on Crow’s superyacht or stayed at properties owned by Crow or his company. Many of Thomas’s trips on Crowe’s private jet were not disclosed in his public ethics records, although ProPublica identified one Thomas trip on Crowe’s jet in 1997 that was disclosed.

In a statement to ProPublica sent to CNN on Thursday, Crowe said he had been friends with Thomas and his wife, Ginny, for more than 30 years, and that the hospitality he extended to Justice over the years was “no different than hospitality.” We have extended to many of our dearest friends.”

“Judge Thomas and Ginny did not ask for any of this hospitality,” Crow said in the statement. “We’ve never heard of a pending or lower court case, and Judge Thomas has never discussed it,” he said.

The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment, and Thomas did not respond to a detailed list of questions, according to ProPublica. In response to CNN’s inquiry about the report, a representative for Crow sent CNN the same statement provided to ProPublica.

Thomas, nominated by former President George HW Bush in 1991, is the court’s most senior justice and intellectual leader of the current 6-3 conservative majority. The justice is also scrutinizing his wife’s political activities, including her exchanges with key stakeholders in former President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

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Crowe, a Dallas businessman with deep ties to Republican politics, has contributed more than $10 million in publicly disclosed political contributions, according to ProPublica.

The ProPublica report documents a painting hanging on Crows’ Adirondacks property depicting Thomas, Crow and influential figures in Republican politics, including former Federalist Society president Leonard Leo, who played a key role in Trump’s reshuffle of the federal bench.

According to a ProPublica report, these are photos of Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny Thomas, along with Republican megadonor Harlan Crowe and others during a July 2019 trip to Indonesia. The Thomases flew on Crow’s private jet to Indonesia for nine days of luxury. Holiday, ProPublica reported.

Executives from major corporations and leaders of major conservative organizations have attended trips with Crowe that Thomas has joined, ProPublica reported.

“I am not aware of any of our friends lobbying or seeking to influence Justice Thomas on any case, and I would never invite anyone I believe to be intent on doing so. These are meetings of friends,” Crowe’s statement said.

In his 2001 filing, Thomas disclosed a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and was given to him by the Crow family. ProPublica describes Crowe’s foundation donating $105,000 to the “Justice Thomas Portrait Fund” at Yale Law School, where Thomas is an alumnus, and a portrait of the justice and his wife presented by Crowe.

of the crow “As we have done with other great leaders and historical figures, he has contributed to programs celebrating the life and legacy of Justice Thomas,” the statement acknowledged. Neither Thomas nor his wife asked for those contributions, he said.

Demands stricter disclosure rules to court

The report comes after the federal Judiciary’s policymaking body quietly adjusted its interpretation of what judges must disclose as part of their gifts and hospitality transparency obligations.

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Some court ethics experts told ProPublica that the lack of Crow-subsidized trips — specifically his yacht and jet trips — may have violated Thomas’ financial disclosure rules. Under the old guidance, there was some ambiguity about what had to be disclosed. For example, recent changes have clarified that personal hospitality subsidized by a third party requires that disclosure. Thomas’ stay at the Adirondack property is relevant because it is owned by Crowe’s company, ProPublica said.

Stephen Gillers, an ethics expert at New York University School of Law, told CNN in an email Thursday that ahead of recent revisions to disclosure guidelines, Thomas could request it because the call came from an individual — not an organization. Business entity — The gift is not required to be reported regardless of its value.

But under the newly announced changes, Gillers said, “certain information and all information about trips” must be released. Reporting deadline is May 15 of the year following receipt of the award.

Judges face more lax “hospitality” requirements than members of Congress, who must get approval for sponsored trips and report certain financial details about other guests and hospitality within 30 days, Gabe Roth says. A group that advocates for court, judicial ethics and transparency reforms.

“It’s clear that the personal hospitality rules adopted by the Justice Department last month don’t go far enough: The Supreme Court and lower courts require stricter gift and travel rules than members of Congress,” Roth said in a statement. .

In his Thursday statement, Durbin said Thomas’ conduct was “grossly inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a justice on the Supreme Court.”

Even the turbine said It’s time for an “Enforceable Code of Conduct for Judges.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Courts, said in a statement that Thomas should resign. He has made the same point in response to other allegations of judicial ethics violations.

“Furthermore, the Justice Department should investigate whether he violated federal law by failing to disclose his private yacht and jet travel as required by law, and the state bar associations to which Judge Thomas belongs should open an investigation to determine whether he is eligible to retain his license to practice law,” Johnson added.

According to a ProPublica report, these are photos of Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny Thomas, along with Republican megadonor Harlan Crowe and others during a July 2019 trip to Indonesia. The Thomases flew on Crow’s private jet to Indonesia for nine days of luxury. Holiday, ProPublica reported.

Updates to the hospitality disclosure guidelines were announced in late March by Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who pressed the Office of the Administrator of the US Courts to clarify what is included in the so-called “personal hospitality” reporting exemption.

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Whitehouse chairs the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee that oversees the judiciary. He said on Twitter A new report on Thomas’ trip “cries out for an independent hearing that the Supreme Court — and only the Supreme Court, in the entire government — refuses to do.”

“Who were Thomas’ accomplices on this free undisclosed vacation and what interests did those undisclosed companions have before the court? The question is obvious,” Whitehouse said on Twitter. “All of this requires a robust investigation, and it’s the chief justice’s job to make sure that happens.”

Even before the new revelations, some Senate Democrats called on Congress to include ethics language for judges in legislation funding the Supreme Court next year.

Democratic Senate. Chris Van Hollen, who leads the appropriations subcommittee tasked with writing the funding legislation for the courts, has stressed that the idea will need Republican support.

“Americans’ faith in our Supreme Court is waning because of this type of behavior,” he said in a statement responding to ProPublica’s report. “We need answers. And the court needs ethics.”

This story has been updated with additional updates.

CNN’s Ariane de Vogue and Joan Biskupic contributed to this report.

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