- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas failed to disclose the 2014 sale of real estate properties sold to the same wealthy GOP donor who hosted Thomas on lavish vacations, according to a Thursday report by ProPublica.
- The report claims Thomas violated a federal disclosure law that requires justices to disclose details about real estate sales over $1,000.
- The properties were said to be sold for $133,363.
- The GOP donor, Harlan Crow, said in a statement that he plans to eventually use one of the properties for a public museum dedicated to Thomas.
ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative journalism organization, wrote that Texas billionaire Harlan Crow paid Thomas and his family $133,363 for a home and two vacant lots in 2014. According to four ethics law experts who spoke to ProPublica, Thomas’ decision to not disclose the sale of the properties could be a violation of a federal disclosure law that requires justices to disclose details about real estate sales over $1,000.
On April 6, ProPublica published a report that alleged Thomas and his wife, Ginni, had taken numerous trips over the past 20 years paid for by Crow. The report, which cited interviews and documents, said the couple took trips on Crow’s private jet and yacht and failed to disclose many of them. Thomas also allegedly traveled with Crow to the exclusive Bohemian Grove retreat in California and frequently stayed at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.
ProPublica wrote that a state tax document and a deed dated October 15, 2014, showed Crow bought three properties in Savannah, Georgia, from Thomas, his mother and the family of his late brother.
Renovations that cost tens of thousands of dollars took place at the one-story home— where Thomas’ mother was living—following the purchase by Crow, according to the investigative outlet. These improvements reportedly included repairs to the roof, a new fence and a carport.
When Thomas filed a disclosure form for 2014, he did not list Crow’s name in a space provided to record the identity of the buyer in any private transaction, according to ProPublica.
“He needed to report his interest in the sale,” Virginia Canter, chief ethics counsel at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told ProPublica. “Given the role Crow has played in subsidizing the lifestyle of Thomas and his wife, you have to wonder if this was an effort to put cash in their pockets.”
Following the vacation controversy, Thomas responded by defending his relationship with Crow and his wife.
“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” Thomas said in a statement obtained by Newsweek. “As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.
“I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines. These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.”
Newsweek has reached out to a spokesperson for the Supreme Court via email for comment about the latest report regarding the real estate sales.
Crow told ProPublica in a statement that he bought the house of Thomas’ mother to preserve it and eventually convert the property into a public museum dedicated to the justice.
“I approached the Thomas family about my desire to maintain this historic site so future generations could learn about the inspiring life of one of our greatest Americans,” he told the outlet.
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