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US Supreme Court Justice Thomas details gifts from billionaire

US Supreme Court Justice Thomas details gifts from billionaire
Source: Video Screenshot

Embattled US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reported a fresh series of free trips from a Texas billionaire Thursday amid rising criticism of the court over benefits coming from private donors.

Thomas, who previously had not reported lavish vacations paid for by real estate tycoon and Republican donor Harlan Crow, said he took free flights on Crow’s private jet last year for security reasons after the leak of the high court’s controversial decision to overrule abortion rights.

“Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s (Thomas’s) security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible,” he wrote in the filing.

Thomas’s official financial disclosure for 2022 had far more details than in previous years, when the longest serving and most conservative Supreme Court justice failed to reveal a free Bali holiday on Crow’s 162-foot (49 meter) yacht and other resort stays hosted and paid for by Crow.

In a series of reports, investigative group ProPublica showed that since the 2000s, Thomas has accepted many free trips and other gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars from Crow as well as other wealthy benefactors.

Crow paid for the private school tuition of Thomas’s grandnephew, whom he was raising, and also bought from Thomas the house where Thomas’s mother lives, according to ProPublica.

Crow also donated $500,000 to a conservative lobbying group founded by Thomas’s wife Ginni Thomas, much of which went to her salary, according to the group.

None of that was reported on previous financial disclosures, based on what Thomas considered a “personal hospitality exemption” — that gift trips and vacations did not need to be reported.

Thomas noted on the 2022 disclosure form that new rules had been issued on what travel had to be reported, and that he was awaiting guidance on whether he needs to amend disclosures from prior years.

He also gave previously undisclosed details about the transaction that made Crow the owner of his mother’s home.

Thomas said Crow bought the Savannah, Georgia home and two neighboring houses from Thomas and other family members in 2014 for $133,000.

Because of the cost of improvements Thomas paid for prior to the sale, Thomas said he incurred a capital loss on the transaction, and so had not reported it.

In a statement Thomas’s personal attorney Elliot Berke said any errors in Thomas’s previous reports were “stricly inadvertent.”

“Justice Thomas has always strived for full transparency and adherence to the law, including with respect to what personal travel needed to be reported,” he said.

He blasted the criticisms of Thomas as “ridiculous and dangerous,” saying they come from “left wing organizations” which are “motivated by hatred for his judicial philosophy.”


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