Justice Clarence Thomas has abused the power of his office. He has broken the law. He should resign.
Thomas has repeatedly demonstrated that he believes there is one set of rules for himself and his billionaire friends and one for everybody else.
What we know:
- Further ProPublica reporting has revealed “a yearslong, personal relationship with the Koch brothers that has remained almost entirely out of public view”, cemented via retreats with them at the exclusive all-men’s Bohemian Grove resort in California, and that Thomas had “attended Koch donor events at least twice over the years.” Thomas did not disclose these trips, including private jet travel to at least one Koch event. This report suggests that a possible change in Thomas’s position on the Chevron doctrine, the precedent holding courts should respect federal agencies’ and departments interpretation of the law in their rulemaking, is closely correlated to his relationship with the Kochs. The surviving Koch brother’s political network has urged the Supreme Court will overturn the Chevron doctrine in the October 2023 term.
- Further ProPublica reporting has revealed that since Thomas joined the Supreme Court, conservative billionaires have treated Thomas to “at least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”
- The New York Times has reported that Thomas’s purchase of a $267,230 RV was financed at least in part with a loan from Anthony Welters, who has “made a fortune in the healthcare industry.” The 1999 purchase was made at a time when records show the Thomases had considerable debt.
- The Washington Post has reported that Leonard Leo – the nation’s foremost right-wing judicial activist – “arranged for the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for consulting work just over a decade ago, specifying that her name be left off billing paperwork.”
- AFJ research has determined that not only has Harlan Crow had direct business before the Supreme Court during Thomas’s tenure – which contradicts a prominent defense of Thomas’s corruption – but that “Justice Thomas has consistently used his position on the Court to change American jurisprudence in favor of the wealthy and powerful, like Crow and his billionaire friends, at the expense of working people.”
- Further ProPublica reporting has shown that Harlan Crow paid the private school tuition of Thomas’s grandnephew, who Thomas says he “raised as a son.” Had Crow paid for all four years of Mark Martin’s education at the two boarding schools he attended in Georgia and Virginia, the price tag could have exceeded 150,000.
- In a public statement on ProPublica’s reporting, Thomas claimed he thought Crow’s lavish hospitality was “not reportable” because Crow “did not have business before the Court.” Subsequent reporting has shown that in addition to being a Republican financier, Crow has had a direct financial stake in at least one case before the Supreme Court for which Thomas did not recuse.
- Not only has Thomas received lavish vacations that he didn’t disclose, but he also sold property to Crow totaling $133,363 — despite having listed the value of the property as “$15,000 or less” in financial disclosures just years before. Thomas never disclosed the sale, despite a federal disclosure law requiring him to do so. After acquiring the property, Crow spent tens of thousands of dollars on upgrades and improvements to the home.
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas received several luxury vacations from billionaire and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. These vacations, which included use of Crow’s private jet and yacht trips, totaled several millions of dollars’ worth of gifts that were not appropriately disclosed as required by federal law. Thomas knew he was legally required to disclose these gifts (he used to, then stopped in 2004), but he failed to do so on numerous occasions in the decades since.
What every branch of government can do today:
- Justice Thomas should immediately update and correct all his public disclosures to include any gifts that are required to be disclosed.
- Chief Justice Roberts and the U.S. Courts Judicial Conduct Committee should open an investigation into Justice Thomas’s failure to disclose these massive gifts and all efforts to improperly influence the justices’ deliberations and final decisions.
- The hearings Congress holds must investigate Thomas’s relationship with Harlan Crow, Leonard Leo, and others who were present on these trips and who likely sought to influence Thomas. These investigations should ensure that Thomas was not improperly influenced in his decisions and unearth any schemes to improperly influence Thomas and the other justices of the Supreme Court.
- Congress must immediately pass a binding code of ethics for the Supreme Court to create needed accountability, as the Court’s self-policing is clearly failing.
- The United States Department of Justice Public Integrity Section should immediately open an investigation into Justice Thomas’ improper acceptance of lavish gifts and all schemes to influence the justices’ decisions.
- Given his repeated ethical violations over several decades and inability to credibly carry out his public duties, Justice Thomas should resign from the United States Supreme Court.
What the Alliance for Justice is doing:
The Alliance for Justice and AFJ Action Campaign launched a $400,000 advertising campaign calling on Thomas to resign, featuring video ads and banners that appeared online in major national outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Politico, Fox, and The Hill.
Accountable to None is a landmark report that details the many ethical violations by sitting Supreme Court Justices, and how Congress can and should bind them to an enforceable code of ethics.
News & Media:
AFJ/AFJAC Launch Massive #ThomasResign Ad Campaign – May 30, 2023
New Justice Thomas Revelations Reveal Even Deeper Corruption – May 4, 2023
Justice Thomas Broke the Law and Accountability is Essential – April 13, 2023
On our blog:
How to Police a Court that Won’t Police Itself – May 1, 2023
AFJ In the News:
Rakim Brooks at Democracy Docket: How Can We Trust a Court That Doesn’t Care To Be Independent?
Washington Post: Clarence Thomas enters the danger zone
USA Today: GOP billionaire Harlan Crow purchased property from Justice Clarence Thomas, according to new report
Courthouse News: Thomas’ luxury vacations footed by GOP megadonor test boundaries on high court ethics
Washington Times: Liberals renew calls for Clarence Thomas’ resignation over luxury travel with GOP donor
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