U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is seen in his chambers at the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2016.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Republican megadonor Harlan Crow paid for his travel expenses and meals on at least three occasions last year, according to the justice’s new financial disclosure report released Thursday.
The report also added information about Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, that it said was “inadvertently omitted” from prior reports — including Crow’s 2014 purchase of three houses in which the justice held an interest.
Crow’s relationship with Thomas has come under intense scrutiny following reporting from ProPublica and other outlets about years of previously undisclosed luxury trips that the conservative Supreme Court justice accepted from the real estate billionaire.
The latest report showed Crow paid for Thomas’ return flight in early February 2022 from Dallas, where the justice had traveled to appear as the keynote speaker at a conference of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
They flew by private plane “due to an unexpected ice storm,” the filing noted.
Crow flew Thomas back to Dallas in May of that year for the same purpose, according to the filing.
The report claimed that the justice only flew by private plane in that instance “because of the increased security risk” following the stunning leak of a draft opinion from the court that overturned longstanding abortion rights. Thomas’ “security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible” at that time, according to the disclosure form.
Crow also paid for Thomas’ flights to and from the Adirondack Mountains by private plane over a week in mid-July 2022. Thomas is listed in the report as a guest of Crow, who also provided meals and lodging. ProPublica previously reported on Thomas’ trips to Camp Topridge, Crow’s private lakeside resort in the Adirondacks.
Thomas’ report said that the flights and “lodging, food, and entertainment at the Adirondacks property” were reported in compliance with updated guidance from the Judicial Conference of the United States. That group in March 2023 stated that transportation can no longer be excluded from reporting under a “personal hospitality” exemption.
“As a result, [Thomas] will report any such trips, beginning with this filing for calendar year 2022,” the justice’s latest report said.
Thomas’ latest financial filing was made public more than two months after most of his colleagues on the nine-member court released their own annual reports. Thomas sought an extension on filing the mandatory report amid the fallout from the reporting about his prior disclosures.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who also requested an extension, separately filed his own 2022 financial disclosure form Thursday morning.
Thomas, the longest-serving member of the current Supreme Court, has been bludgeoned with criticism from judicial oversight groups and mostly Democratic lawmakers in the wake of the revelations about his trips.
Multiple watchdogs have called for an investigation into Thomas, whose controversies have spurred a new push for the high court to adopt a binding code of ethics. The Senate Judiciary Committee has urged Chief Justice John Roberts to launch a probe of Thomas, and warned that it may consider taking legislative action.
Some Republicans have also leapt to the defense of the staunchly conservative justice.
Elliot Berke, an attorney for Thomas, in a lengthy statement to NBC News said the attacks on the justice were “nothing less than ridiculous and dangerous, and they set a terrible precedent for political blood sport through federal ethics filings.
“Justice Thomas’s amended report answers — and utterly refutes— the charges trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy,” Berke’s statement said. “We continue to work with Supreme Court and Judicial Conference officials for guidance on whether he should further amend his reports from any prior years and have invited them to raise any additional questions.”
The report also detailed a real estate transaction between Crow and Thomas nearly a decade earlier.
The justice had inherited a one-third interest in his mother’s residence and two nearby houses in Savannah, Georgia, in 1984, according to the form. In 2014, Crow bought all three for $133,000 — a capital loss to the Thomas’, who had put between $50,000 and $75,000 toward improving his mother’s home, the report said.
Two of the properties previously drew rental income for Thomas and were included on his past disclosure forms. Thomas removed them from his forms once they stopped generating income. But he “inadvertently failed to realize that the ‘sales transaction’ for the final disposition of the three properties triggered a new reportable transaction in 2014, even though this sale resulted in a capital loss,” the report said.