The Supreme Court scandals keep piling up, and no one is racking up more than Justice Clarence Thomas. Not only has GOP megadonor Harlan Crow lavished Thomas with luxury vacations and bought the house in which his mother lives rent-free, the Nazi-memorabilia-collecting billionaire apparently paid private school tuition for Thomas’ child.
On Thursday, ProPublica reported that Texas billionaire Crow paid private school tuition for Thomas’ grand-nephew, Mark Martin, a boy who Thomas and his wife had taken legal custody of at age 6 and who lived with the couple. Martin is the grandson of Thomas’ sister, and Thomas told C-SPAN in 2007 that he and Ginni Thomas were “raising him as a son.”
Also today, The Lever reported that Crow’s company told investors that a covid-era eviction moratorium would harm its profits. Not only did Thomas not recuse himself from a 2021 suit over the moratorium, he voted twice to end the protections.
Documents obtained by ProPublica show that Crow paid $6,200 a month for Martin to attend Hidden Lake Academy, a boarding school in Georgia, for his junior year of high school. A former school administrator said Crow paid for Martin’s entire time there, which was about a year. The administrator said Crow also paid for Martin to attended Randolph-Macon Academy, which charges between $25,000 to $30,000 a year. ProPublica said it’s not clear how much Crow paid for Martin’s education, but if he covered all four years at both schools, it could have been more than $150,000. (Yes, that’s on top of the hundreds of thousands of dollars Crow has gifted Thomas in luxury travel and free rent for his mother.)
The outlet notes that Thomas didn’t report any tuition payments from Crow on his financial disclosure forms, even though “several years earlier [in 2002], Thomas disclosed a gift of $5,000 for Martin’s education from another friend.” Huh!
Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told ProPublica of the unreported gifts Thomas accepted: “This is way outside the norm. This is way in excess of anything I’ve seen.” Painter added that, when he was in the White House, any federal official who took this amount of gifts would have been fired. “This amount of undisclosed gifts? You’d want to get them out of the government.”
Crow’s office told ProPublica in a statement that “Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth.” They added, “It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.” Mind you, Crow said in an interview just last month defending their “friendship”—which only began after Thomas joined the court—that “every single relationship…has some kind of reciprocity.”
Lawyer and Thomas defender Mark Paoletta released a very long statement on Twitter claiming the story is a smear about magnanimous people and that disclosure law doesn’t require financial reporting about great nephews. (Oh, now the kid isn’t Thomas’ legal child?) “This malicious story shows nothing except for the fact that the Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous, and loving people who tried to help this young man,” Paoletta wrote.
But even he is connected to Crow: Paoletta appears in a painting with the Justice and the billionaire which hangs in Crow’s upstate New York home.
Before today’s news, only two senators had called for Thomas to resign: Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). A handful of House members have also demanded he resign. Really hoping those numbers increase!
Meanwhile Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) responded with what I can only describe as a Susan Collins-level quote: “I hope that Chief Justice Roberts reads this story this morning and understands something has to be done,” he told CNN.
Durbin also noted that California Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) continued absence from the chamber because she refuses to resign is making it difficult to pursue ethics legislation. Democrats no longer have a majority on the Judiciary Committee, and their Senate majority is back to 50-50 with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema holding way too much power again.
Perfect system, no notes.