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Justice Clarence Thomas Took Private Jet Trips, Superyacht Vacations, and More From a GOP Donor: Report

Republican megadonor Harlan Crow has been taking Thomas on luxury getaways for over 20 years, according to a new ProPublica article.

Justice Clarence Thomas Alex Wong/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has gone on several undisclosed luxury trips over the last two decades that were funded by a Republican megadonor, according to a new report.

On Thursday, ProPublica released an article alleging that Thomas has accepting large gifts from real-estate developer and GOP donor Harlan Crow for more than 20 years, including a vacation with all-private travel that could have cost the justice over $500,000 if he paid for it himself, without detailing them on his financial disclosure forms. These private jet trips, yacht excursions, and private resort stays were all paid for by Crow, according to the publication.

While Crow’s friendship with and support for Justice Thomas has been reported on, the alleged extent of the businessman’s generosity toward Thomas was previously unknown. ProPublica reports the justice has a long history of flying on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 Jet and vacationing on his superyacht, the Michaela Rose—equipped with an extensive staff and a private chef—including for one extensive island-hopping trip to Indonesia in 2019. The findings also indicate that Thomas spends a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks, a 105-acre property also equipped with a private chef, where the real-estate developer frequently hosts private concerts. At the resort, there is a painting of Crow and Thomas smoking cigars together, along with other conservative politicians, according to the publication.

ProPublica also reports there’s evidence that Thomas traveled with Crow to the secretive all-male California private retreat Bohemian Grove, on a Greece trip in 2007, and on an extended New Zealand cruise.

Thomas did not respond to ProPublica’s request for comment. Crow issued a statement to the publication in which he said he and his wife, Kathy, are “dear friends” of Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas. The developer says the Thomases “never asked for any of this hospitality,” they never discussed pending or lower court cases during their time together, and he never “sought to influence” Thomas in any way.

While there are few restrictions on gifts that Supreme Court justices can accept, unlike the rules set in place for members of Congress, Thomas’s failure to disclose most of Crow’s offerings on his annual financial disclosures appears to violate a law passed after the Watergate scandal that requires justice officials to disclose most gifts, according to two ethics law experts consulted by ProPublica.

Thomas did include certain gifts from Crow on his annual financial forms over the years, such as a $19,000 bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass given to him by the real estate magnate in 2001 and a 1997 private jet trip. In addition to gifts, Crow has also helped finance a Savannah library project dedicated to Thomas and reportedly given Ginni Thomas $500,000 to start a Tea Party–related group, according to a 2011 New York Times article.

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