This story was originally published by ProPublica.
During his three decades on the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas has enjoyed steady access to a lifestyle most Americans can only imagine. A cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events and sent their private jets to fetch him — including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737. It’s a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood.
Like clockwork, Thomas’ leisure activities have been underwritten by benefactors who share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence. Their gifts include:
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.
This accounting of Thomas’ travel, revealed for the first time here from an array of previously unavailable information, is the fullest to date of the generosity that has regularly afforded Thomas a lifestyle far beyond what his income could provide. And it is almost certainly an undercount.
While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure, Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts.
Perhaps even more significant, the pattern exposes consistent violations of judicial norms, experts, including seven current and former federal judges appointed by both parties, told ProPublica. “In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” said Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served for years on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
This year, ProPublica revealed Texas real estate billionaire Harlan Crow’s generosity toward Thomas
, including vacations, private jet flights, gifts, the purchase of his mother’s house
in Georgia and tuition
payments. In an April statement,
the justice defended his relationship with Crow. The Crows “are among our dearest friends,” Thomas said. “As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips.”
The New York Times recently surfaced VIP treatment
from wealthy businessmen he met through the Horatio Alger Association, an exclusive nonprofit. Among them were David Sokol, a former top executive at Berkshire Hathaway, and H. Wayne Huizenga, a billionaire who turned Blockbuster and Waste Management into national goliaths. (The Times noted Thomas gives access to the Supreme Court building for Horatio Alger events; ProPublica confirmed that the access has cost $1,500 or more in donations per person.)
Records and interviews show Thomas had another benefactor, oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly, whose gifts to the justice have not previously been reported. ProPublica’s totals in this article include trips from Crow.
Each of these men — Novelly, Huizenga, Sokol and Crow — appears to have first met Thomas after he ascended to the Supreme Court. With the exception of Crow, their names are nowhere in Thomas’ financial disclosures, where justices are required by law to publicly report most gifts…Continue Reading…