Billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow paid tens of thousands of dollars for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ grandnephew to attend at least two high-priced boarding schools, according to new reporting from ProPublica.
ProPublica is the same non-profit news outlet that broke the story of Thomas accepting high-priced luxury vacations from Crow—including one to Indonesia in 2009 that would have cost the Justice upwards of $500,000 if he’d footed the bill himself. Thomas failed to disclose these transactions.
On Thursday ProPublica revealed that Crow paid for Thomas’ grandnephew, Mark Martin, of whom Thomas had legal custody and was raising “as a son,” to go to Hidden Lake Academy, a boarding school in Georgia whose tuition ran more than $6,000 a month.
ProPublica uncovered a bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, which reveals that Crow paid Martin’s tuition that month.
Further, a former Hidden Lake school administrator, Christopher Grimwood, told ProPublica that Crow had paid for Martin’s tuition the entire time he attended, which was about a year.
“Harlan picked up the tab,” said Grimwood.
And that wasn’t all. Grimwood asserted that Crow also paid for Martin’s boarding school tuition at Randolph-Macon Academy in Virginia. Grimwood based the assertion on a conversation he’d had with Crow during a visit to the billionaire’s Adirondacks estate.
ProPublica also interviewed Martin, former classmates and former staff at both schools to back up its reporting. It estimates that altogether, Crow would have put up about $150,000 for Martin’s tuition.
On Thursday, an attorney for Thomas responded to the latest reporting.
“Justice Thomas and his wife made immeasurable personal and financial sacrifices and poured every ounce of their lives and hearts into giving their great nephew a chance to succeed,” Mark Paoletta said on Twitter.
The latest revelation comes the same week that the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to discuss Supreme Court ethics rules. The U.S. Supreme Court is virtually the only court in the country without a formal code of ethics.
The hearing was initially scheduled by Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) in reaction to the first reporting on Thomas and Crow by ProPublica. Since then, it’s also come to light that Justice Neil Gorsuch had failed to identify the name of a person, who has since had business before the Supreme Court, with whom he’d done a more than quarter-million-dollar business transaction.
Further, three days after Chief Justice John Roberts “respectfully decline[d]” Durbin’s invitation to testify, reporting revealed that a whistleblower from his wife’s law firm had signed an affidavit in December that Jane Roberts has made millions in commissions from elite law firms, and Roberts did not recuse himself when at least one of those firms had at least one case before the Supreme Court.
During Tuesday’s Judiciary Hearing, Durbin pointed to a Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices that had been signed by all nine Justices last week that Roberts presented in lieu of attending the hearing.
“It is an extraordinary document—not in a good way,” Durbin said. “It makes clear that while the Justices are fine with consulting with certain authorities on how to address ethical issues, they do not feel bound by the same authorities.”
Referring to Justice Thomas’ acceptance of luxury trips from Crow, “and has faced no apparent consequences under the Court’s ethics principles,” Durbin noted that Thomas had asserted the trips were exempt from disclosure because they were “personal hospitality.”
The committee chair further pointed to a more than $100,000 real estate deal involving three properties Crow purchased from Thomas, including a home belonging to the Justice’s mother, which she continue to live in.
“How low can the Court go?” Durbin asked.