An attorney for Harlan Crow has offered to meet with the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the billionaire Republican donor’s ties to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
According to a letter to committee Chair Dick Durbin (R-IL) dated Monday, attorney Michael Bopp wrote, “We respect the Senate Judiciary Committee’s important role in formulating legislation concerning our federal courts system, and would welcome a discussion with your staff.”
On May 8 a letter to Crow signed by Durbin and 10 other Democratic members of the committee had requested that he give a full accounting of travel and other gifts he has made to Thomas or any other Supreme Court Justice.
In April non-profit news outlet ProPublica 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.
Since then, ProPublica has also revealed that Thomas failed to disclose a six-figure real estate transaction involving Crow that included the billionaire purchasing Thomas’ mother’s home, in which she continued to live.
On May 4, the news outlet further revealed that Crow had paid tens of thousands of dollars for Thomas’ grandnephew to attend at least two high-priced boarding schools.
Later that month Crow rejected the committee’s request for a meeting.
In an interview with The Atlantic around the same time, Crow defended his business transactions and gifts to Thomas, calling for example the purchase of the Justice’s mother’s home a “fair transaction” and adding, “I don’t see the foot fault.”
For his part, Thomas responded to ProPublica’s reporting by saying he “was advised” that he did not have to disclose the trips donated by Crow.
Supreme Court Justices are required to disclose gifts of over $415, but the rules around gifts involving personal hospitality are less clear, though the Court’s policymaking body, the Judicial Conference, changed its disclosure rules in March to require that Justices and other federal judges report more details of gifts. These rules would include free stays at hotels or hunting lodges. They further clarify that travel such as private jet rides must also be disclosed.
In his Monday follow-up letter, Crow’s attorney reiterated that he does not think the committee has the power to request information from Crow or to impose ethics standards on the high court.
Durbin has warned Chief Justice John Roberts to end the Supreme Court’s practice as virtually the only court in the U.S. operating without a formal code of ethics, or Congress will create a code for it.