Non-profit news outlet ProPublica published Thursday what it called the “fullest accounting yet” of how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “has secretly reaped the benefits from a network of wealthy and well-connected patrons.”
According to ProPublica, the Justice’s network of patronage “is far more extensive than previously understood,” and includes a “cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives [who] 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.”
The patrons, who reportedly all share the conservative Justice’s ideology, have given him gifts that include at least 38 vacation destinations, 26 private jet flights, eight helicopter flights, a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica, and “one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast,”
The latest reporting follows a series of earlier ProPublica articles, starting in April, which revealed that Thomas had not disclosed hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury vacations, real estate dealings and high-priced boarding school fees for his grandnephew from billionaire Republicans donor Harlan Crow.
However, Crow is not the only Thomas patron identified by ProPublica. Other wealthy gift-givers include oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly, billionaire Wayne Huizenga of the businesses Blockbuster and Waste Management, and Teton Capital chair David Sokol.
All four of these men appear to have met Thomas after he ascended to the Supreme Court, according to ProPublica, and none of their names other than Crow’s appear anywhere in Thomas’ legally-required financial disclosures.
Sokol did say in a statement to ProPublica that he’s known Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni for 21 years, adding, “We have never once discussed any pending court matter.”
He chalked up his gifted private flights to Thomas as having to do with “security concerns,” adding that “all” of the Supreme Court Justices “should either fly privately or on governmental aircraft.”
At a time when the behavior of not just Thomas and other conservative Supreme Court Justices but liberal Justices as well have come under ethics scrutiny, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) 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.
Roberts has pushed back, insisting that he’s “committed” to ensuring the nine Justices “adhere to the highest standards of conduct” and that they meet ethical obligations “that are consistent with our status as an independent branch of government under the Constitution’s separation of powers.”
The latest Gallup polling, conducted July 3-27, finds that public approval of the Supreme Court is holding at a record low of 40%.
That follows June Quinnipiac University poll which also found that overall approval of the Supreme Court had dropped to an all-time low, with 30% of registered voters approved of the Court, while 59% disapproved.