Economy

Clarence Thomas formally reports 2019 trips paid by friend and GOP donor Harlan Crow

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Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has acknowledged previously unreported trips overseas that were paid for by his friend, conservative businessman Harlan Crow. 

One of the 2019 trips was to Bali, where the justice was accompanied by his wife, Virginia. Another trip paid for by the Crows was to Sonoma County, California.

Thomas on Friday released his amended 2023 financial disclosure forms — required of all federal judges — to include those earlier trips. The travel was not disclosed in the 2019 report.

‘During the preparation and filing of this report, filer sought and received guidance from his accountant and ethics counsel,’ the filing states.

‘Consistent with the review of prior filings that the filer began last year, report for calendar year 2019 is hereby amended to include the following entries under the reimbursement section, which was inadvertently omitted at the time of filing:

Source: Harlan & Kathy Crow Dates: July 12, 2019: Location: Bali, Indonesia Purpose: Guests of Source Items Paid or Provided: Food and Lodging at HotelSource: Harlan Crow Dates: July 18-21, 2019: Location: Monte Rio, CA Purpose: Guest of Source Items Paid or Provided: Food and Lodging at Private Club.’

Thomas’ vacations were first documented in April 2023. Thomas issued a rare statement at the time defending the trips and explaining that he had always followed Supreme Court guidance.

‘Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,’ the justice, who has served on the bench for 32 years, said in a statement at the time.

‘As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,’ Thomas said.

‘I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,’ he said. ‘These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.’

Financial reports for seven other justices were released Friday. Only Samuel Alito did not release one but was given a 90-day extension.

In November, the Supreme Court issued a new ‘Code of Conduct’ following months of heightened scrutiny from Senate Judiciary Democrats pushing for new ethics laws for the high court. 

The Code is a set of five ‘canons,’ including two new canons that appear to be in response to reports over travel arrangements for private trips taken by Justices Thomas and Samuel Alito paid by others, and use of court staff for book promotion — referring to a recent report that staff of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s staff urged colleges and libraries to buy her latest book. 

‘A Justice should not to any substantial degree use judicial chambers, resources, or staff to engage in activities that do not materially support official functions or other activities permitted under these Canons,’ the code states. 

‘A Justice may accept reasonable compensation and reimbursement of expenses for permitted activities if the source of the payments does not give the appearance of influencing the Justice’s official duties or otherwise appear improper,’ the rules say.

‘Expense reimbursement should be limited to the actual or reasonably estimated costs of travel, food, and lodging reasonably incurred by the Justice and, where appropriate to the occasion, by the Justice’s spouse or relative,’ the new code says.

The Code also states, ‘For some time, all Justices have agreed to comply with the statute governing financial disclosure, and the undersigned Members of the Court each individually reaffirm that commitment.’

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