After weeks of news organizations gradually revealing the enormous scope of the gifts that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have stopped expecting Thomas to ever come clean on the scale of his corruption. Instead, they sent a letter to Thomas’ primary benefactor, real estate developer and Nazi relic collector Harlan Crow, demanding that Crow provide a list of all gifts to Thomas in excess of $415.
Many of these gifts, transactions, and items of value had not been previously disclosed by Justice Thomas, in apparent contravention of the Supreme Court’s April 25, 2023 “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices” which claimed that Justices since 1991 “have followed” the financial disclosure requirements provided in the Judicial Conference Regulations, and other applicable obligations.
And, to make sure Crow’s memory doesn’t get foggy, the Senate has also sent letters to companies involved with the lavish vacations that Crow provided to Thomas. Or as Thomas described it, “vacationing with a friend,” where that friend pays for all the transportation, food, and lodging, and provides some nice nice gifts to remember the occasion.
The two-page letter to Crow is brief and to the point: Despite Thomas’ attempts at generating some kind of faux umbrage, these gifts are way outside the bounds. That’s particularly true of a series of real estate deals, which are one area that even the relatively rule-free Supreme Court dictates that transactions have to be recorded.
The letter demands an itemized list of gifts (including lodging and transportation), real estate transactions, and anything else of value that Crow has given to Thomas or other Supreme Court justices. The follow-up letters to the companies ask them to identify dates where Thomas, or any other justice of the Supreme Court, has been transported or been a guest.
Despite Thomas’ constant references to Crow as one of his “dearest friends,” the truth is that the two men didn’t meet until 1996—five years after Thomas had joined the Court and at a point when Crow was already involved in a number of organizations that had business before the Court. As The Dallas Morning News reported, their very first meeting came when Crow gave Thomas a free ride on his private jet so that Thomas could come to Dallas to speak for the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis. Thomas gave thanks to Crow in that speech, which he opened by defending the Confederate flag on the stage next to him.
That’s the “meet cute” story of Crow and Thomas. These are not childhood friends, or guys who happened to be on the same bowling team. They met doing what they still do—with Crow helping Thomas to align the Court with the most extreme politics on the right. That’s how they became such “dear friends.”
Less than a year after that first meeting, Thomas was back on Crow’s private jet for a trip to an “exclusive all-male retreat,” which The Washington Post describes as “where the rich and powerful misbehave.” A retreat that is full of strange rituals and secret rites.
The club is so hush-hush that little can be definitively said about it, but much of what we know today is from those who have infiltrated the camp, including Texas-based filmmaker Alex Jones. In 2000, Jones and his cameraman entered the camp with a hidden camera and were able to film a Bohemian Grove ceremony, Cremation of the Care. During the ceremony, members wear costumes and cremate a coffin effigy called “Care” before a 40-foot-owl, in deference to the surrounding Redwood trees.
That was the second meeting between Crow and Thomas. Their friendship was cemented while wearing masks and performing sacrifices to a giant owl.
In 2004, The Los Angeles Times reported on the extensive travel that Crow had provided to Thomas by that point, as well as one of Crow’s relicts—a bible that had reportedly belonged to Frederick Douglas—that had been given to Thomas in 2001. Even at that point, the Times pointed out that the gifts Thomas was accepting were “much more valuable” than anything being given to other members of the Court. On some of these first trips, Thomas had actually reported Crow’s gifts, but as the value of those gifts increased, Thomas stopped.
When Thomas says “Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” what he means is he met them after he was on the Court, their meetings have been deeply political, and that from the very first moment Crow was giving Thomas gifts that in any other court would have been immediately recognized as inappropriate, if not outright bribery.
What followed, in addition to more of those lavish trips, was Crow paying for a private school education for one of Thomas’ relatives in 2008. Helping Thomas’ wife, Ginni, start her “nonprofit” by providing the first half a million dollars in 2009.
In 2014, Crow bought property from Thomas, including his mother’s home, which Crow improved and expanded while Thomas’ mother continued to live there rent-free. Crow reportedly paid well over market price for this property. Thomas did not report the transaction, though now that he’s been caught, he says he intends to “amend” his past disclosures.
The Washington Post has opined that Thomas should pay back Crow’s gifts—something that’s perfectly possible, since Thomas has a personal net worth of $24 million and his wife has personal wealth somewhere around $78 million, much of that thanks to money that has been passed through Ginni Thomas’ “consulting” business from the leaders of other conservative organizations.
There’s no reason that Thomas couldn’t pay his own way on vacation. He certainly could have parted with $133,000 to upgrade his mother’s home. He just didn’t. Because his “dear friend” did it for him.
The gifts Thomas has received are in direct violation of the rules of the Supreme Court—and finding a level of corruption great enough to violate those rules takes some work. They may also represent taxable income that Thomas has failed to report.
None of those is likely to matter. Republicans will continue to pretend that this is all just “political.” And it is. Because for them, corruption and injection of massive wealth into the system is necessary for their party’s survival.
It’s no coincidence that, right between getting the private school tuition, the $500,000 gift to Ginni Thomas, and the real estate purchase, Thomas delivered the deciding vote in Citizens United v. FEC, which opened political campaigns to unlimited spending by outside groups. Votes like that … that’s what this is all about.
Dimitri of WarTranslated has been doing the essential work of translating hours of Russian and Ukrainian video and audio during the invasion of Ukraine. He joins Markos and Kerry from London to talk about how he began this work by sifting through various sources. He is one of the only people translating information for English-speaking audiences. Dimitri’s followed the war since the beginning and has watched the evolution of the language and dispatches as the war has progressed.