U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Thomas attended Koch network donor events, interacted with the brothers at retreats, report says

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GettyImages-Clarence Thomas October 2022

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas poses for an official portrait in the Supreme Court building Oct. 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C. On Friday, ProPublica released a report that said Thomas has attended at least two donor events orchestrated by the Koch network. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has attended at least two donor events orchestrated by the Koch network and has developed a bond with the conservative Koch brothers during all-male retreats, according to a new report by ProPublica.

The Koch network hosts its “marquee fundraising event” in Southern California every winter, the article reports. Donors typically have to give at least $100,000 per year to be invited to the event, where they learn how their money is being spent.

Those who donate millions of dollars are invited to special dinners with Charles Koch and high-profile guests, the article reports. (Charles Koch’s brother, David Koch, died in 2019.)

Thomas has attended at least one of the top-donor dinners, the article says.

Thomas attended the Koch network event in Palm Springs, California, in 2018; he also made a “brief drop-by” at a 2008 summit but was in the area to speak at a dinner with the Federalist Society, a Supreme Court spokeswoman has said.

ProPublica gathered its information from unnamed sources, including former employees of the Koch network and a major donor. The publication also examined flight records and obtained a picture of Thomas with David Koch at the Bohemian Grove, the all-male retreat visited by influential figures where Thomas has been a regular for 25 years.

At the Bohemian Grove, Thomas was a guest of Harlan Crow, a Republican megadonor and billionaire, who has treated Thomas and his wife to luxury vacations at his private resort and his Texas ranch, travel on his superyacht, and trips on his private jet.

At the Bohemian Grove, Thomas stayed in a small camp with Crow and the Koch brothers.

ProPublica described the Koch network as an overlapping set of nonprofits and said the Koch brothers have a “deep antipathy to government regulation.”

The Koch network supports the plaintiffs in a pending Supreme Court case that seeks to overturn the decision that established Chevron deference—the principle that federal courts should defer to reasonable federal agency views when Congress passes ambiguous laws.

The group representing the plaintiffs in the case is the Cause of Action Institute, which has received millions of dollars from the Koch network, according to the Washington Post. The case is Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo.

Thomas initially supported the principle of Chevron deference but has since changed his mind.

A spokesperson for the Koch network, now known as Stand Together, told ProPublica that Thomas “wasn’t present for fundraising conversations.” and “attending a couple events to promote a book or give dinner remarks, as all the justices do,” cannot be characterized as undue influence.

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