U.S. Supreme Court

Justice Thomas had more than one billionaire benefactor; friends lavished him with 38 vacations

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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. According to a new story by ProPublica, gifts to Thomas include “at least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas.” Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Prior reporting on free luxury travel accepted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas doesn’t capture the extent of his billionaire friends’ largesse.

ProPublica previously reported that Thomas has traveled on Republican megadonor Harlan Crow’s superyacht, flown on his private jet, and stayed at his private resorts in New York and Texas.

But Crow isn’t Thomas’ only benefactor, and the number of Thomas’ free vacations to private homes is more extensive than reported, ProPublica reports in a new story.

Thomas “is apparently an extreme outlier for the volume and frequency of all the undisclosed vacations he’s received,” the article reports. The total value of the trips is unknown, but they are likely worth millions of dollars.

According to the story, gifts to Thomas include “at least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”

Stays in private homes may not require disclosure, the article says. But Thomas “appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets,” the article reports, citing the opinions of ethics experts.

Besides Crow, billionaire benefactors include former Berkshire Hathaway executive David Sokol, Blockbuster and Waste Management billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, and oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly. All appear to have met Thomas after he became a Supreme Court justice.

Sokol told ProPublica in a statement that Thomas is ethical, and “we have never once discussed any pending court matter.” He acknowledged occasionally hosting Thomas and said private jet flights are a good idea because of security concerns for Supreme Court justices.

ProPublica spoke with Jeremy Fogel, a former judge who served on the committee reviewing judges’ financial disclosure.

“In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” Fogel told ProPublica. “I think it’s unprecedented.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Billionaire friend paid private school tuition for nephew of Justice Thomas”

ABAJournal.com: “Billionaire who treated Justice Thomas to vacations also bought property from him and his relatives”

ABAJournal.com: “Justice Thomas financed his ‘really bougie’ RV with a loan from a wealthy friend; did he pay it off?”

ABAJournal.com: “ABA task force recommends ethics and transparency changes for Supreme Court”

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court ethics legislation will advance after Alito revelations, committee chairman says”

ABAJournal.com: “Can Congress bind Supreme Court on ethics code? Alito offers opinion”

ABAJournal.com: “Supreme Court justices should follow binding code of ethics, ABA House says”

ABAJournal.com: “No summer break for Supreme Court ethics debate”

ABAJournal.com: “Chief justice turns down invitation to testify about SCOTUS ethics reform in Congress”

ABAJournal.com: “Alito uses op-ed page to defend undisclosed free Alaska trip on private jet”

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