OAN Brooke Mallory
UPDATED 3:02 PM – Tuesday, May 9, 2023
In a move that coincides with Democrats escalating their efforts for ethics reform at the court, the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded information on Monday from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow who has come under fire for providing extravagant trips and perks to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and other committee Democrats sent a letter to Crow asking him to submit an itemized record of any gifts he gave to Thomas, other justices, or any of their family members, which totaled more than $415.
They also requested a complete inventory of any real estate transactions, travel, accommodation, and memberships to exclusive clubs that Crow may have given as well.
“As part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing efforts to craft legislation strengthening the ethical rules and standards that apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court, we request that you provide the Committee with certain information by May 22, 2023,” they wrote. “This information will help identify specific shortcomings in the ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,’ as well as current law, that legislation needs to address.”
The letter was signed by all 11 Democrats, including Senator Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) who came back after being absent from the Senate due to health difficulties. Republicans on the committee did not participate.
The Democrat-led letter comes as the committee had previously held a hearing the week prior on the standards of conduct for Supreme Court justices. The hearing was held in response to an article published last month that claimed Thomas had failed to disclose trips and gifts provided by Crow, as well as the sale of properties owned by Thomas and his relatives to Crow.
Chief Justice John Roberts was invited by Durbin to attend the hearing but rejected, claiming that his attendance may compromise the independence of the judiciary.
In his letter, the chief justice wrote a list of ethical guidelines and standards “to which all of the current Members of the Supreme Court subscribe.”
Last month, Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, requested Crow to give a detailed account of all vacations, gifts, and general payments that he has given to Thomas over the years. Wyden requested responses by May 8th, the day that Durbin sent Crow his most recent letter.
The chairman “received an obstructive letter” from a lawyer for Crow late Monday night, according to a statement from a Wyden staffer, which “refused to provide answers” to Wyden’s request. The Finance Committee will respond “shortly,” according to the staffer, Ryan Carey.
Thomas said that he had been told that the excursions and presents were “personal hospitality from close personal friends” and were exempt from disclosure requirements. Thomas did not respond to specific inquiries on the sales of properties, but Crow told the press that he had purchased Thomas’ mother’s home in order to preserve it for a potential future museum showcasing the justice’s upbringing.
Crow allegedly paid for Mark Martin, Thomas’ grandnephew, to attend two elite schools in the late 2000s, according to an article from last week. In response to the report, which Crow did not technically refute, Crow’s office issued a statement claiming that him and his wife have “long been passionate about giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth” and have supported numerous young Americans through scholarships and other programs at a number of schools, including his alma mater.
As a reaction to the claims, Thomas’ allies have still continued to support the justice, with some Republicans claiming that the accusations are the result of leftist opposition to his legal views.
Democrats have called for Thomas to immediately step down from the bench. In March, the Supreme Court tightened some of its guidelines for what judges and justices must disclose in their yearly financial reports.
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