The Thomas/Crow Affair

Published: May 5, 2023

By Jim Lichtman
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Starring Clarence Thomas as the Supreme Court’s oldest serving justice, and . . . Harlan Crow as the Republican Megadonor.

The latest saga in Justice Thomas’s lifestyle has just been reported by ProPublica, a non-profit group of investigative journalists.

To recap: “The Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas Caper.”

Despite a complete lack of evidence, Mrs. Thomas held the opinion that the 2020 election had been “stolen” from former president Donald Trump. Nothing wrong there. However, she willfully inserted herself into the controversy by contacting 29 Arizona state lawmakers, pressing them in an email to “fight back against fraud” and overturn the will of Arizona voters falsely claiming that the election was fraudulent.

If you’re keeping score, that’s Ethics Zero, Thomas One.

Next up: “Lavish Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”

As reported by ProPublica, “For more than 20 years, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been treated to luxury vacations by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow.” The reporting agency lists trips on Crow’s luxury yacht and trips on his private jet, and . . . I’m getting sea and air sick just looking at all the bountiful perks Thomas has received and has not reported, as required yearly by the Supreme Court.

But Thomas has two good “explanations” (rationalizations) for this:

“Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends.”

And . . .

“Early in my tenure at the Court,” Thomas said in a statement, “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. I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”

However, “seven legal ethics experts consulted by ProPublica, including former ethics lawyers for Congress and the White House, said the law clearly requires that gifts of transportation, including private jet flights, be disclosed. If Thomas is arguing otherwise, the experts said, he is incorrect.”

Ethics: 0. Thomas: 2.

Now we have Justice Thomas’s latest adventure and it’s a humdinger: “Donor Crow Pays for Justice’s Grandnephew’s Education.”

As ProPublica reports, “In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was “raising him as a son.

“Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month.”

I wonder if the high price tag comes with a field trip to the Galapagos to study sea turtles.

Nonetheless, “Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow.

“The payments extended beyond that month, according to Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at the school. Crow paid Martin’s tuition the entire time he was a student there, which was about a year . . .”

While Thomas was not required to report the gift, my question for Thomas: Why not report it anyway, and avoid the appearance of impropriety. Given Thomas’s history with Crow and the lavish travel gifts Crow has bestowed on the Supreme Court justice, the school tuition incident simply raises more questions: What else has Thomas received that has gone unreported?

But wait, that’s not all!

This just in. The Washington Post reports that “In January 2012, Leo instructed the GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway to bill a nonprofit group he advises and use that money to pay Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, the documents show. The same year, the nonprofit, the Judicial Education Project, filed a brief to the Supreme Court in a landmark voting rights case.”

Final Score, Ethics: a Big Goose Egg; The Thomas’s 4 . . . and counting.

Is this justice?


  1. Ethical? NO.
    This is what is happening to American democracy!

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