A new ProPublica report reveals just how far Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas‘ professional perks extend with lengthy details on undisclosed, expensive, and opulent trips and activities bankrolled by ultrawealthy patrons.
While it’s been previously reported that close friend and billionaire Harlan Crow has financed some of these lavish escapades, newly reported records and interviews show that other wealthy benefactors have been backing many of the justice’s vacations, flights, and other events, such as businessman David Sokol, a man who was once the top executive at Berkshire Hathaway.
Additionally, billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, who transformed Blockbuster into a business behemoth, and oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly are some other notable figures that Thomas first met after he was appointed to the federal bench.
According to ProPublica, each of these business moguls financed at least 38 destination vacations, 26 private jet flights, a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica, and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.
Even close friend and healthcare magnate Anthony Welters partly underwrote a Prevost Marathon RV that cost nearly $270,000, according to a new report by The New York Times. Welters called the payment a “loan” used to purchase the recreational vehicle which he said was a “passion” of Thomas’. Welters also stated that the loan was “satisfied” nine years after the vehicle’s purchase.
As for the trips funded by Thomas’ other wealthy friends, while some parts of those expenditures might not have required full disclosure, ethics experts say Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises, and expensive sports tickets.
“In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served for years on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures, told ProPublica. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
Thomas and Novelly did not respond to ProPublica’s inquiries. Huizenga died in 2018, but his son, who is now the head of the family’s holding company, also did not respond.
Sokol, on the other hand, maintained that his friendship with Thomas was upright and ethical.
“We have never once discussed any pending court matter. Our conversations have always revolved around helping young people, sports, and family matters,” Sokol told ProPublica. “As to the use of private aviation, I believe that given security concerns, all of the Supreme Court justices should either fly privately or on governmental aircraft.”
While it’s been reported that Thomas has taken vacations here and there with a couple of affluent benefactors, namely Harlan Crow, this new report provides a full account of how far-reaching the justice’s connections are.
As the news made the rounds online, people were shocked by the degree to which Thomas profited from these relationships.
“Okay, this is crazy,” one person wrote on X.
“He needs to be impeached,” another person commented.
“Thomas is as crooked as they come,” another X user said.
What constitutes a “gift” to a Supreme Court justice is somewhat obscure. The justices have stated in the past that court rules impede them from receiving gifts so frequently that “a reasonable person would believe that the public office is being used for private gain.” However, few restrictions are dictated on what they can accept.
Members of the court have been flown out to speaking events, weddings of peers, and other destinations, but many of those gifts were made public because they were disclosed by justices. Thomas, on the other hand, seems to take these trips at a higher frequency.