**Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s Undisclosed Lavish Gifts from Billionaire Friends**
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received extravagant gifts from billionaire friends over the past two decades, worth millions of dollars, without disclosing them as required by law. This previously unenforced legality for Supreme Court justices has recently come to light through reporting by ProPublica, revealing Thomas’s acceptance of at least 38 luxurious vacations funded by his wealthy associates.
Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who served on the judicial committee responsible for reviewing judges’ financial disclosures, commented that he had never seen such generosity given to any individual in his career. The gifts received by Justice Thomas from American real estate developer and Republican donor Harlan Crow include lavish vacations on a superyacht, private jet flights, all-expenses-paid luxury trips, and frequent visits to Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.
Lack of Enforcement of Disclosure Rules
Federal laws require Supreme Court justices to disclose any gifts worth more than $415 that they or their immediate families receive in annual filings. The purpose of these laws is to promote transparency and trust in the highest court of the United States and prevent any attempts to buy influence over the court. However, there has been little to no enforcement of this rule. Unlike lower courts and the executive and legislative branches, the Supreme Court lacks a binding code of ethics. But in March, there was a tightening of standards, and shortly after, the connection between Thomas and Crow’s undisclosed gifts came to light.
Stricter Disclosure Rules
Under the stricter rules implemented in March, Supreme Court justices must disclose more details about their activities, including free trips, air travel, and stays at commercial properties such as hotels, resorts, or hunting lodges. The New York Times reported on these changes, but it remains unclear how they will be overseen and enforced.
The Expose on Thomas’s Undisclosed Gifts
ProPublica recently published a comprehensive report on Thomas’s undisclosed gifts from ultrawealthy business moguls. Soon after his confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991, Thomas was included in the exclusive nonprofit organization, the Horatio Alger Association, which counts wealthy businessmen among its members. It was through this association that Thomas met David Sokol, the once heir apparent to Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, H. Wayne Huizenga, who played a major role in the success of Blockbuster and Waste Management, and oil billionaire Paul “Tony” Novelly.
Extravagant Gifts from Billionaires
Thomas and his wife, Virginia Thomas, enjoyed an all-expenses-paid vacation in 2019, funded by Sokol, which included attending the home-opener football and volleyball games at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from luxury suites estimated to cost $40,000 per year. Over the years, the couple also attended at least seven University of Nebraska-Lincoln games, with five of them arranged by Sokol. Huizenga sent his personal 737 jet to fly Thomas to South Florida, a round trip that would have cost at least $130,000 each way. Thomas was also invited to Huizenga’s highly exclusive, members-only golf club, the Floridian. The club’s initiation fee is now $150,000. Novelly took Thomas deep-sea fishing on multiple occasions, using one of his yachts, Le Montrachet, which can be chartered for $60,000 per week.
Justice Thomas’s Self-Image
Despite the grand lifestyle facilitated by his billionaire friends, Justice Thomas portrays himself as an everyman. In an interview for a documentary about his life, partially financed by Crow, Thomas stated that he prefers RV parks and Walmart parking lots over luxurious beaches. He claims that he comes from regular stock and feels more comfortable around ordinary people.
In conclusion, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has received lavish gifts worth millions of dollars from billionaire friends without disclosing them, as legally required. The recent reporting by ProPublica has shed light on the unprecedented degree of generosity given to Thomas. While stricter rules have been implemented to enforce disclosure of such gifts, it remains to be seen how these rules will be overseen and enforced in the future.