Clarence Thomas, Constitution Turns 225
Justice Clarence Thomas speaks at the Library of Congress. Photo credit: Earl McDonald / Wikimedia

Since both money and power corrupt, it would be great if Supreme Court justices were only being corrupted by one of them.

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Clarence Thomas is a lucky guy. It seems as though every wealthy friend of his just loves to give him stuff — from luxury vacations and lavish gifts to other favors such as paying the private school tuition of family members or renovating his mom’s house. On Saturday, The New York Times revealed that the Supreme Court justice received a favorable loan/gift from yet another rich buddy to purchase a $260,000 RV that was clearly out of his price range.

Good for him!

Who doesn’t have a bunch of affluent pals who, out of the goodness of their hearts and for no other reason whatsoever, fly them halfway around the world for dream vacations or help them buy a vehicle whose value exceeds their annual salary by $100,000? 

Thomas is truly living the dream… his dream, to be exact. 

Almost 25 years ago, he said in a speech that he didn’t want to be a federal judge, he just “wanted to be rich.”

Thanks to the generosity of (mostly) right-wing benefactors, he is now both. In his day job, he gets to force his ultra-conservative ideology on a country that is largely opposed to his view of things, and the rest of the time, rich people allow him to live like a multimillionaire.

And, because he didn’t disclose these “favors,” he could do it without raising eyebrows.

Clearly, it shouldn’t work that way. 

Thomas, and every other Supreme Court justice, including Samuel Alito, who has his own ethics problems, and Sonia Sotomayor, who has her staff hawk her books to make a few extra bucks on the side, should choose: Be extremely rich or hold the fate of the nation in their hands. 

It can’t be both. 

And it’s not as though Supreme Court justices are poorly compensated. They make nearly $300,000 annually. Sure, that’s not enough for private plane travel or buying a mobile home with a fireplace, but it’s plenty to go on nice trips and purchase regular RVs. 

However, if Thomas wants more than that, he can just quit and pursue more lucrative opportunities… or simply have his rich friends continue to shower him and his wife with their largesse. 

Surely they won’t stop doing so simply because he no longer holds nearly unrivaled power as one of nine justices who decide the most contentious issues of our time. 

It’s pretty crazy that there is even a debate about this. Of course, Supreme Court justices should not get money and gifts from any friend or side-hustle. If they don’t like it, then they can choose not to accept their nominations. 

Nothing would have stopped Thomas from telling President George H. W. Bush that he would rather lead a life of luxury.

Then again, maybe he already realized at the time that, if he were just corrupt enough, being on the Supreme Court would allow him to have his cake and eat it too… in his ridiculously expensive RV or on a yacht in a tropical paradise surrounded by his uber-wealthy and altruistic friends. 


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