After news outlets reported on multiple instances in which the conservative Supreme Court justice received things of value from rich “friends” without disclosing them, Thomas tried a different strategy on Thursday: a bit of honesty.
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As it turns out, all it takes to get Clarence Thomas to disclose (some of) the free stuff and special favors he gets from billionaire benefactors is a bit of sunlight.
After ProPublica and other news outlets reported on multiple instances in which the conservative Supreme Court justice received things of value from rich “friends” (including those with business before the court) while “forgetting” to mention them on disclosure forms, Thomas tried a different strategy on Thursday: a bit of honesty.
On his annual financial disclosure report for 2022, the justice stated that he took three trips on private jets paid for by conservative billionaire Harlan Crow.
That in itself is already significant because Thomas had routinely omitted similar trips, of which more than three dozen are known so far, in previous years.
These revelations, as well as some involving fellow right-wing Justice Samuel Alito and their liberal colleague Sonia Sotomayor, have led to calls that the Supreme Court needs to put in place mandatory ethics rules instead of the wishy-washy guidelines the justices follow (or don’t follow) now. Senate Democrats have threatened that, if the court doesn’t act on its own, they will.
Thomas’s disclosure report makes clear that this is urgently needed.
And not only because of the trips that he unveiled but rather because of his frequent use of the word “inadvertently,” which does a lot of heavy lifting in the document.
Thomas uses a form of it 16 times to point to omissions in past disclosure reports.
For example, he “inadvertently” forgot to include bank accounts in the past five reports that are now valued more than $100,000. Thomas attributes this to a “misinterpretation of the rules.”
In addition, the justice also “clarified” that he had forgotten some other stuff in previous years… “inadvertently,” of course.
For example, there were three properties, including his mother’s home, that Crow purchased in 2014 for $133,000. Thomas argued that, because he had invested significant amounts of money in his mother’s home, the sale “amounted to a capital loss” and therefore he believed it should not be reported.
He also stated that he had previously reported the other two properties when they generated rental income but was later advised that he no longer had to disclose them.
Finally, Thomas revealed that his wife Ginni has held life insurance policies from which she received income that he had also failed to disclose. Also inadvertently, of course.
In addition to demonstrating that the justice hid a lot of information from the public over the years, as well as highlighting the need for mandatory ethics rules, the document also makes it clear that all those who are portraying the revelation of Thomas’s ethics lapses as the result of some sort of political vendetta against him could not be more wrong.
Supreme Court justices should already be held to the highest standard, but this report also calls into question whether Thomas is up for the job at all. Not just because he is ethically challenged but also because, as an attorney, you’d think that he wouldn’t “inadvertently” screw up 16 times on previous disclosure forms.
If he is as careless in researching and writing his opinions as he is in researching disclosure rules and filling out forms, then he should probably vacate his seat and go on some long vacations with his wealthy buddies.