Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas sold real estate to Republican donor Harlan Crow and did not disclose the sales, ProPublica reported Thursday, shedding more light on their relationship after Thomas was criticized last week for accepting luxury travel from Crow.
In 2014, real estate developer Crow bought a single-story home and two vacant lots in Savannah, Georgia, from an entity registered to Thomas, Thomas’ mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother, according to public records obtained by ProPublica.
The $133,363 transaction marks the first known instance of payments between Crow and Thomas, a week after ProPublica first reported the Supreme Court Justice had traveled on Crow’s yacht and jet without disclosing it.
Thomas reportedly never disclosed his sale of the Savannah properties, which some experts described to ProPublica as a possible violation of a federal law that requires justices to disclose most real estate sales over $1,000.
The disclosure form Thomas filed for that year had a space to report the identity of any buyers in private transactions, but that space is left blank.
Thomas’ mother continued to live in the house under Crow’s ownership, and the property underwent major renovations after the sale, including the addition of a carport and roof repairs, ProPublica reported.
In a statement to the publication, Crow said he purchased the house to preserve it with the intention of eventually making it into a public museum about Thomas’ life.
Forbes has reached out to the Supreme Court of the United States.
ProPublica reported last week Thomas and his wife Ginni had accepted luxury travel from Crow, including sailing internationally on Crow’s yacht, flying in Crow’s private jet and vacationing at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. Thomas said he didn’t disclose the trips with Crow and his wife Kathy—whom he described as “dear friends”—because he was advised that he does not need to declare “personal hospitality,” though ethics experts interviewed by ProPublica note that gifts of transportation are normally reported. Crow is the chairperson and former CEO of Crow Holdings, and is the son of Fred Crow, who founded Dallas-based real estate development giant Trammell Crow Co. Crow has also been a major supporter of the Republican party (Thomas was appointed by Republican George H. W. Bush), and was the largest donor to the Republican Party of Texas PAC during the 2022 midterm election, according to OpenSecrets data. Crow has donated more than $10 million in publicly disclosed political contributions, along with giving to groups that keep contributors’ identities secret, according to ProPublica.
“Early in my tenure at the Court, 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,” Thomas said of his relationship with Crow in a statement following ProPublica’s report. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.”
What To Watch For
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday announced plans to hold a hearing about “the need to restore confidence in the Supreme Court’s ethical standards” in the coming days. The nine Supreme Court justices are the only federal judges not bound by the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, but the report about Thomas’ luxury travel has renewed calls for stricter ethics codes in the Supreme Court. Following the report, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN Thomas should be impeached, while other Democrat Reps. Ilhan Omar and Judy Chu tweeted their support of stronger ethical standards. Before the revelations about Thomas were published, fifteen Democrats had signed a letter in late March outlining a code of ethics for justices to adopt.
Thomas’ wife, Ginni, has also been the subject of controversy because of her alleged connection with the January 6 riots following the 2020 presidential election results. The Washington Post reported she sent two sets of emails to 29 Republican state lawmakers in Arizona urging them to overturn President Joe Biden’s win in their state. Ginni Thomas has stressed her work is separate from her husband’s, telling The Free Beacon, “we do not discuss cases until opinions are public—and even then, our discussions have always been very general and limited to public information.”
Clarence Thomas and the Billionaire (ProPublica)
Clarence Thomas Calls Harlan Crow And Wife ‘Personal Friends’ Who Provided Private Jet And Trips On Superyacht (Forbes)
Clarence Thomas Has Reportedly Been Accepting Gifts From Republican Megadonor Harlan Crow For Decades—And Never Disclosed It (Forbes)