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Clarence Thomas formally discloses trips with GOP donor as Supreme Court justices file new financial reports

Justice Thomas discloses trips with GOP donor
Justice Thomas discloses trips with GOP donor as justices file new reports 01:40

Washington — Justice Clarence Thomas has formally disclosed two trips he took with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow in 2019, according to his financial disclosure report for 2023 that was publicly released Friday.

The report, which Thomas filed on May 15, included an amendment to his disclosure form for 2019 to list two trips he took with Crow in July of that year. The first, to Bali, lists Thomas as a guest of Harlan and Kathy Crow. The justice reported receiving food and lodging at a hotel.

The second trip, to Monte Rio, California, across three days in July 2019, again lists Thomas as a guest of Crow's. He said he received food and lodging at a private club.

The information was "inadvertently omitted at the time of filing," according to Thomas' latest annual disclosure form. It notes that the justice "sought and received guidance from his accountant and ethics counsel" when preparing his report for 2023.

The financial disclosure reports for eight of the nine sitting justices were released to the public Friday. Justice Samuel Alito requested and received a 90-day extension to file his disclosure, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

Supreme Court justices' financial disclosures

Supreme Court justices pose for an official portrait on Friday, Oct 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C.
Supreme Court justices pose for an official portrait on Friday, Oct 7, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The disclosures show that Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson received four concert tickets from singer Beyoncé, valued at $3,711. She also received artwork for her chambers valued at $10,000 and $2,500. Thomas' report states that he received two photo albums worth $2,000.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh did not receive any gifts last year, according to their reports. 

Several of the justices received book royalties and income from other projects. Sotomayor, for example, raked in more than $86,000 in royalties from publisher Penguin Random House and just under $2,000 from a production company for appearing on the animated PBS show "Alma's Way."

Jackson, meanwhile, received a book advance of more than $893,000 from Penguin Random House, paid through KayPac LLC, of which her report lists her as the "sole member." Her husband started the company in 2022, according to the group Fix the Court, which advocates for more transparency at the Supreme Court.

Gorsuch reported $312 in royalties from Princeton University Press and $250,000 in royalty income from HarperCollins, according to his disclosure. Kavanaugh's disclosure shows he brought in $340,000 in book royalties from Javelin Group/Regnery Publishing.

Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett received teaching income in 2023, their reports show.

Thomas remains an honorary member of the board of directors for the Horatio Alger Association, and Sotomayor listed her position as governing director of iCivics, an organization started by the late Justice Sandra Day O'Connor that promotes civics education in schools. Kavanaugh served as a coach for a girls basketball team, according to his disclosure report.

The reports are submitted annually to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and reflect a justice's outside positions, income, reimbursements, gifts and investments for the prior calendar year. The financial disclosures have generated renewed interest in the wake of reporting by the news outlet ProPublica last year detailing the trips Thomas accepted from Crow — including to Bali and the private club in California — and real estate dealings between the two, which had not been listed in the justice's earlier reports.

Thomas had said last year he did not believe he had to disclose the travel and pledged to comply with guidelines about personal hospitality issued last year by the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body for the federal courts. The justice's report for 2022 listed flights Thomas took aboard Crow's private plane, as well as lodging at his property in the Adirondacks. Thomas also provided details about a 2014 real estate transaction with Crow that ProPublica revealed.

His report for 2023 did not include any reimbursements for lodging, transportation, food or entertainment.

The revelations about Thomas' relationship with Crow, a Texas real estate developer, sparked a political firestorm over the ethics practices at the Supreme Court and prompted calls for the nation's highest court to adopt a binding code of conduct. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee launched an investigation into the issue and advanced legislation that would require the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable ethics code. Committee Democrats also authorized subpoenas to Crow and Leonard Leo, a conservative judicial activist. The subpoena to Leo was issued in April, and he refused to comply. A spokesman for Crow said he did not receive one.

The Supreme Court adopted a formal code of conduct in November, though it did not include a mechanism for enforcement. 

The court's unilateral action has done little to stem the scrutiny of the justices. Controversy erupted last month over two flags that were displayed outside of Alito's homes in Virginia and New Jersey. The first, an upside-down American flag, was seen outside Alito's Virginia residence in early January 2021. The second, an "Appeal to Heaven" flag, was displayed outside his New Jersey vacation home in the summer of 2023.

Alito rejected calls from congressional Democrats from two cases involving former President Donald Trump and said he was not involved in the displays. He said the flags were flown by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, and neither of them knew their meanings. Both types were carried by rioters who breached the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, and have become associated with the "Stop the Steal" movement.

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