Clarence Thomas in October, 2022. Photo: Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas acknowledged allegations that he had failed to properly disclose luxury trips he had received from an influential GOP donor, saying in a statement Friday that he has "always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines."
Driving the news: An explosive ProPublica investigation alleged that over the span over more than two decades Thomas accepted lavish vacations paid for by a major Republican donor virtually every year.
- Ethics law experts told the publication that Thomas had likely violated disclosure rules that require him to report travel on Dallas real estate magnate Harlan Crow's private jet and yacht, and possibly even his stays at Crow's resort in the Adirondacks
- In a statement to ProPublica, Crow argued that he and his wife's "hospitality" towards Thomas and his wife was no different from the hospitality they showed other friends, and that they had never tried to influence Thomas on "any legal or political issue."
State of play: Thomas echoed this sentiment in his own statement, saying the two couples had been friends for 25 years and "as friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips."
- Thomas noted that he believed he'd done nothing wrong based on guidance he received "early in my tenure."
- He said he was told that "this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable."
- "These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future," Thomas said.
The big picture: Last month the Judicial Conference of the United States adopted tighter financial disclosure rules for federal judges and U.S. Supreme Court justices, including requiring them to report when they are gifted stays at commercial properties and travel on private jets, per the Washington Post.
- Thomas acknowledged the changing guidelines and maintained that he has always sought to follow disclosure guidelines and will do so in the future as they change.
Zoom out: The revelations about Thomas' close ties to Crow sparked a flurry of angry reactions from some Democrats.
- They also coincide with a push among Senate Democrats to require the Supreme Court to adopt a formal code of ethics for the first time.
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