On Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas disclosed three trips he took on a private plane owned by none other than Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. While this might seem like a win for judicial transparency — these disclosures were made a year after he took these trips and months after ProPublica revealed the tangled web of his financial relationship with Crow.
As folks probably already know, Thomas has been receiving significant backlash after reporting from ProPublica found that Crow had paid for lavish trips, purchased his mother’s home, and even paid for private school tuition for a child Thomas was raising.
This recent financial disclosure is the first time in nearly two decades that Thomas has acknowledged gifts he’s received from the billionaire. In an unusual decision, Thomas not only amended earlier forms — he also defended his decision to travel on Crow’s private plane.
Thomas says that abortion politics were the reason he had to fly on a private plane — arguing that after the draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade leaked, he needed additional security measures to fly.
The form also appears to be omitting trips and gifts that Thomas received from Crow and others. However, his attorney, Elliot Berke, defended Thomas and his amended disclosures. “The attacks on Justice Thomas are nothing less than ridiculous and dangerous, and they set a terrible precedent for political blood sport through federal ethics filings,” Berke said in a statement obtained by the AP. “Justice Thomas’s amended report answers — and utterly refutes— the charges trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”
Nothing about the disclosures changes much politically. The Supreme Court is bound by very weak ethical requirements. And there doesn’t appear to be enough political will to go after a sitting Supreme Court justice. So, for now, there’s almost nothing stopping Thomas from disclosing on this bizarre ad-hoc basis.