The tangled web of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ relationship with Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow keeps getting messier. It was bad enough when ProPublica revealed that Crow had lavished the Supreme Court Justice with fancy vacations, but things have taken a much more bizarre turn.
Now, ProPublica is reporting that Crow also paid for a relative of Thomas’ to go to private school. And not just any relative; Thomas told C-Span back in 2007 that he was raising him “as a son.” Based on everything else we know about this evolving scandal, it probably won’t shock you to learn that Thomas allegedly didn’t report the tuition payments.
According to ProPublica’s reporting, bank statements from the school show that Crow paid the $6,000 a month private school tuition for Thomas’ relative. A former school administrator, Christopher Grimwood, also confirmed to the news outlet that Crow was paying the tuition. “Harlan picked up the tab,” Grimwood told ProPublica.
The reporting from ProPublica takes the scandal to all new heights. It’s one thing for a Republican mega-donor with a thing for Nazi memorabilia to take you on a trip. It’s a whole other story when he’s reportedly paying for your son’s private school tuition.
Thomas did not respond to ProPublica about the allegations. However, Crow’s office did respond;
“Harlan Crow has long been passionate about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth,” the statement said. “It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.” The statement added that Crow and his wife have “supported many young Americans” at a “variety of schools, including his alma mater.” Crow went to Randolph-Macon Academy.
Thomas’ relative Mark Martin, now in his 30s, also responded to their requests for comment. He told ProPublica that he was not aware of the tuition payments. “I think his intentions behind everything is just a friend and just a good person,” said Martin. Mark Paoletta, a long-time friend of Thomas, defended the relationship between Crow and Thomas, saying he legally didn’t have to disclose the payments because Martin wasn’t a dependent child. “The Thomases and the Crows are kind, generous, and loving people who tried to help this young man,” Paoletta told ProPublica.(As for the trips, Thomas claimed he was advised that he didn’t have to report them.)
The news will likely only add to the growing concern on Capitol Hill. Last week, Congress held a hearing on whether the Supreme Court needed to adopt a code of ethics. The Supreme Court court is the only federal court not bound by the ethics standards for other federal Judges. And calls have been growing for the court to either come up with its own stringent code or have Congress draft one for them.
The Root wrote about the Just Majority campaign to hold Supreme Court justices accountable, led by Representatives Ayanna Pressley, Senators Ed Markey, and Elizabeth Warren;
So, what exactly are progressives demanding in this campaign? Well, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The campaign is calling for Congress to enact a binding code of ethics for Supreme Court Justices and expand the court to include more than the current nine justices. The argument for court expansion is that it would help balance the judiciary, which many progressives claim has been captured by right-wing interest groups.
Despite the endless news cycle detailing the many ethics concerns surrounding Thomas, and the growing calls for action, we seem to be a ways away from Congress bringing down the hammer on the Supreme Court.