Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has disclosed three trips he accepted from billionaire Harlan Crow last year, according to documents made public Thursday.
Thomas has denied any wrongdoing in accepting the trips, two of which were to Dallas and one to the Adirondacks in New York. For one of the trips, Thomas said he flew private because of security concerns following the leak of the draft abortion opinion.
His new financial disclosure form also includes supplemental information about a 2014 real estate transaction with Crow, which Thomas’s attorney said Thursday was “inadvertently omitted” from past reports.
In 2014, Crow bought three properties from Thomas and his family in Savannah, Ga., transactions that raised the ire of congressional Democrats when they were first publicized in news reports by ProPublica this year.
ProPublica also reported on trips that Crow paid for Thomas in its stories.
Thomas previously said he was advised that the trips he accepted from Crow fell under a personal hospitality exception and did not need to be reported.
In the new disclosure, Thomas indicated the two Dallas trips were for him to be the keynote speaker at conferences held by the American Enterprise Institute.
The justice said he was reimbursed to fly private back from Dallas in February 2022 due to an “unexpected ice storm.” Thomas said he flew private to and from the second conference in May due to security concerns.
“Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible,” Thomas’s disclosure states.
The extraordinary leak of the draft opinion that overturned Roe v. Wade rattled the court. Fences were installed around the Supreme Court building, and one man was arrested for attempted murder of fellow conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Thomas’s newly disclosed New York trip appears to be to Crow’s private lakeside resort, a location ProPublica reported Thomas has traveled to on multiple past occasions. Thomas listed Keese Mill, N.Y., as the location of the trip, which is the town where the resort is located.
The disclosures follow a March clarification from the federal judiciary’s policymaking arm about the personal hospitality exception to disclosing gifts. Under the new rules, the exception does not apply to trips and stays at commercial properties.
“Flights to and from Adirondacks by private plane and lodging, food, and entertainment at the Adirondacks property, were reportable under and in compliance with the new guidance,” Thomas’s disclosure states.
On Thursday, a lawyer for Thomas defended his activities and disclosures.
“Justice Thomas’s critics allege that he failed to report gifts from wealthy friends. Untrue,” Elliot Berke, an attorney who helped prepare the disclosure, said in a statement.
“He has never accepted a gift from anyone with business before the Court. For anyone who knows him at all, it is clear that no one influences Justice Clarence Thomas’s jurisprudence. But friends are dear, close, and separate,” Berke continued.
Thomas’s disclosure also includes multiple amendments about his finances in previous years, which Berke insisted were all mistakes and not intentional wrongdoing.
The form discloses personal bank accounts and life insurance held by Thomas’s wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, and corrects the misnaming of her family’s real estate holding.
Thomas’s form also notably discloses for the first time Crow’s purchase of three Savannah, Ga., properties from Thomas and his family in 2014, a transaction revealed by ProPublica earlier this year. Thomas’s mother lived in one of the properties and reportedly continued to do so after Crow’s purchase.
The justice said the deal amounted to a capital loss for him, as he had spent between $50,000 and $75,000 on improvements to his mother’s home but only received about $44,000 in proceeds from the sale.
“Filer had previously reported his interest in two of the Savannah properties (excluding his mother’s residence) in the years when they generated rental income. Once these properties no longer generated any rental income, filer was advised by Committee staff to remove the two properties from his disclosure forms,” Thomas’s disclosure states.
“However, filer inadvertently failed to realize that the ‘sales transaction’ for the final disposition of the three properties triggered a new reportable transaction in 2014, even though this sale resulted in a capital loss,” it continued.
Both Thomas and fellow conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito had both received extensions on their 2022 disclosures, and their forms were made public Thursday. The other justices’ forms were released earlier this summer.
Alito came under controversy after a ProPublica report detailed how Alito in 2008 was flown to Alaska on a private jet by hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer for a fishing trip. Years later, Alito participated in several cases in which a subsidiary of Singer’s hedge fund was a party.
Alito has denied any wrongdoing and insisted he was not obligated to recuse himself.
His new disclosure details reimbursements he received for two trips last year, both of which were paid for by law schools and were previously known.
Notre Dame Law School paid for Alito’s transportation, lodging and meals to Rome last summer for a religious liberty summit, and Duke Law School paid for Alito’s lodging and meals in North Carolina as he taught a class there, according to the disclosure.
The recent ProPublica stories have triggered an effort by Democrats in the Senate to institute tougher ethics standards on the Supreme Court. Republicans in the Senate, however, have opposed that effort, with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) repeatedly arguing the Senate should not impede on the judicial branch’s territory.
Berke, Thomas’s attorney, called the criticism of the justice “political blood sport.”
“It is painfully obvious that these attacks are motivated by hatred for his judicial philosophy, not by any real belief in any ethical lapses,” Berke said. “Several other Justices have been accused of ethics infractions of late as well, and while I do not represent them, I have seen no evidence to suggest their conduct was anything other than consistent with the rules in effect at the time the reports were filed, or due to inadvertent mistakes – as is the case with Justice Thomas.”
Updated at 11:23 a.m. ET