DCR Politics & Finance: Justice Clarence Thomas failed to report real estate deal with a Texas billionaire. ☕☕☕

Ayyyeee…What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his failure to disclose a real estate deal with a billionaire from Texas.

United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose that he had sold a series of properties to a longtime conservative donor from Texas in 2014, in an apparent violation of reporting requirements. The transaction is the first known instance of money going directly from the billionaire donor, Harlan Crow, 73, to the justice.

According to ProPublica and The NYTimes; The nature of Justice Thomas’s relationship with the real estate magnate has elicited particular attention after ProPublica revealed how he accompanied Crow on lavish trips for nearly 20 years without disclosing them, including island hopping in Indonesia and staying at Crow’s 105-acre lakeside retreat in the Adirondack Mountains. The disclosures have fueled calls by Democratic lawmakers and court transparency advocates for the justices to face tighter ethics constraints.

In 2014, a real estate company linked to Crow bought a single family home and two vacant lots on a Savannah Georgia street, paying $133,363 to Justice Thomas and his family for the property, according to records filed at Chatham County courthouse dated October 15,2014.

Documents show that one of Crow’s companies bought the property from three owners: Justice Thomas, his mother and the family of Justice Thomas’s late brother. After the sale, contractors made a number of improvements to the property, where the justice’s mother still lived.

In 2004, A Los Angeles Times article reported on the number of gifts that justice Thomas received from Crow, including a Bible once owned by the abolitionist Frederick Douglass and a bust of Abraham Lincoln valued at $15,000. Since then, Justice Thomas stopped reporting gifts and travel, but his relationship with Crow continued. The friendship between Justice Thomas and Crow dates to the mid 1990s, after Justice Thomas joined the court.

Crow helped finance a library in Savanna dedicated to the justice. He anonymously gave $150,000 to renovate a Carnegie Library. It had been the only library in the city that welcomed Black people, and the justice has described the hours he spent there as a child. In 2011, The New York Times reported that Crow had secretly poured millions of dollars  into the purchase and restoration of a cannery in PinPointwhere Justice Thomas spent the first six years of his life. The town, in coastal lowlands, was a place where freed slaves built livelihoods by harvesting shrimp, oysters and crabs.

Crow has long had a foothold in conservative causes. He is a trustee of the George W. Bush presidential Library Foundation and gave $500,000 to a group that sought to build public support for Mr. Bush’s Supreme Court picks. He also reportedly donated $500,000 when Ginni Thomas(Justice Thomas’s Wife) founded a Tea Party-related group several years ago.

Since 2006, Crow has also been a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society a charity that asks for an annual contribution of at least $5,000 to preserve the court’s history and educate the public. He also has invited the justice to gatherings at Camp Topridge, Mr. Crow’s private Adirondacks resort. A painting there, commissioned by Mr. Crow, shows the justice smoking cigars alongside Leonard A. Leo, a conservative force in pushing courts to the right; Mark Paoletta, a former assistant White House counsel who was a key player in Justice Thomas’s confirmation; and Peter Rutledge, a lawyer and former clerk to the justice.

In a statement to the New York Times; Crow said that he had purchased the property “at market rate” and that the improvements were required “to preserve its long-term visibility and accessibility to the public.” Crow said the purchase was part of his “broader commitment to historical preservation and American education.” “My intention is to one day create a public museum at the Thomas home dedicated to telling the story of our nation’s second Black Supreme Court justice, who was born in Pin Point, Ga., and later raised in Savannah,” he said.

Credit: New York Times, ProPublica.


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