Activists demand Clarence Thomas resignation

Activists hold signs during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol calling for the resignation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on April 19, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

'So Thoroughly Corrupt': Clarence Thomas Has Taken Dozens of Trips Funded by Ultrarich Friends

"Clarence Thomas should resign, or be impeached," said one court accountability advocate.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has taken nearly 40 luxury vacations on the dime of wealthy right-wing friends and benefactors over the past three decades, according to a detailed account published Thursday by the investigative outlet ProPublica.

According to ProPublica's tally, which the outlet notes is "almost certainly an undercount," Thomas has enjoyed at least "38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast."

"While some of the hospitality, such as stays in personal homes, may not have required disclosure," the outlet reported, "Thomas appears to have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises, and expensive sports tickets, according to ethics experts."

ProPublica's previous explosive reporting on Thomas focused primarily on gifts from billionaire Harlan Crow, a Republican megadonor who has bankrolled luxury trips for the conservative justice for twenty years.

But the story published Thursday makes clear that a broader "cadre of industry titans and ultrawealthy executives have treated him to far-flung vacations aboard their yachts, ushered him into the premium suites at sporting events, and sent their private jets to fetch him—including, on more than one occasion, an entire 737."

"It's a stream of luxury that is both more extensive and from a wider circle than has been previously understood," ProPublica reported. That circle includes oil baron Paul Novelly, ultramillionaire executive David Sokol, and billionaire Waste Management founder H. Wayne Huizenga.

"Thomas occasionally flew on Huizenga's helicopters, sometimes taking off from the roof of the corporate headquarters, and at least one of his Gulfstream jets around Florida, according to his former pilots," ProPublica found. "But the billionaire's most luxurious planes were a pair of 737 jets he had retrofitted like a lounge, complete with recliners, love seats, mahogany dining and card tables, and gourmet food."

"Thomas never identified Huizenga in any of his disclosures," ProPublica reported. The two met shortly after Thomas was confirmed in 1991.

Alex Aronson, a court accountability advocate, wrote that ProPublica's story details "just staggering levels of grift, corruption, and lawbreaking by a nominal public servant who wields tremendous power over all our lives."

"Clarence Thomas should resign, or be impeached," Aronson added.

The latest revelations come amid a spiraling ethics crisis on the Supreme Court, which—led by a right-wing supermajority—has recently ended the constitutional right to abortion, gutted environmental protections, and blocked student debt relief for tens of millions of borrowers.

Recent polling has shown that public confidence in the high court is at its lowest level in decades.

"I said it would get worse; it will keep getting worse," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the lead sponsor of legislation that would require the Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics.

The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, but it likely does not have enough support to pass the full Senate or the House given Republican opposition.

In a statement on Thursday, Accountable.US senior adviser Kyle Herrig said that Thomas "clearly sees his position on our nation's highest court as a way to upgrade his own lifestyle via his billionaire benefactor social circle."

"It was his own decades-long improper financial relationship with Harlan Crow that sparked the Supreme Court corruption crisis in the first place—and that was just the tip of the iceberg," said Herrig. "Harlan Crow, Justice Thomas, Leonard Leo, and other key players in this court corruption crisis may believe they exist above the law, but they don't. We need accountability and reform now."

Thomas isn't the only Supreme Court justice who has received undisclosed gifts from right-wing billionaires. In 2008, Justice Samuel Alito took a luxury fishing trip with hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, who has repeatedly had business before the Supreme Court.

Alito is currently facing calls to recuse himself from an upcoming case that could preemptively bar Congress from enacting a wealth tax. The Manhattan Institute, a right-wing think tank chaired by Singer, has urged the high court to rule that a wealth tax is unconstitutional.

"Billionaires have turned SCOTUS into an auction," said progressive organizer Melanie D'Arrigo.

This story has been updated with a statement from Accountable.US.

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