Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with David Koch

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is pictured at the Bohemian Grove with billionaire industrialist David Koch documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

(Photo: Obtained by ProPublica)

Clarence Thomas Secretly Served as 'Fundraising Draw' for Koch Network

"It's not Groundhog Day: Even more Clarence Thomas corruption has been uncovered."

The investigative outlet ProPublicarevealed Friday that U.S. Supreme Court Clarence Thomas has secretly attended at least two donor events for the powerful Koch network during his tenure on the high court, serving as a "fundraising draw" for the right-wing organization that has used dark money to shape the nation's political system, boost fossil fuels, and fight climate regulations.

Citing former Koch network employees and a major donor, ProPublica reported that Thomas was invited to speak at the events "in the hopes that such access would encourage donors to continue giving."

The outlet describes one donor event that took place in Palm Springs, California in January 2018. Thomas reportedly took a private jet to the gathering but never disclosed the flight in "an apparent violation of federal law requiring justices to report most gifts," ProPublica noted.

A spokesperson for the Koch network—which was founded by the billionaire oil tycoons Charles and David Koch—told ProPublica that it did not pay for Thomas' private jet flight.

"Thomas' involvement in the events is part of a yearslong, personal relationship with the Koch brothers that has remained almost entirely out of public view," ProPublica reported. "It developed over years of trips to the Bohemian Grove, a secretive all-men's retreat in Northern California. Thomas has been a regular at the Grove for two decades, where he stayed in a small camp with real estate billionaire Harlan Crow and the Kochs, according to records and people who've spent time with him there."

John E. Jones III, a retired federal judge appointed by former President George W. Bush, told ProPublica that "it takes my breath away" that Thomas "would go to a Koch network event for donors."

"I'd have gotten a letter that would’ve commenced a disciplinary proceeding," said Jones.

Unlike lower-court judges, Supreme Court justices do not have a binding code of ethics.

The new reporting is just the latest in a string of revelations detailing Thomas' close ties to right-wing billionaires who have had business before the Supreme Court.

Late last month, after ProPublicauncovered that he had been taking luxury trips on Crow's dime for years, Thomas disclosed that he took three flights on the conservative billionaire's private jet in 2022.

Thomas' connections to billionaires with vested interests in the outcomes of Supreme Court cases have sparked calls for the justice's resignation or impeachment, but Thomas has denied wrongdoing.

Thomas' decisions have helped open the floodgates to the kinds of dark money that the Koch network has been pouring into the U.S. political system for decades, and ProPublica noted Friday that Thomas' relationship with the Koch network could have implications for a case the Supreme Court is set to hear this coming term, Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo.

"The justices could give the network a historic victory: limiting federal agencies' power to issue regulations in areas ranging from the environment to labor rights to consumer protection," the outlet explained. "After shepherding the case to the court, Koch network staff attorneys are now asking the justices to overturn a decades-old precedent. (Thomas used to support the precedent but flipped his position in recent years.)"

The precedent, known as the Chevron doctrine, states that courts should defer to a federal agency's "reasonable" interpretation of a statute when the language of the law as passed by Congress is ambiguous.

The environmental group Earthjusticerecently warned that "eliminating the doctrine" would "shift more power towards the courts and diminish agencies' ability to issue durable regulations in the public interest."

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