Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas with David Koch

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (left) is pictured at the Bohemian Grove with billionaire industrialist David Koch (right) and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns (center).

(Photo: ProPublica)

Database Reveals 'Staggering' $6.6 Million in Gifts to Supreme Court Justices

"The Supreme Court's gifts shouldn't be a secret—Congress must pass a binding code of ethics now," said one advocate.

U.S. Supreme Court justices have received millions of dollars in gifts over the past two decades—with far-right Justice Clarence Thomas being the main beneficiary of this largesse, according to a detailed analysis published Thursday.

The advocacy group Fix the Court published a database listing 546 total gifts valued at over $4.7 million given to 18 current and former justices mostly between 2004 and 2023, as identified by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The database also lists "likely" gifts received by the justices and their estimated values, bringing the grand total to 672 gifts valued at nearly $6.6 million.

The database was published a day before the justices are expected to release their financial disclosure reports.

"Supreme Court justices should not be accepting gifts, let alone the hundreds of freebies worth millions of dollars they've received over the years," Fix the Court executive director Gabe Roth said in a statement Thursday.

Thomas led the pack with 193 FTC-identified gifts collectively valued at over $4 million. Of these, he listed only 27 in financial disclosure reports.

According to Fix the Court, Thomas' gifts consisted mainly of free trips to Bohemian Grove—a secretive, men-only retreat in Northern California—and Topridge, the private lakeside resort in upstate New York owned by billionaire Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.

By dollar amount, the late Justice Antonin Scalia came in a distant second with 67 gifts worth over $210,000 combined, while Justice Samuel Alito took 16 gifts valued collectively at just over $170,000. At the low end of the database, Justice Brett Kavanaugh received a single gift worth $100, while former Justice David Souter was also given one gift with a value of $349.

According to the analysis:

The tally includes the amount of principal and interest—$253,686—we believe Tony Welters forgave in 2008 for the luxury RV he gifted to Thomas the decade before. FTC's numbers include the tuition gifts, $144,400 across six years, Thomas received for his grandnephew... It captures the value of Thomas' yacht trips to Russia, the Greek Isles, and Indonesia, as well as some new information on the Thomas flights Tony Novelly paid for and the Scalia and Alito fishing trips Robin Arkley paid for that's included in the congressional record. The value of the gifts Scalia received on his ill-fated trip to Marfa, Texas, in 2016 are also included.

"Public servants who make four times the median local salary, and who can make millions writing books on any topic they like, can afford to pay for their own vacations, vehicles, hunting excursions, and club memberships," said Roth, "to say nothing of the influence the gift-givers are buying with their 'generosity.'"

"The ethics crisis at the court won't begin to abate until justices adopt stricter gift acceptance rules," he added.

Thomas' gifts from billionaire Republican donors—and his refusal to report them—have fueled calls for his recusal from some cases and even resignation.

Following intense public pressure, the Supreme Court last November announced it had formally adopted a code of conduct that was promptly slammed as a "toothless PR stunt" by the watchdog Revolving Door Project and others.

"The ethics crisis at the court won't begin to abate until justices adopt stricter gift acceptance rules."

"Headline after headline about Supreme Court justices accepting lavish vacations and eye-poppingly expensive gifts is bound to erode trust in the court," U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said on social media Wednesday. "We need to pass the Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act and enforce a real code of ethics."

Fix the Court and other groups also support the Supreme Court Ethics and Investigations Act, which was introduced earlier this week by Congressman Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) and would create a Supreme Court Office of Investigative Counsel tasked with investigating ethical improprieties and reporting them to Congress.

Reacting to the new analysis, the pro-democracy group Stand Up America said, "The Supreme Court's gifts shouldn't be a secret—Congress must pass a binding code of ethics now."

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