House Democrats Hold A News Conference Calling On Justice Clarence Thomas To Resign

Activists hold signs during a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol calling for immediate resignation of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas on April 19, 2023 in Washington, DC. Center for Popular Democracy Action (CPD) held a news conference to call on the resignation after ProPublica reported that Justice Thomas had been taking expensive vacations financed by billionaire Harlan Crow, who had also bought an undisclosed property from Thomas.

(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Small Minds Think Alike: Clarence Thomas and George Santos's Yacht Race to Corruption

Both the junior representative and the Supreme Court justice had trouble disclosing their true income.

"We sail the ocean blue and our saucy ship's a beauty. We're sober men and true, and attentive to our duty." —Gilbert and Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore

It was like manna from heaven for a reputation that had been tarnished by, among other things, a yacht. Just when it looked like a yacht might sink George Santos, Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, sailed to his rescue on an even bigger yacht. Of course, the context was slightly different. Nonetheless, it was a much needed distraction and one for which George is almost certainly grateful. And it was not merely the yacht that came to George's rescue. It was Clarence's failure to comply with rules about disclosing his sources of income. But I get ahead of myself.

Beginning before, and shortly after George was elected to the House of Representatives, countless investigations were launched into his political and personal finances. Prompting the investigations were his financial disclosure statements that suggested he was a better fiction writer than businessman. For example, in 2020 George's financial disclosure statements indicated that in that year he had almost no income and virtually no assets. One year later his financial disclosure statements revealed an annual income of more than $750,000 and significant assets that included, among other things, a condo in Brazil.

Among the explanations offered by George for the increase in his personal income and wealth during that period was the commission he received from his service as a broker in the purchase and sale of a $19 million, 141-foot super yacht that, for our purposes, we will refer to as the "Soros" yacht to distinguish it from the other yacht that is part of our story.

While the Soros yacht was making headlines, the rescuing yacht sailed into the sea of public consciousness.

The Soros yacht was purchased by Raymond Tantillo of Long Island, New York, from Mayra Ruiz of Miami, Florida. George explained that it was that transaction that was one of the sources of his increase in personal wealth during that period. When asked about the transaction, Mr. Ruiz, the seller of the yacht, declined to comment. His lawyer said her client "was not interested in making any statement other than the fact that he has already publicly disclosed that he does not know who George Santos is and has never contributed to his campaigns and has never done any business with him." How George received a hefty commission from the sale of a yacht owned by someone who "has never done any business with him" is something George will probably be given the opportunity to explain, since reports suggest that both state and federal authorities are investigating his role in that sale. It is not, however, a work of fiction that has come to George's rescue. It is an unlikely rescuer—an even bigger yacht.

While the Soros yacht was making headlines, the rescuing yacht sailed into the sea of public consciousness. The yacht that came to George's rescue is a $500 million vessel owned by Harlan Crow, a Dallas businessman. Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginny, have taken many trips on that yacht as the guests of Harlan and his wife, the pair of whom Clarence describes as their "very close personal friends."

It was not the fact that Clarence and Ginny were on the boat that caused eyebrows to rise. It was that the trips the Thomases took with Harlan and his family aboard his yacht, on his private plane, and as guests at his private resorts, trips that reportedly had a value in some cases of more than $500,000, were not disclosed on any of the reports filed with the United States Supreme Court where Clarence is an employee and is required to complete a form disclosing personal gifts. Gifts considered "personal hospitality" are not required to be disclosed, and Clarence thought those hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts qualified as an exemption under the "personal hospitality" rules. (Those rules were amended in March of this year to help Clarence understand that gifts of that magnitude were different from going out to dinner with "very close friends" and, therefore, had to be disclosed.) It was not only the Thomas yacht rides that helped George out. It was Clarence's inability to accurately report the sources of his income. And that, it turns out, is exactly the same problem George has.

Numerous reports suggested that all the financial statements George filed before and after he was elected to Congress had many internal inconsistencies that made it impossible to determine what his sources of income were. Clarence, it turns out, had the same problem in the reports he is required to file in the Supreme Court.

According to the Washington Post, Clarence has for many years said on the financial disclosure forms he is required to file that he received income from a real estate firm that has not been in existence since 2006. Apparently no one told him that in filing such reports he should not report income from sources that ceased to exist many years ago. I am sure Clarence will correct this minor oversight on his part.

It has long been said that great minds think alike. The foregoing suggests it is also true for small minds.

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