Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have reached out to Harlan Crow, a megadonor for the Republican Party, asking him to give them a full list of all the trips and gifts he has given to Clarence Thomas, one of the conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
All of this is coming to a head as the relationship between Thomas and Crow continues to come into question, with Thomas failing to disclose multiple luxurious gifts and trips that he received from Crow.
The Democrats are demanding that Crow provide a full accounting to them by May 22. They sent letters to Crow personally, as well as to the holding companies that own his property in the Adirondacks, his yacht and his private jet.
The gifts Thomas received were brought to light by a report in ProPublica. In addition to the gifts, the publication reported that Crow bought multiple properties that Thomas and his family owned, as well as paid for the tuition at a private school for the great-nephew of Thomas.
Thomas has defended the fact that he didn’t disclose these gifts by saying that they are subject to the “personal hospitality” exception under ethics laws at the federal level. Those laws were only recently clarified.
In the letter, the Democrats wrote to Crow:
“Recent investigative reporting has identified multiple instances in which you or entities you own or control have made payments, purchased real estate, or provided gifts, travel or other items of value to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and members of his family.”
Not surprisingly, Democrats all over Washington have been angry at the reports over the gifts given to Thomas, and have pushed for outside intervention at the high court that would require all of the justices to establish their own code of ethics, which would be binding.
The Supreme Court justices don’t have to abide by the same code of ethics that all other federal judges do.
In the letter sent to the holding company that owns the yacht, the Democrats wrote:
“According to recent reports, individuals who may have had business interests or other interests before the Supreme Court have been able to gain personal and private access to Justices during occasions where Justices have accepted gifts of transportation or travel.
“These revelations include the transportation Rochelle Marine Ltd. gifted Justice Thomas on the Michaela Rose. Regardless of the intentions behind the travel, if these gifts enabled those with interests before the Court to have private access to a Justice, it is a matter of significant public concern.”
The Senate Finance Committee also sent similar letters requesting full accounting of the gifts that Thomas received from Crow. That committee, though, is looking into whether the GOP megadonor ended up complying with all federal tax laws when he made the gifts.
The chairman of that committee, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon, released a statement Tuesday that said an attorney who represents Crows sent “an obstructive letter” to him that “refused to provide answers to the questions” that were posed to him.