Information published Thursday by the ProPublica site reveals the largesse which Clarence Thomas, one of the nine “wise men” of the American Supreme Court, benefited from a major donor to the Republican Party. A misconduct among many others for this judge.
He has sat on the Supreme Court for 31 years, making him the indisputable dean of the venerable American institution. Clarence Thomas is also often presented as the most conservative of an already very right-wing college of judges. Finally, at 74, he may go down in history as the “wise man” dragging the most pots, after the revelations, Thursday, April 6, of the ProPublica website about decades spent traveling at the expense of a wealthy, ultra-conservative donor.
Texan real estate magnate Harlan Crow has shown a lot of country to Clarence Thomas and his wife by making them enjoy his luxury yachts, his private jets and by lodging them in palaces and other generously starred hotels, says ProPublica . So many vacations which the judge never mentioned in his statements on possible conflicts of interest.
Following the publication of this survey, elected Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called for the opening of impeachment proceedings of this judge hated by the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The media shock wave caused by the latest revelations is not only due to the “unprecedented in the modern history of the Supreme Court” nature of the facts listed by ProPublica. This new affair also appears to be the proverbial straw that would overflow the camel of scandals associated with Clarence Thomas. Because the controversies began long before 2023.
It all started with the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in July 1991. Then-Republican President Ronald Reagan was determined to make the 43-year-old conservative judge one of the nation’s nine “wise men”. But a law professor does not hear it that way. Anita Hill indeed accuses Clarence Thomas of repeated sexual harassment against him ten years earlier.
She even testifies against him during the hearing intended to validate the appointment of Clarence Thomas and successfully passes a lie detector test. For his part, the future “wise man” denies the whole affair, accusing “liberals [terme employé pour désigner la gauche en politique aux États-Unis, NDLR] whites to block the nomination of a black and conservative judge”.
The senators responsible for confirming this appointment end up rejecting Anita Hill’s allegations. It is a Democrat, a certain Joe Biden, who announces the final appointment of Clarence Thomas, after three days of intense debate.
Many years before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the testimony of Anita Hill initiates the debate on sexual harassment in the USA. Books have also been devoted to the fight of this woman against Clarence Thomas.
Anita Hill is not the only one to have complained about the behavior of the judge. In 2016, lawyer Moira Smith claims that twenty years earlier, she was sexually touched during a dinner party.
Scandals related to his wife
Ginni Thomas is probably even more controversial than her husband. A convinced conspirator and ardent fan of Donald Trump, she represents an anomaly in American institutional history. “Never since the founding of the United States has there been a spouse of a Supreme Court justice who has been so outspoken as a political activist,” assures the New York Times in an investigation devoted to the political rise of the Thomas couple.
And this activism has more than once put the judge in a delicate position. Clarence Thomas first “forgot” to declare the income that powerful conservative think tanks paid to his wife. He thus omitted to make public the payment of 680,000 dollars paid to Ginni Thomas between 2003 and 2007 by the Heritage Foundation, an institute influencing the conservative camp since the Reagan years.
In 2011, under pressure from the media, Clarence Thomas updates his financial declarations and includes the income received by his wife… for 20 years.
The judge has always maintained that the activism of his very active half had never had the slightest impact on his work – an assertion questioned by the media and the Democratic Party during the presidency of Barack Obama (2009-2017). Indeed, Clarence Thomas was suspected of bias in 2012 when the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of “Obamacare”, the sweeping welfare reform.
Two years earlier, Ginni Thomas had indeed founded an organization called Liberty Central whose sole purpose was to fight against Obamacare. Due to the risk of conflict of interest, elected Democrats had asked Clarence Thomas not to participate in the Supreme Court’s review of this very important reform of Barack Obama’s first term. A request ignored by the judge, who voted against the reform, yet validated by the Supreme Court by a narrow majority (five for, four against).
Bis repetita in 2020. While Ginni Thomas was one of the central figures of the conspiratorial movement challenging Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump, Clarence Thomas did not announce that he would recuse himself if the Supreme Court had to rule. on the legality of the result of the presidential election of 2020. However, 52% of Americans believed that he should refrain from pronouncing on this question if the Supreme Court were to be seized of it, according to a survey conducted in 2022.
Scandals linked to wealthy donors
The ProPublica revelations add to a long history of troubled relations between Clarence Thomas and wealthy entrepreneurs close to the Republican Party.
Already in 2011, The Atlantic website published an article titled “A Brief History of the Ethical Wanderings of Clarence Thomas”. It was then essentially a question of the Koch brothers, these multi-billionaires who spent several decades playing the role of kingmakers of the Republican Party.
Common Cause, an association fighting for transparency in politics, had asked the Department of Justice to investigate a seminar of prominent members of the Republican Party – all expenses paid by the Koch brothers – during which Clarence Thomas had given a speech .
At that time, there was also already talk of the real estate magnate Harlan Crow. But not for a luxury vacation. The wealthy Republican Party donor had spent millions of dollars renovating a cannery where Clarence Thomas’ mother had worked. Harlan Crow had even built a museum there, “a project which was very important” to the supreme judge.
The Los Angeles Times took a closer look at the friendship between Clarence Thomas and Harlan Crow. It is also following several articles published in 2014 reporting on the trips paid by the businessman to the judge that the latter stopped declaring them.
ProPublica’s investigation confirms that Harlan Crow’s largesse for the Thomas couple never stopped.
The problem is that there is no way to control the actions of Supreme Court justices. The latter claim to submit voluntarily to the same code of conduct imposed on federal judges and consider it unnecessary to develop specific rules. For the American media, the Clarence Thomas case proves that it may be time to establish ethical rules for the nine “wise men”.
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