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‘Biggest Legitimacy Crisis in Modern History of the Supreme Court’: Experts Examine New Clarence Thomas Corruption Scandal



The investigative journalists at ProPublica published yet another bombshell report on the corruption of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Thursday, this time exposing that his billionaire benefactor paid the private boarding school tuition of the far-right jurist’s teenage grandnephew, a child who Thomas had legal custody of and who had lived with the Thomas’ since he was six.

Billionaire Harlan Crow is the GOP megadonor who for decades paid for Clarence and Ginni Thomas‘ lavish luxury vacations, including yacht and private plane travel, food, lodging, and even clothing, and bought Justice Thomas’ mother’s home in which she now lives rent free.

Crow, as ProPublica reported, also paid up to $150,000 to educate Thomas’ legal ward, Mark Martin, who Thomas recently said he was raising “as a son.” Martin attended two different private boarding schools, Crow picked up the tab, and Thomas – once again – did not disclose the gifts.

In a statement to ProPublica, Crow did not dispute any of the facts presented. Instead, he called their reporting a “partisan” attack, while lauding his passion “about the importance of quality education and giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth.”

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“It’s disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political.”

Mark Martin, Thomas’ grandnephew and legal ward, is not, as Crow suggested, an “at-risk youth.” Bloomberg last month reported Justice Thomas’ net worth is up to $1.9 million.

Legal and political experts are examining this latest report on Justice’s Thomas’ apparent corruption – not only his unethical failure to disclose what appears to be at least hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts by a billionaire GOP megadonor who funds right-wing causes and has “long supported efforts to move the judiciary to the right” – but also, the possible unlawful refusal to disclose gifts.

Perhaps more importantly, some critics say, is both the appearance of impropriety embedded inside the nation’s highest court by its most far-right and current longest-serving activist jurist, especially at a time when the Supreme Court’s reputation has dropped heavily, and even hit an all-time low last fall.

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Pointing to “what Harlan Crow had to say about ⁦@propublica⁩’s reporting that he paid around $150K for the boarding school education if a relative Justice Thomas was raising ‘like a son,;'” former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, now an MSNBC/NBC News contributor wrote: “I’d be laughing if this wasn’t so deadly serious.”

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), whose career in the upper chamber has been focused on judicial reform, on Thursday point-blank asked: “When does the stench get bad enough that SCOTUS stops the cover-up and ends the mischief? This is on the Chief Justice to solve, plain and simple. Mom’s rent, family tuition, vacations and gifts — and secret? Any other government employee would be fired.”

David Corn, the DC bureau chief of Mother Jones and MSNBC analyst, says: “This is getting ridiculous. Does Harlan Crow also pay for Clarence Thomas’ robes? How many scandals can one Supreme Court justice generate? Thomas’ continued presence on the court shows how deeply corruption has infected GOP politics.”

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) calls this “a really important moment for the Supreme Court,” as he slams Chief Justice John Roberts, who refused to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

“Justice Roberts’ decision to bury his head in the sand, while it becomes crystal clear there is a massive conflict of interest crisis on the court, is as dispiriting as it is dangerous.”

David Rothkopf, the well-known foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst, commentator, and author observed, “The Supreme Court of the United States can no longer be considered a legitimate judicial entity as long as Clarence Thomas continues to sit on it. His corruption is too great and too well established. Ignoring it is for the court to assert it is above the law.”

“It is fair to say,” he adds, “Thomas’ corruption represents the biggest legitimacy crisis in the modern history of the Supreme Court.”

Rothkopf then goes even further, reminding Americans, “None of the series of revelations of Clarence Thomas’ corruption have been news to him. With each shocking development he has chosen to try to keep the other facts secret. He has never made a full and accurate disclosure of his conflicts of interest.”

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Some are wondering about the tax liability implications.

Former Wall Street Journal managing editor Bill Grueskin, now a Columbia Journalism School professor, notes, “the reason you send ‘tuition payments directly to the school’ is so it doesn’t trigger a tax liability for the child or his relatives.”

Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who spent 20 years at DOJ and is a well-known commentator and analyst on MSNBC points to the tuition gift and asks, “How is this ‘personal hospitality?’ It’s not. It also may be taxable income. Do we think Thomas paid taxes on it?”

Some, looking at the latest Thomas corruption scandal, are taking a wider look.

“THIS. IS. IMPEACHABLE.” warned former three-decade federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, now an MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst and popular podcaster Thursday morning in response to this latest Justice Thomas news. “Criminal former president jet-setting. Insurrectionists in Congress. Compromised Supreme Court Justices. Guns. Our republic is at extreme risk.”

Meanwhile, political scientist Norman Ornstein, co-author of “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” writes: “Clarence Thomas could shoot somebody in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and Lindsey Graham, John Kennedy, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and all the rest of them would still support him.”


This article has been updated to include Sen. Murphy’s and Andrew Weissmann’s remarks.



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