On Thursday, ProPublica reported that for over the past two decades, Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas has accepted comically lavish gifts from billionaire Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow. Among other things, those gifts have included: island-hopping on Crow’s superyacht; trips to Crow’s East Texas ranch and an exclusive retreat in California; an annual vacation at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks (which, for some reason, features “a lifesize replica of the Harry Potter character Hagrid’s hut”); jaunts on Crow’s private jet; and, for good measure, a $500,000 donation to Ginni Thomas’s right-wing lobbying firm. Not surprisingly, Thomas, who is arguably the most corrupt justice in Supreme Court history, did not feel the need to disclose any of this. And while the long-time justice rarely feels the need to say anything about anything, on Friday he felt compelled to explain himself.
Specifically, Thomas said in a statement that he asked around when he first joined the court and was told that “personal hospitality from close personal friends”—even eye-popping levels of “hospitality,” from “friends” who have spent their lives influencing politics and policy—was totally permissible and that he definitely didn’t need to officially report it. Nevertheless, he says, it is his “intent” to follow updated guidelines that do not allow for this sort of thing in the future.
Of course, one of the many problems with Thomas’s mea culpa is that it has always been a requirement to disclose private jet travel, and he apparently didn’t. (Ethics experts told ProPublica that in doing so, Thomas appears to have violated the law.) Meanwhile, others contend that the yacht trips should have been reported, too. “If Justice Thomas received free travel on private planes and yachts, failure to report the gifts is a violation of the disclosure law,” Kedric Payne, senior director for ethics at government watchdog Campaign Legal Center, told the outlet. Or as Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern put it: “Thomas broke the law, a law which contains serious civil penalties, though the bogus technicality on which he relies, in addition to his political clout, will be more than enough to ensure that he never faces any actual legal consequences.” Perhaps he’ll celebrate his continued ability to escape consequences for, at best, unethical behavior with a trip to Crow’s Harry Potter house. Maybe bookend it with some trips on the PJ too!