Clarence Thomas formally discloses 2019 trips paid for by Harlan Crow as justices’ financial filings released

Clarence Thomas formally discloses 2019 trips paid for by Harlan Crow as justices’ financial filings released
Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Justice Clarence Thomas has formally disclosed for the first time trips to Bali, Indonesia and the elite Bohemian Grove club in California — both paid for by his friend and billionaire Harlan Crow — that were at the center of an explosive ProPublica report last year exposing the unreported financial ties to a GOP benefactor.

Thomas acknowledged in his latest annual financial report, released Friday, that he had “inadvertently omitted” reimbursement for food and lodging expenses for the July 2019 travel.

He did not disclose the value of the one-night hotel stay in Bali or three-night stay at the private club. The justice also did not disclose private jet transportation to Indonesia or travel on a luxury yacht, both of which were reportedly provided by Crow.

Thomas reported no travel or reimbursements for 2023. He reports accepting one gift last year: a pair of $2,000 photo albums from Terry Giroux, the outgoing executive director of the Horatio Alger Association.

The filings, as required by the Ethics and Government Act of 1978, are the first from Thomas and the other justices since the Supreme Court released a formal Code of Conduct late last year, prompted in part by the controversy surrounding Thomas’ previously undisclosed ties to Crow.

Justice Samuel Alito was the only justice who received an extension to file his report.

The filings offer one of the only windows into the financial interests of the Supreme Court justices and their spouses, providing a modicum of transparency to an otherwise highly opaque branch of government.

While few of the justices reported accepting any gifts of value last year, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted more than $12,500 in donated art to decorate her chambers and four Beyonce concert tickets worth more than $3,711.

Several justices reported earning six-figure book royalties well above their government salaries.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who has a legal memoir in the works, reported a $340,000 advance from Regenery Publishing. Justice Jackson, whose memoir is due for release in September, noted a $893,750 advance from Penguin Random House. Justice Neil Gorsuch reported a $250,000 book royalty from Harper Collins, and Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted an $86,783 payout from Penguin.

Associate justices each earn $298,500 in annual government salary; the chief justice earns $312,200. Additional “outside earned income” is capped at $32,000 per year under federal judiciary rules.

“Each justice would be capable of earning 10 times their current salary in the private sector, so it’s reasonable for them to want to boost their income as authors, especially those with inspiring life stories,” said Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, a left-leaning watchdog group. “This may be an unpopular opinion, but I don’t see anything ethically compromising about it so long as the justices don’t use their offices to hawk books, they speak to ideologically diverse audiences on their book tours, and they recuse from petitions involving their publishers.”

Justice Sotomayor reported earning $1,879 for a voice performance in the animated PBS television series “Alma’s Way.”

Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch each reported more than $10,000 in teaching income at law schools.

Many of the justices also indicated acceptance of all-expenses-paid trips last year for professional functions – such as conference lectures, academic ceremonies, and historic commemorations.

Chief Justice John Roberts was the only member of the Supreme Court to list no gifts, outside income or travel reimbursement of any kind.

Roth said there are also indications that several justices paid their own way for certain, publicly-reported trips that didn’t appear on the forms – including Justice Elena Kagan’s trip to San Diego to christen a Navy ship and her attendance at a tennis tournament. Justice Barrett also appears to have declined $5,000 honorariums for speaking at the University of Minnesota Law School.

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