Today in the recurring series “America is Broken” — meaning, the news — three reporters at Pro Publica reveal that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has accepted lavish gifts from Harlan Crow, a billionaire Republican donor. Thomas has flown on Crow’s private jet many times, gone on vacations to Indonesia and New Zealand on Crow’s yacht, and spent time at Crow’s compound in the Adirondacks. In doing so, Thomas has violated norms pertaining to judges’ conduct and possibly broken federal law:
Soon after Crow met Thomas three decades ago, he began lavishing the justice with gifts, including a $19,000 Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass, which Thomas disclosed. Recently, Crow gave Thomas a portrait of the justice and his wife, according to Tarabay, who painted it. Crow’s foundation also gave $105,000 to Yale Law School, Thomas’ alma mater, for the “Justice Thomas Portrait Fund,” tax filings show.
Crow said that he and his wife have funded a number of projects that celebrate Thomas. “We believe it is important to make sure as many people as possible learn about him, remember him and understand the ideals for which he stands,” he said.
To trace Thomas’ trips around the world on Crow’s superyacht, ProPublica spoke to more than 15 former yacht workers and tour guides and obtained records documenting the ship’s travels.
On the Indonesia trip in the summer of 2019, Thomas flew to the country on Crow’s jet, according to another passenger on the plane. Clarence and Ginni Thomas were traveling with Crow and his wife, Kathy. Crow’s yacht, the Michaela Rose, decked out with motorboats and a giant inflatable rubber duck, met the travelers at a fishing town on the island of Flores.