Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has taken numerous extravagant gifts over the years, including the cost of his 1987 wedding reception, According to a New York Times investigation.
Thomas has faced greater scrutiny since an April 2023 Justice Clarence Thomas3 ProPublica investigation highlighted the justice’s relationship with billionaire GOP contributor Harlan Crow, who purchased property from Thomas in an undisclosed agreement in 2014.
Crow also paid for a young relative Thomas was raising’s expensive school tuition and treated Thomas and his wife to holidays on his luxury yacht, neither of which he reported. The New York Times documented extravagant presents, some of which predated Thomas’ stint on the Supreme Court, in its most recent investigation.
When Thomas was chairperson of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the mid-1980s, a “buddy” paid for a Bahamas trip for him and an anonymous girlfriend, according to the ex-girlfriend. Another acquaintance, conservative columnist Armstrong Williams, told the newspaper that he paid for the reception for Thomas’ wedding to Virginia in 1987.
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The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which finances need-based scholarships and includes ultra-wealthy and powerful persons among its membership, is the focus of the Times’ story. Thomas joined the group shortly after joining the Supreme Court in 1991.
Se*ual assault charges hampered Thomas’ appointment to the bench. However, once he joined the Horatio Alger Association, he was treated “like a brother, as if he mattered,” Williams told the Telegraph. “And, in return, he opened the Supreme Court.”
According to the article, Thomas gained access to a lifestyle of extravagant parties, vacations, and VIP seats to sporting events through friendships formed with wealthy members of the foundation.
The group also acquired exclusive access to the court for its ceremonies as a result of its connection to Thomas, a benefit the organization trumpets in its fundraising, according to the article. Thomas did not respond to the paper’s extensive comment request.
The Supreme Court does not have a defined code of ethics, and since the heightened focus on Thomas and Crow’s relationship, many have suggested that the mechanism for prohibiting conflicts of interest is too broad.
Thomas is far from the first Supreme Court Justice who has received lavish gifts throughout their tenure. Former Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia also revealed many gifts and sponsored vacations, while current justices have also taken lavish lecture trips paid for by conservative organizations. However, discoveries surrounding Thomas have increased in recent months, with a steady stream of reports of hidden presents.
Thomas stopped making gifts from people he considered friends public after the Los Angeles Times reported on a sequence of gifts in 2004 that included aircraft tickets, cigars, a silver buckle, and a rawhide coat. The decision was made on the recommendation of “colleagues and others in the judiciary,” according to The New York Times.
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