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New Financial Disclosures Contradict ProPublica Smear Operation Against Clarence Thomas

The new financial disclosure filed by Justice Thomas Thursday delivers a rebuke to activists’ smear campaign.

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Democrats have kept the knives out for Clarence Thomas since his 1991 confirmation to the nation’s highest court. The mere existence of a prominent black conservative has offended leftist sensibilities for decades and has placed a target on the judge for his entire career. Some of the most relentless attacks on Thomas’ integrity have come from left-wing media outlets that malign the justice with contrived scandals, free from any factual accountability for their smears. But now, a new financial disclosure from the current court’s longest-serving justice should leave those activists embarrassed.

In April, far-left activists at ProPublica launched the latest smear campaign against Thomas, misrepresenting financial disclosure rules to frame the conservative justice as beholden to billionaire interests. The investigative paper’s grand revelation? That Justice Thomas has a rich friend.

The ProPublica report took issue with Justice Thomas for not disclosing repeated travel with the billionaire real estate developer on his private plane, yacht, and at his private lodge. But the undisclosed travel with Crow that ProPublica highlighted in the report took place before disclosure rule changes were implemented for the Supreme Court in March of this year. Thomas didn’t have to send out an itinerary to ProPublica, or anyone else, for approval.

That hasn’t stopped partisans who’ve turned a blind eye to similar ethics complaints against Thomas’ left-leaning colleagues from conveniently deciding the justice’s long-time relationship with GOP megadonor Harlan Crow is problematic. Earlier this month, five House Democrats even sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding an investigation into Thomas’s relationship with Crow.

The New York Times piled on the attacks against Thomas with excessive coverage of the manufactured scandal.

“Jet-Setting With Clarence Thomas Puts Spotlight on an Eccentric Billionaire,” headlined the Times.

Crow’s relationship with Thomas has become the subject of dozens of articles in the paper since ProPublica’s hit piece targeting the originalist justice. Of course, the paper made no reference to summer revelations that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg not only took a seven-figure prize from the Berggruen Institute, but then distributed the money among 60 undisclosed groups. As Mark Paoletta noted in these pages, there is thus “no way to tell whether she should have recused from one of these groups appearing before the court.”

Thomas was previously investigated to examine his compliance with financial disclosure rules and was cleared of any violations by the Judicial Conference in 2012.

On Thursday, however, the justice applied the new rules retroactively in a sign of good faith. Thomas’ attorney Elliot Berke accompanied the new financial filing with a six-page statement.

“Over the course of his 44 years in public service in all three branches of government, Justice Thomas has always strived for full transparency and adherence to the law, including with respect to what personal travel needed to be reported,” Berke said. “Justice Thomas’s amended report answers — and utterly refutes — the charges trumped up in this partisan feeding frenzy.”

The latest report discloses four trips in 2022, three of which were conferences where the justice spoke as a featured guest.

In February, Thomas was the keynote speaker at a conference held at a Dallas business center owned by Crow. The Old Parkland Conference invites prominent figures to assess how social programs impact black Americans and was hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. When Dallas was hit with an unexpected ice storm, Thomas was given a courtesy flight back to the nation’s capital on a private plane chartered by Crow. The conference reconvened in May, a trip that was also listed on the justice’s financial disclosure.

Records clarify only the return trip on his first visit to Dallas was paid for by the billionaire. According to a close friend of Justice Thomas, who traveled with him to the conference in February, Thomas had originally purchased a round-trip ticket for himself and his wife.

Thomas also disclosed a speaking event at the Hatch Center in Utah for which the justice was compensated for transportation, meals, and lodging.

The fourth and final item listed on Thomas’ disclosure form is a week-long stay at Crow’s property in New York’s Adirondacks. While Thomas has made vacations to the New York destination an annual occurrence, the justice — who is famous for his habit of touring the nation in an RV — this time elected to travel by private jet due to security concerns. After the high court overturned its infamous 1973 abortion ruling, safety concerns intensified as conservative justices were bombarded with threats. The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked in May 2022, triggering far-left calls for violence against the court and its members who sided with the majority.

“With advice of the Administrative Office, flights were reported as advised,” the disclosure explains. “Because of the increased security risk following the Dobbs opinion leak, the May flights were by private plane for official travel as filer’s security detail recommended noncommercial travel whenever possible.”

The justice’s latest filing fails to offer ProPublica or The New York Times any of the scandalous revelations that each paper clearly hoped for.


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