Pearl River Clarence Thomas has been on the United States Supreme Court for over thirty years. He was seated controversially in 1991 after a contentious hearing that featured his sexual harassment of his associate at the EEOC, Anita Hill. He is one of the more conservative voices on the court, but that just makes him one of the pack now. He has managed to make himself the primary argument for ending lifetime terms on the court, as he bumps from one hot mess after another, especially in recent years when we are left to wonder how closely he shares his wife’s politics and MAGA activism and his disturbingly questionable ethics.
We’re forced to pay attention to his foolishness now thanks to ProPublica’s investigation of his almost annual luxury trips and vacations thanks to multi-millionaire donor, Harlan Crow. Of course, he didn’t report them and now claims that he hid them on the advice of some other unnamed co-conspirator, who he will only say is also a Supreme Court justice, all of which really only says that “birds of a feather fly together” and nothing about the ethical presumption behind the requirement to self-report.
Harlan Crow is a name familiar to anyone who has spent time in Texas or around commercial real estate. His riches come from his father Trammel Crow who was a big time developer based in Dallas who threw up skyscrapers, warehouses, and all manner of buildings for decades. ACORN was in more than one skirmish with Crow enterprises in different cities over the years. Crow squired Thomas and his wife Ginny around to various exotic locations on yachts, planes, and whatever on the regular. At this late date, no one should be surprised that Thomas is a hypocrite posing as someone who cherishes the simple life, including hanging out around Walmart parking lots, a courtesy to big campers around the country in lieu of paying for security in their lots. This is probably just a figure of speech, since there are only five Walmart’s in Washington, DC, and they are in the process of closing one on H. Street. It probably sounded good in the documentary on him, so accuracy and truth were likely irrelevant to the common man spin he was looking for there.
Crow and Thomas defend all of this largesse as nothing more than the fact that they are buddies. Crow says he likes to have his friends and family with him on these vacations. Thomas says Crow has no business before the court, but of course the conservative project is less about plain and simple business than ideology and cultural markers, so his comment is pretty much irrelevant. Crow says he and Thomas have been buddies for twenty-five years. Thomas has been on the court for thirty-two years, which pretty much means that they hooked up only once Thomas was in a position of influence. I’m not saying Crow groomed him, but Crow wouldn’t have become his BFF, if he had not been a Supreme Court Justice.
Crow has been a donor to the Supreme Court’s nonprofit, which has become a lightning rod for questionable influence on the justices and their mixing with big money donors. He gave Ginny Thomas a half-million to start her hard right nonprofit which has been the platform for her hateration for years, including her advocacy and involvement in egging on the January 6th bunch, though she claims she took a powder before the Capitol overrun.
Did Crow say to Thomas jump this high, or did Thomas promise Crow some votes on issues where they bonded? Who knows? Who cares? That’s not the issue. We need the Supreme Court to be a place where Americans can feel that justice is equal, fair, and past any influence from money and privilege. We need the high court to represent the highest ethics and at least pretend to be nonpartisan, regardless of the party of the president that gave them this sinecure. Thomas fails to meet even the lowest bar on ethics and optics on these issues.
Congressional calls for the ethics requirements for federal judges to also apply to the Supreme Court almost seems inadequate to the hot mess that continues to be the Thomas problem. He should resign, but he won’t. The big, conservative Republican donors wouldn’t let him, even if he wanted to do so. A perfect example is the fact that the Wall Street Journal is claiming this is all a “smear”, rather than yet another self-inflicted wound. Chief Justice Roberts can’t be expected to fix this problem, since he knows Thomas won’t leave, and he needs his vote. All of which means that we need to demand that Congress and the Executive branch do everything possible to assure Americans that they have at least half a chance before the court, even if they can’t get an even shake as long as Thomas sits on the bench and others embrace the same loose standards.