You might have thought Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, after failing to disclose years of lavish gifts from a GOP billionaire, would have filed his annual financial disclosure on time. You’d be wrong. He and Justice Samuel Alito both requested extensions (which, to be sure, are allowed).
Meanwhile, the newest justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, made some fun disclosures in her form, including a “congratulatory floral arrangement” from Oprah Winfrey valued at $1,200 and a designer dress and jacket from Vogue magazine worn in a photo shoot, valued at $6,580.
There’s an important, if obvious, point lurking in Jackson’s disclosure, which comes against the backdrop of that Republican donor, Harlan Crow, fighting congressional investigations into his largesse to Thomas. That point stems from the simple fact that, unlike Thomas’ gifts from Crow (which he and his supporters have argued he didn’t have to disclose), she made the disclosures. That lets people subject to the court’s rulings make whatever judgment about those gifts they want. Had Jackson failed to disclose them and they were uncovered by reporters years later, they might be viewed in a different light.
Of course, single instances of fancy flowers and clothes aren't comparable to Thomas’ intricate relationship with Crow, who has had business before the court. But however fun or mundane the gifts in question are, the importance of their disclosure becomes clear when one considers how they could be viewed if concealed.
Thomas now knows that all too well, and his eventual disclosure will be viewed under a brighter light than usual.
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