Even those who’ve come to expect the worst from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas were amazed by the latest revelations. A stunning ProPublica report found that the far-right jurist has spent the last couple of decades accepting gifts and luxury trips from a Republican megadonor, which Thomas failed to disclose.
The report added, “His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said.”
As the revelations circulated, The Los Angeles Times noted that Thomas used to disclose the gifts he received from real estate magnate Harlan Crow, but after they generated some media coverage, he apparently decided to abandon transparency.
In other words, instead of thinking, “Hmm, maybe I should stop accepting generous gifts from a Republican megadonor while serving on the Supreme Court,” Thomas apparently concluded, “Hmm, maybe I should start hiding the fact that I accept generous gifts from a Republican megadonor while serving on the Supreme Court.”
The next question is what, if anything, might happen as a result of the controversy. NBC News reported:
Progressive representatives on Thursday called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shortly after a ProPublica report detailed how he took lavish trips funded by a Republican billionaire donor that he did not disclose. “This degree of corruption is shocking — almost cartoonish,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., wrote on Twitter. “Thomas must be impeached.”
The congresswoman known as AOC wasn’t alone. Two of her Democratic allies in the House — Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — also issued statements endorsing Thomas’ impeachment.
But perhaps most notable of all was the reaction from Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and issued this written statement yesterday:
“The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards. Today’s Pro Publica report reveals that Justice Thomas has for years accepted luxury travel on private yachts and jets and a litany of other gifts that he failed to disclose. This behavior is simply inconsistent with the ethical standards the American people expect of any public servant, let alone a Justice on the Supreme Court. Today’s report demonstrates, yet again, that Supreme Court Justices must be held to an enforceable code of conduct, just like every other federal judge. The Pro Publica report is a call to action, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will act.”
To be sure, “act” can mean a lot of things. Sending a sternly worded email to Thomas, asking him to please start following disclosure laws, might constitute “action.” So, too, would sending the justice a subpoena. Time will tell.
But while we wait, there’s every reason to believe this is not just another one-day flap for one of the Supreme Court’s most controversial members.