The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday asked the Republican megadonor who has come under scrutiny for providing lavish trips and gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to identify the full extent of what he has given to him and any other justice, a move that comes as Democrats step up their calls for ethics reforms in court.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the other Democrats on the committee issued the letter to harlan crow requesting that you provide an itemized list of gifts worth more than $415 that you gave to Thomas or any other judge or members of his family. They also asked Crow to provide a complete list of real estate transactions, transportation, lodging, and admission to private clubs that he could have provided.
«As part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s continuing efforts to craft legislation that will strengthen the ethical rules and standards that apply to Supreme Court justices, we ask that you provide certain information to the Committee by May 22, 2023.» they wrote. «This information will help identify specific deficiencies in the ‘Statement on Ethical Principles and Practices’, as well as current law, that legislation should address.»
All 11 Democrats, including Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., who was absent from the Senate due to ill health, signed the letter. None of the Republicans on the committee joined.
Republicans on the committee and the Supreme Court did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.
The Democrats’ letter comes after the committee held a hearing last week on ethics rules for Supreme Court members, after ProPublica reported last month that it alleged Thomas failed to properly disclose travel and gifts. paid by Crow and also did not disclose the sale of the properties of Thomas and his relatives to Crow. Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts to appear at the hearing, but Roberts declined, suggesting that his participation could pose a threat to judicial independence. The chief justice included in his letter a statement of ethical principles and practices «to which all current members of the Supreme Court subscribe.»
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., also asked Crow last month to provide a full account of the undisclosed trips, gifts and payments he has made to Thomas over the years. Wyden asked for answers by May 8, the same day Durbin sent his last letter to Crow. In a statement, a Wyden aide said the president «received an obstructive letter» from a lawyer representing Crow late Monday, who «refused to provide responses» to Wyden’s request. The Finance Committee will issue a response «shortly,» said the aide, Ryan Carey.
Thomas said he had been told the trips and gifts were «personal hospitality from close personal friends» and did not have to be disclosed in the disclosures. On the property sale, Thomas did not respond to detailed questions from ProPublica, while Crow said in a statement to the outlet that he had bought Thomas’ mother’s house to preserve it for a possible future museum showing where the judge grew up.
ProPublica also reported last week that Crow had paid for Thomas’ great-nephew Mark Martin to attend two private schools in the late 2000s. NBC News has not independently verified the details of the report. Crow’s office issued a statement in response to the report, which it did not deny, saying Crow and his wife «have long been passionate about giving back to those less fortunate, especially at-risk youth» and have supported many young Americans. through scholarships. and other programs at various schools, including his alma mater.
Thomas’ allies have defended justice in response to the allegations, and Republicans say the allegations are rooted in liberal opposition to his legal views.
Meanwhile, several Democrats have demanded that Thomas resign from the bench.
The Supreme Court in March tightened up some of his rules on what judges and magistrates must include in annual financial disclosure statements.