Speed Reads

Ooops he did it again

Clarence Thomas did not disclose real estate he sold to GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, report details

Republican megadonor Harlan Crow bought three properties from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his relatives in 2014, including the house Thomas' mother lives in — and Thomas did not report the sale on his financial disclosure form, ProPublica reported Thursday. Crow, a billionaire real estate heir and developer who is friends with Thomas, has paid for the justice's luxury vacations for the past two decades, and Thomas has not reported those gifts, either, ProPublica previous reported

Thomas owned a third of the home in Savannah, Georgia, and two vacant lots on the same block that Crow purchased for $133,363. His failure to report the sale pretty clearly violates a 1978 law that requires federal officials, including Supreme Court justices, to disclose the details of most real estate transactions worth more than $1,000, four ethics law experts told ProPublica. Crow said in a statement that he bought the house to preserve it for a future museum dedicated to Thomas, but his intention has no bearing on the law, Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, tells PBS NewsHour.

"He needed to report his interest in the sale," Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer now at the watchdog group CREW, told ProPublica. "Given the role Crow has played in subsidizing the lifestyle of Thomas and his wife, you have to wonder if this was an effort to put cash in their pockets." The failure to disclose the purchase suggests "Thomas was hiding a financial relationship with Crow," said Kathleen Clark, a legal ethics expert at Washington University in St. Louis.

Neither Thomas nor the Supreme Court immediately issued a public response to the report.

After Crow's company purchased the house, where Thomas' mother apparently continues to live, he paid at least $36,000 to upgrade and renovate it, ProPublica reports, and those upgrades and subsequent new builds in the vacant lots raised the value of all houses on the street. Crow began paying the house's roughly $1,500 in annual property taxes soon after the purchase, taking over an expense Thomas previously bore. You can read more about the "first known instance of money flowing" from Crow to Thomas at ProPublica