Four Senate Democrats sent fundraising emails Friday to capitalize on allegations that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took gifts from a GOP mega-donor friend.
Fundraising emails from Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., which were reviewed by Fox News Digital, cited the news of reported gifts to Thomas as they called for passage of the Supreme Court Ethics Act, which would require a code of conduct for Supreme Court justices.
‘In order to restore the public’s faith in the Supreme Court, there must be a clear code of ethics that holds a Justice accountable for their actions if they engage in conduct that crosses the line,’ Durbin, who serves as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in the email.
A series of stories on Thomas’ alleged history of gifts from GOP mega-donor Harlan Crow sparked outrage from Democrats. A report from ProPublica Thursday detailed how Thomas took his great-nephew into his care in 1997, who then had his tuition paid for by Crow at two private schools. An earlier report showed Thomas took luxury vacations with Crow.
Whitehouse described the allegations as a ‘clear violation of existing ethics rules.’
‘You’ve got creepy right-wing billionaires, phony front groups, justices amenable to overtures, large sums of money, and secrecy,’ Whitehouse said in his email. ‘And in recent months we’ve had a front row seat, thanks to Justice Thomas, to see how these ingredients mix to tarnish the judicial branch.’
Thomas, in an April statement, described Crow as a ‘dear friend’ and said there was never a need to report their travels together.
‘As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them. Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,’ Thomas said.
Mark Paoletta, a close friend of Thomas and an attorney who served in the Trump and George W. Bush administrations, defended the Supreme Court justice in a statement Thursday. Paoletta said Crow recommended Randolph-Macon Academy, his alma mater, for Thomas’ great-nephew. Crow, Paoletta said, then paid for one year of tuition and later paid another year when he switched to a boarding school.
‘This story is another attempt to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas,’ Paoletta said. ‘But let’s be clear about what is supposedly scandalous now: Justice Thomas and his wife devoted 12 years of their lives to taking in and caring for a beloved child – who was not their own – just as Justice Thomas’ grandparents had done for him.’
Hirono, in her fundraising email, complained Thomas has ‘zero consequences for his corruption.’
‘The Supreme Court – whose justices are among the most powerful people in the country, has shown no interest in adopting a Code of Ethics that ensures they are held to the same standards and transparency that anyone would expect in their own workplace,’ Hirono said. ‘So if they won’t, Congress must require them to.’
All nine Supreme Court justices in April signed a letter that declared they adhere to a general code of conduct and that individual oversight by Congress is unnecessary.
Murphy, in his fundraising email, stated the Supreme Court justices must be held accountable.
‘This is outrageous,’ Murphy said of the Thomas story. ‘Congress cannot allow for Supreme Court justices to so brazenly flout the conflict of interest rules that apply to every other federal judge.’
‘My Supreme Court Ethics Act fixes this by requiring the Judicial Conference, which governs federal courts, to create a binding code of conduct that applies to all federal judges and justices,’ Murphy continued. ‘Support for this legislation is growing in Congress by the day, but we cannot lose momentum.’