Pro Publica Seems Put out That Clarence Thomas Looks Like a Champ After Their 'Ethics Scandal' Hit Job

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ close friend, lawyer, and historian Mark Paoletta took to Twitter to defend the Associate Justice and his relationship to Republican megadonor Harlan Crow. Specifically, Paoletta addressed the boarding school tuition payments made by Crow on behalf of Justice Thomas’ grand nephew, which Thomas did not file on an ethics reporting form because he was instructed that he did not need to.


The commentary on Paoletta’s tweet ranges from defenders of Justice Thomas, to people who don’t understand how Thomas wouldn’t know that he should report these gifts, to those who simply hate the Justice because of his originalist rulings and want to see him go down for something… anything. The desperation on the side that wants to see Justice Thomas destroyed is quite telling. I doubt that Justice Thomas does his own forms or reporting. Personally, I have someone else do my taxes and complicated forms for me, and aside from a brief perusal, I pretty much trust that person’s paid expertise. And I am a writer who is not tasked with ruling constitutionally on cases that have national impact. So, who’s to say that Justice Thomas has the time to review these pro forma filings? Others’ arguments that he should have known to report such and such are spurious at best.

Pro Publica’s hit piece dropped in April and has been rightly picked apart. The Manhattan Institute’s Senior Fellow and Director of Constitutional Studies Ilya Shapiro called the Pro Publica report, “a big breathless nothingburger.” Public Interest Law Chair at George Washington University Jonathan Turley said on Twitter, there is “no evidence that the failure to disclose was either an ethical or constitutional violation.” Suffice to say that great legal minds, including Alan Dershowitz, Sens. Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee pulled the thread on the report, and it fell into little pieces.


Because of that, and the fact that Paoletta also weighed in, Pro Publica decided to spill bytes again to pick apart Paoletta’s statement and rehash the other nothingburger surrounding the May 2 “Supreme Court Ethics Reform” hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

As my colleague Jeff Charles wrote:

ProPublica, a left-wing activist media outlet, published a piece earlier this month calling into question Thomas’ relationship with billionaire and Republican donor Harlan Crow, who has reportedly given Thomas and his wife valuable gifts and funded their travels.

The authors raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest and questions about why Thomas did not disclose these gifts and travel on his financial disclosure forms. The article also explores other instances where Thomas’ impartiality and ethics have been called into question, including his wife’s political activities and his own controversial rulings. Ultimately, the article suggests that Thomas’ actions may undermine public trust in the Supreme Court and raise concerns about the influence of wealthy donors on the nation’s highest court.


Raising concerns and building reasons to impeach Justice Clarence Thomas was their sole intent. Notably, the alleged ethics violations that prompted the hearing seemed to involve only the so-called conservative Justices like Thomas, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and even the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts. Pro Publica seems to have not been able (or didn’t try very hard) to dig up any ethical slips from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Justice Elena Kagan, or Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Imagine that.

However, a day after the Judiciary Committee hearing, the tables were turned on Justice Sotomayor, as my colleague Bonchie (citing The Daily Wire) wrote:

Liberal Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to recuse herself from multiple copyright infringement cases involving book publisher Penguin Random House despite having been paid millions by the firm for her books, making it by far her largest source of income, records show.

In 2010, she got a $1.2 million book advance from Knopf Doubleday Group, a part of the conglomerate. In 2012, she reported receiving two advance payments from the publisher totaling $1.9 million.

That sound you hear is every Democrat who demanded Thomas and Gorsuch resign suddenly running away from any discussion of Supreme Court “ethics.” While the accusations against the conservative justices were silly and shallow, there is actual meat on the bone regarding what Sotomayor did. The publishing company in question actually stood to lose money depending on how the court ruled, yet she took millions of dollars from it anyway and then didn’t recuse herself from the case.


But Pro Publica needed to justify their gossipy report, so they attempted to cherry-pick information from Paoletta’s statement to show why Clarence Thomas is still a very bad man who is corrupting the integrity of the Supreme Court.

Pro Publica’s headline, “Clarence Thomas’ Friend Acknowledges That Billionaire Harlan Crow Paid Tuition for the Child Thomas Was Raising ‘as a Son‘” even sounds skeptical and continues to cast shade where none exists. But as Paoletta points out, the definitions in 5 USC §13101 are pretty clear, and Thomas was under no obligation to report the gifts, no matter what the amount.

Harlan Crow’s tuition payments made directly to these schools on behalf of Justice Thomas’s great nephew did not constitute a reportable gift. Justice Thomas was not required to disclose the tuition payments made directly to Randolph Macon and the Georgia school on behalf of his great nephew because the definition of a “dependent child” under the Ethics in Government Act (5 U.S.C. 13101 (2)) does not include a “great nephew.” It is limited to a “son, daughter, stepson or stepdaughter.” Justice Thomas never asked Harlan Crow to pay for his great nephew’s tuition. And neither Harlan Crow, nor his company, had any business before the Supreme Court.


Pro Publica simply rehashes their former reporting, claiming this only deepens the financial ties between Crow and Thomas; as though anyone is denying there are ties. They also mention Thomas’ annual salary as a Supreme Court Justice, as if that shows he was well and able to cover his mother’s home, expensive vacations, and his grand nephew’s tuition on his own. What Pro Publica invents out of whole cloth is that Crow’s gifts to Thomas constitute undue influence over Justice Thomas’ rulings, and no evidence of this exists.

The revelation of the tuition payments deepens the financial ties between Crow, a Republican megadonor, and Thomas, who earns $285,000 a year as a Supreme Court justice. Last month, ProPublica reported that Crow had paid for decades of luxury vacations and travel for Thomas and his wife and had bought the home of Thomas’ mother, making tens of thousands of dollars of improvements to it.

So, a very rich person who has had no legal business brought before the Supreme Court and chose to show kindness to a lifelong friend constitutes a violation of ethics, even when the statutes show no violations exist. Pro Publica keeps inserting a smoking gun where there’s only a water pistol. What this is, is an acknowledgment that despite no legal obligation to do so, Justice Thomas chose to be morally obligated to care for his grand-nephew, and he happened to have a well-heeled friend who helped him in doing that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a janitor or a justice, and the amount is $100 dollars or $100,000 dollars, this behavior is neither unethical nor criminal.


On the other hand, Justice Sotomayor’s conflict, that the legacy media and the Left are working very hard to not cover (or to cover up), shows a bright, red line of not only skating ethics but profiting from it to the tune of $3.6 million. Sotomayor’s book deal was transacted, even though the company had business before SCOTUS where she could easily have been influenced to rule in their favor. Justice Sotomayor chose not to recuse herself from said business.

But this is a pattern with elected Democrats and Leftists. Consider why California Rep. Ted Lieu is still in Congress despite his creative use of his own campaign donor funds to get his wife on the school board and secure his son’s entrance into Stanford. Why Senator Robert Menendez has skated not one, but two criminal investigations into his conduct. Why Rep. Maxine Waters was allowed to chair the House Finance Committee, when her own house finances and her family, remain pretty sketchy.

As Mollie Hemingway rightly asks: Who are the deep pockets that bankroll these scorched earth campaigns directed toward destroying Justice Clarence Thomas and upending the Supreme Court?


The answer to that is probably with whoever leaked the draft of the Dobbs decision.

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