Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) heaped criticism on Justice Clarence Thomas on Thursday after a report showed Thomas accepted more vacations and lavish gifts from billionaire benefactors than had previously been known.
ProPublica reported that the longtime justice accepted at least 38 vacations, 26 flights aboard private jets, eight flights by helicopter, a dozen VIP passes to sporting events and hospitality at luxury resorts. The outlet added that he may have violated the law by failing to disclose flights, yacht cruises and expensive sports tickets, citing ethics experts.
“The latest ProPublica revelation of unreported lavish gifts to Justice Clarence Thomas makes it clear: these are not merely ethical lapses. This is a shameless lifestyle underwritten for years by a gaggle of fawning billionaires,” Durbin said in a statement.
“Justices Thomas and [Samuel] Alito have made it clear that they are oblivious to the embarrassment they have visited on the highest court in the land,” Durbin continued, reiterating that if Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court doesn’t act, “Congress must continue to.”
Building on its prior reporting that GOP megadonor Harlan Crow provided Thomas with various gifts and perks over a period of decades, ProPublica reported Thursday that Thomas also accepted gifts from three other billionaires: former Berkshire Hathaway executive David Sokol, oil businessman Paul “Tony” Novelly and H. Wayne Huizenga, the ex-NFL owner who helped expand Blockbuster.
According to records, Novelly’s company in 2010 appealed to the Court, but justices declined to hear the case. Thomas’s vote was not made public, as usual. None of the three appear to have had any other significant interests before the court.
The report comes weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced along party lines a bill aimed at beefing up ethics requirements for Supreme Court justices. The proposal by Durbin and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) would require justices to adopt a new code of conduct and create a transparent process for people to submit ethics complaints against justices.
The effort by Senate Democrats comes on the heels of numerous reports saying Thomas and Alito accepted gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars from GOP megadonors, including Crow and Paul Singer.
Alito recently told The Wall Street Journal’s opinion page that Congress has no authority to regulate the Court.
The Democratic effort is unlikely to go any further this year, as it needs 60 votes to advance through the upper chamber.