A friend of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says a highly publicized media report that accused the justice of violating ethical norms contained “old news” and failed to disclose that Thomas was cleared of accusations of wrongdoing “more than a decade ago.”
Left-wing criticism of Thomas and the Supreme Court as an institution has escalated since the unprecedented leak last year of a draft court opinion that led to the June 2022 reversal of the court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade abortion precedent. Another decision the same month that bolstered Second Amendment rights also came under heavy fire from critics.
The homes of Thomas and other conservative justices have been picketed and the justices themselves have been targeted by activists who have used social media in an effort to generate flash mobs to assemble on a moment’s notice to protest and harass members of the court spotted in public. One man was arrested in connection with a plot to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Democrats, many of whom support packing the Supreme Court with additional liberal justices in order to overcome the court’s current conservative majority, plan to use the court as a political issue in next year’s presidential and congressional elections.
Wall Street Journal Op-ed
Amidst this backdrop, Mark Paoletta made comments in a June 4 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “Democrats Pursue Political Control of the Supreme Court.” Paoletta served as general counsel for the White House Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration and represented the justice’s wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, in the Jan. 6 Select Committee investigation.
Paoletta was referring to an April 6 article published by ProPublica, a left-wing nonprofit funded by the preeminent Democratic Party donor, financier George Soros, through his Foundation to Promote Open Society. Soros has been criticized by conservatives for, among many other things, funding the election campaigns of various district attorneys who are soft on crime.
The article said GOP donor Harlan Crow provided Thomas and his wife with years of luxurious vacations that the justice failed to publicly disclose. Thomas said he didn’t declare all of the vacations on ethics forms because he was advised it was not required, though he has said he will do so going forward. The article also stated that Crow had purchased real estate from the Thomas family. Activists claim that Crow’s generosity toward Thomas in itself is a conflict of interest even though Crow has not had business before the Supreme Court.
Democrats and left-wing activists expressed alarm over the report and some demanded Thomas resign or be impeached. Some Democratic lawmakers support legislation that could force the Supreme Court to adopt an enforceable code of ethics, something legal experts say may be unconstitutional because of the separation of powers doctrine.
Paoletta previously criticized the ProPublica article, saying it overstated the tuition support that Crow provided to Thomas’s grandnephew whom the justice took custody of when he was 6 years old and raised like a son.
But in his Wall Street Journal op-ed, Paoletta said information about the vacations “turns out to be old news that was adjudicated more than a decade ago.”
“‘For over 20 years,’ ProPublica breathlessly declared, ‘Thomas has been treated to luxury vacations by billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow. He goes on cruises in far-flung locales on Crow’s yacht, flies on his private jet, and keeps company with Crow’s powerful friends at the billionaire’s private resort,’” Paoletta wrote.
But The New York Times reported back in June 2011 that Crow “hosted the justice aboard his private jet and his 161-foot yacht … and at his grand Adirondacks summer estate called Topridge.” That prompted 20 Democratic members of Congress, led by the late Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, to send a letter in September of that year to the Judicial Conference of the United States, he wrote.
The lawmakers claimed at the time that Thomas had “failed to disclose this travel as a gift or travel reimbursement on his federal disclosure forms as required by the Ethics in Government Act,” Paoletta wrote, acknowledging that he is friends with both Thomas and Crow and was present on some of the trips to which the April 6 ProPublica article referred.
The Judicial Conference’s Committee on Financial Disclosure issued a report in April 2012 finding “that nothing had been presented to support a determination that Justice Thomas … willfully or improperly failed to disclose information concerning travel reimbursements.” That message was communicated by letter to Democratic lawmakers and activist groups at the time, Paoletta wrote.
“The conclusion got little or no attention at the time, but the original complaints were publicized,” he wrote.
The committee’s deliberations are not public, but the Judicial Conference advised Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) of the committee’s activities in the Thomas matter in a letter on May 15 of this year, Paoletta wrote. Whitehouse, an outspoken critic of both Thomas and the Supreme Court, is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s panel on Federal Courts, Oversight, Agency Action, and Federal Rights.
“On Twitter I asked ProPublica’s reporters and their editor, Jesse Eisinger, if they had asked the Judicial Conference about its investigation. Mr. Eisinger refused to answer: ‘Not going to play Twitter call & response.’ The article still contains no mention of this crucial fact,” Paoletta wrote.
‘Undisclosed Gifts and Financial Arrangements’
ProPublica responded when The Epoch Times reached out for comment about Paoletta’s op-ed, disputing the author’s account of what happened.
“ProPublica has reported on decades of undisclosed gifts and financial arrangements between Harlan Crow and Clarence Thomas, including private jet flights and luxury travel, a real estate transaction, and tuition payments,” a spokesperson for the media outlet said by email.
“The April 2012 Judicial Conference letter has been mischaracterized by Mr. Paoletta. He wrote in his Wall Street Journal piece that our April 6 story ‘turns out to be old news that was adjudicated more than a decade ago.’
“It remains unclear whether the Conference was aware of undisclosed gifts from Mr. Crow to Justice Thomas. The 2012 letter stated that ‘nothing has been presented’ that showed Justice Thomas had willfully or improperly failed to disclose information.
“At the time, no public reports had established that Thomas accepted undisclosed private jet flights or yacht vacations. Nor had any public reports revealed the undisclosed real estate transaction or the tuition payments that we recently reported.
“The letter also did not address whether private jet trips or yacht cruises, such as the ones we reported, should be disclosed,” the spokesperson said.
The Epoch Times reached out for comment to Justice Thomas through the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office but had not received a reply as of press time.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this article.
From The Epoch Times