ProPublica Finds Another Big Gift Given to Clarence Thomas

Harlan Crow paid for boarding school for the boy the justice was raising as a son
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 4, 2023 10:10 AM CDT
ProPublica Finds Another Big Gift Given to Clarence Thomas
Harlan Crow, in a 2012 photo.   (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

ProPublica continues reporting on the gifts bestowed upon Clarence Thomas by a wealthy billionaire friend. In a new story, the outlet reports that Harlan Crow paid the tuition at two pricey boarding schools for Thomas' grandnephew. The Supreme Court justice has previously said he raised the boy, Mark Martin, as a son. The exact amount Crow paid is unclear, but the total cost of tuition at Georgia's Hidden Lake Academy and Virginia's Randolph-Macon Academy for four years would have been about $150,000, according to ProPublica. Thomas gained legal custody of Martin around 1998, and the boy lived with the Thomases from ages 6 to 19.

Thomas did not report the tuition payments on financial disclosure forms. While he didn't respond to questions about the tuition payments, he has previously described Crow as a close friend and said he didn't report other gifts, including expensive travel, because he didn't believe he was legally obligated to do so. He promised to do so going forward under newly tightened disclosure rules. Crow released a statement that didn't dispute the payments. "It's disappointing that those with partisan political interests would try to turn helping at-risk youth with tuition assistance into something nefarious or political," it says, adding that Crow has helped "many young Americans" at a "variety of schools."

As with its other stories, ProPublica talks to legal ethics experts who say Thomas should have made the disclosures. They cite a post-Watergate law requiring justices and other federal officials to "publicly report most gifts," per ProPublica. "The most reasonable interpretation of the statute is that this was a gift to Thomas and thus had to be reported," says Kathleen Clark of Washington University in St. Louis. "It's common sense." Read the full story. Previous coverage of the Thomas-Crow ties:

(More Clarence Thomas stories.)

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