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Clarence Thomas Led Astray On Judicial Ethics By Everyone Else, Just Ask Him
A babe in the woods, is old Clarence.
Ethical void Clarence Thomas has put out a statement addressing the dynamite ProPublica piece (Wonkette explication) from Thursday that detailed with nearly microscopic precision all the handies bestowed on him over the decades by Harlan Crow, the gazillionaire real estate mogul with the name of a cattle rustler right out of a Louis L’Amour Western. It is a bad statement! To wit :
“Justice Clarence Thomas responds to ProPublica's story in a statement, saying he "was advised" that the trips did not have to be disclosed”
— Zach Schonfeld (@Zach Schonfeld) 1680880394
Oh sure, close personal friends who like Clarence for Clarence and feel simply blessed by the Lord that his elevation to the Supreme Court 30 years ago brought him into their rarified orbit, but who would have loved to be friends with him even if he were still simply an anonymous federal bureaucrat heading up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Clarence, meanwhile, is shocked, shocked to learn after all these decades that anonymous colleagues and miscellaneous denizens of the Judicial Branch might have steered him wrong. Why, there was simply no way for a mere Yale Law School graduate and member of the nation’s highest court to know that all the expensive yacht trips to Indonesia and the weekends at Bohemian Grove (Bohemian Grove, for fuck’s sake! Why not just shout about the Freemasons from the bench every once in awhile!) might be viewed as anything other than generous tokens of friendship from a major Republican Party donor!
Anyway, Slate’s badass legal journalists Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Stern pulled no punches in explaining it so that even an idiot like a Wonkette writer or Clarence Thomas could not possibly misunderstand :
[T]he rules governing Thomas’ conduct over these years, while terribly insufficient, actually did require him to disclose at least some of these extravagant gifts. The fact that he ignored the rules anyway illustrates just how difficult it will be to force the justices to obey the law. […] Clarence Thomas broke the law, and it isn’t particularly close.
As Lithwick and Stern go on to explain, one rule that justices are supposed to follow, a rule that is derived from the law specifying all the ways government employees need to follow ethical guidelines to eliminate the appearance of impropriety, “defined the term as hospitality that is ‘extended’ either ‘at’ a personal residence or ‘on’ their ‘property or facilities.’” You could maybe extend this guideline to cover a personal yacht if you want to torture the English language a bit.
But Crow flying Thomas and his insane wife around on his private Bombardier Global 5000 to spare them the cost, and presumably the indignity, of flying commercial to Jakarta or Atlanta? Not a chance. The “hospitality exception” that Thomas is hiding behind has a very narrow scope. It can cover housing, meals, and entertainment, presumably even if that entertainment is a helicopter full of Indonesian hookers choppered out to the yacht. But that’s it.
(We’re not saying Thomas has partaken of a helicopter full of Indonesian hookers, but if any Indonesian hookers reading this have had to spend time on a billionaire’s yacht with Clarence Thomas, do not take him up on his offer to get you a Coke.)
We have no doubt Thomas knows all this. For one thing, he’s not an idiot. For another, this issue has come up before. In 2004 the Los Angeles Times reported on the Crow-Thomas friendship, an article for which Thomas had no comment. However :
[I]t had an impact: Thomas appears to have continued accepting free trips from his wealthy friend. But he stopped disclosing them.
Don’t let Thomas’s mealy-mouthed, nowhere-near-covering-that-ass ass-covering response to the ProPublica story fool you. He has always known how bad flying around the world with a super-rich dude who collects Hitler's paintings would look. That he kept doing it anyway tells you everything you need to know about the justice’s respect for the law, and the public he allegedly serves.