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GOP billionaire paid tuition for child raised by Justice Clarence Thomas


Georgia native and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been under fire for months as revelations continue to appear regarding his relationship with Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow who has been secretly financing a number of matters for the justice.

The recent revelation is that billionaire Crow paid two years of private school tuition for a child raised by Thomas and that the payments were never disclosed by the justice. The tuition payments made by Crow are the latest example of Crow’s undocumented generosity to Thomas that has raised questions. 

Attacks are focused on Thomas’ ethics and failure to follow disclosure requirements. First reported by the nonprofit investigative journalism site ProPublica, the media outlet has exposed other financial ties Crow has with Thomas that also went undisclosed.

In this latest incident, the media outlet revealed that Crow paid tuition for Thomas’ great-nephew Mark Martin who was raised, from the age of 6, by Thomas and his wife, Virginia. ProPublica reported that Crow paid tuition for Martin at a military boarding school in Virginia. Now that it has surfaced, Thomas’ acknowledges that the payment was made to the school for the benefit of Martin but claims funds were not given directly to them. Tuitions for Randolph-Macon Academy, as well as Hidden Lake Academy in Georgia, were paid for by Crow.

ProPublica has also reported about other financial benefits to Thomas and his wife that were never disclosed including luxury vacations paid for by Crow that Thomas and his wife took and Crow’s purchase of a home and property from the Thomas family, which Thomas’mother continues to reside in.

Thomas did not respond to media questions but Crow’s office submitted a written response. However, Crow failed to answer questions asked about how much he paid in total for Martin’s tuition. 

Even though Thomas ignored questions regarding these financial transactions, his lawyer Mark Paoletta defended him in a statement calling the story “another attempt to manufacture a scandal about Justice Thomas.” Paoletta claimed that it was Crow who had recommended that Thomas consider Randolph-Macon Academy for Martin; that it was Crow who offered to pay for Martin’s first year there in 2006; and that Crow made the payment directly to the school. When Martin spent a year at Hidden Lake Academy, Crow offered again to pay for that year, a payment that also went directly to the school.

The ongoing revelations about Thomas and Crow have had Democrats calling for stronger ethics rules for the Supreme Court. The Democrat-controlled Senate held a hearing on ethics issues with the Supreme Court. A divided Congress saw lawmakers taking sides based on their party with Republicans defending Thomas and Democrats calling for him to be held accountable for these ethics lapses.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., who once clerked for Chief Justice John Roberts, said it was “just the latest installment of the left’s multi-decade campaign to target Justice Thomas.”

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a statement that with “every new revelation in this case, it becomes clearer that Harlan Crow has been subsidizing an extravagant lifestyle” that Thomas could not otherwise afford.“This is a foul breach of ethics standards, which are already far too low when it comes to the Supreme Court,” Wyden said.

The Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, urged Roberts to take note saying, “I hope that Chief Justice Roberts reads this story this morning and understands something has to be done. The reputation of the Supreme Court is at stake here, the credibility of the court when it comes to its future decisions is at stake.”

As a Supreme Court justice, Thomas earns more than the vice president or any member of Congress. His $ 285,400-a-year salary is guaranteed for a lifetime. Why he would need or accept Crow’s generosity leaves many baffled.

Efforts have been underway in Georgia for the last two years to erect a statue in honor of Thomas but the bill has stalled each time it has come up. These ethical questions and Thomas’ acceptance of financial support from Crow should make its way into the discussion for next year and make for an interesting debate about his honesty. 


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