Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s financial disclosures this week have fueled hyperventilating attacks from leftwing Democrats, but they actually show their concerted efforts against the only black conservative on the nation’s highest court are groundless.
Financial disclosure guidance for federal judges changed in March, and Thomas accordingly disclosed additional details from hospitality and gifts he had received in past years. His critics – who happen to ardently oppose his views of the Constitution and the law – pounced, arguing that these disclosures suggest wrongdoing.
Of particular focus is Thomas’s longtime friendship with Harlan Crow, a billionaire GOP megadonor who lives in Dallas, Texas, and made his money in real estate. Crow owns various luxury properties and also has a private jet, and Thomas has traveled with him on vacation trips.
Various liberal attacks on Thomas’s relationship with Crow have already fallen flat upon scrutiny. For example, the left screamed that Thomas violated ethics rules when Crow paid for tuition at a private school for Thomas’s great nephew who was living with the justice, but did not acknowledge in their reporting that disclosure for a gift like tuition would apply only for certain family relationships like children, but that great nephews are not on that list.
Another relevant point is that Crow does not have any business in front of the Supreme Court. Wealthy friends may provide fancy food and beautiful venues, but the left fails to explain what is wrong with that when the judge is not voting on a case involving that friend. The left responds that it amounts to a violation if the judge votes the way the wealthy friend likes, but that leads to the absurd suggestion that a conservative judge cannot spend time vacationing with wealthy friends who are likewise conservative, given that those likeminded friends will applaud decisions that reflect their shared view on the law.
As the lawyer who prepared Thomas’s financial disclosure, Elliot Berke, explained, “Much of the noise to the contrary is based on malicious and sloppy reporting and attacks from partisans who disagree with his jurisprudence and want to drive him and others off the Court.”
These new disclosures also include some inadvertent omissions, as frequently happens with public officials. For example, Thomas has now included a real estate transaction with Crow regarding a house owned by his family. Thomas explained that he did not believe he had to disclose that transaction because he lost money on the deal; it did not result in any enrichment to him. Under that arrangement, Thomas’s mother – who was 85 at the time – could continue living in the house so long as she pays taxes and insurance.
The Judicial Conference of the United States changed financial disclosure requirements in March 2023, clarifying that judges must disclose staying at hotels or resorts if another person pays for it, as well as other items categorized as hospitality gifts.
No Supreme Court justice in modern history has suffered as many years of vicious personal attacks as Thomas, who is the only black justice on the court, who was raised in poverty, but yet rejects the left’s insistence that the Constitution must be interpreted in a manner to empower government to compensate for the failings of history related to race.
Instead, Thomas steadfastly adheres to originalism, consistent in his belief that unelected judges must interpret the Constitution only according to its original public meaning. Part of this – as he most recently thoroughly explained in his separate opinion in Students for Fair Admissions – is that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires a color-blind Constitution in which the government does not give anyone preferential treatment because of skin color.
Leftist publications like the New York Times, The Atlantic, and like-minded leftists at ProPublica have amped up their smears against Thomas in recent months, a political agenda that might not be so transparent if these partisans were not simultaneously blasting another staunch judicial conservative, Justice Samuel Alito.
This week’s attacks are just the latest evidence that the left is engaged in reverse court-packing. Unable to add seats the Supreme Court, partisan Democrats are targeting the two most conservative members on the court in an effort to keep them from voting on the major issues facing the nation.
Breitbart News senior legal contributor Ken Klukowski is a lawyer who served in the White House and Justice Department.