In shocking news, it seems Justice Clarence Thomas’ excuse for failing to disclose all the gifts, trips, and free rent his family received from his billionaire, dictator-enthusiast sponsor Harlan Crow, is inaccurate. Thomas claimed Crow did not have any business in front of the Supreme Court during the three-plus decades Thomas’ has now stained the court’s reputation, but that turns out to be untrue.
But a close look at Thomas’s judicial activities from the time he became friends with Crow, in the mid-1990s, suggests that the statement might fall short of the full picture. It reveals that a conservative organization affiliated with Crow did have business before the supreme court while Thomas was on the bench.
In addition, Crow has been connected to several groups that over the years have lobbied the supreme court through so-called “amicus briefs” that provide legal arguments supporting a plaintiff or defendant.
In 2003, the anti-tax group the Club for Growth joined other rightwing individuals and organisations, including the Republican senator Mitch McConnell and the National Rifle Association (NRA), in attempting to push back campaign finance restrictions on election spending.
Thomas was livid. He issued a 25-page dissenting opinion that sided heavily with the anti-regulation stance taken by the Club for Growth and its rightwing allies. Thomas began his opinion by breathlessly accusing his fellow justices of upholding “what can only be described as the most significant abridgment of the freedoms of speech and association since the civil war”.
By the time Thomas issued his opinion in December 2003 he had already forged his deep relationship with Crow. According to the billionaire, they first met at a conference in Dallas in 1994 – by which time Thomas had already been nominated in 1991 by George HW Bush to the most powerful court in the land.