Travel Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas discloses 2019 trip to Indonesia funded by GOP megadonor

Washington, DC – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas formally disclosed a trip to Indonesia in 2019, financed by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, as reported on Friday. The disclosure of this vacation, which stirred controversy over Thomas’s travel, sheds light on a previously undisclosed aspect of his activities.

The trip to Bali drew attention last year when ProPublica reported on it, unveiling a series of posh travels accepted by justices that were not formally disclosed. Although the news organization’s coverage brought awareness to Thomas’s trip, it was not included in his previous reports.

Thomas’s annual financial disclosure recently included a note mentioning Harlan and Kathy Crow as the source of the Bali trip, where the couple covered expenses for food and lodging in July 2019. Additionally, Thomas did not specify the value of the travel. Furthermore, he reported another trip financed by the Crows to a private club in Monte Rio, California, during the same month.

These disclosures, mandated by law, offer a glimpse into the finances of justices and lower court judges. In recent years, they have gained significant attention due to various ethics scandals involving private jet travel, luxury vacations, and lucrative book deals accepted by some justices.

Particularly, scrutiny has been focused on conservative justices like Thomas and Samuel Alito. Thomas faced criticism for a series of trips funded by Crow, while Alito encountered backlash for attending a luxury fishing trip on a conservative hedge fund manager’s private jet, which was initially undisclosed.

To address these issues, the governing body of the judicial branch tightened rules last year. Previously, justices could withhold disclosing certain trips by claiming they were extended as “personal hospitality.” Thomas indicated that the travel was a result of “personal hospitality” from “close personal friends.”

Moving forward, justices and judges must provide a “good faith estimate of the fair market value” for such travels, especially when the exact value is challenging to determine. These recent financial disclosures cover the 2023 calendar year and represent the first reports since the Supreme Court adopted a code of conduct for the first time in its history, in response to the travel scandals that have occurred. However, the lack of an enforcement mechanism in this code has raised skepticism among ethics experts and some Democratic lawmakers.