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Clarence Thomas' Problems Keep Getting Worse

Justice Clarence Thomas is a friendly guy, apparently, as he has lots of friends. Billionaire Republican megadonor Harlan Crow is a long-time buddy. The guys at the Horatio Alger Association are more fun than a barrel of monkeys. And now, more of the justice's contact list has come out.

Several lawyers who had cases before the Supreme Court transferred money to one of Thomas' aides, Rajan Vasisht, in Nov. and Dec. 2019. The payments were made on Venmo and were public until Vasisht took them down. The purpose of the payments were things like "Christmas Party," "Thomas Christmas Party," "CT Christmas Party," or "CT Xmas party." The fact that four different subjects were used suggests that there were at least four payments, maybe more. The justice is entitled to hold Christmas parties if he wants to, of course, and he can even charge people admission, although inviting people with business before the Supreme Court to a party and then charging them an admission fee is very fishy. Supreme Court justices make $230,000. That ought to be enough to hold a party once a year and let your guests in for free. Well, unless he was chartering a private plane to bring Santa Claus in from the North Pole because the reindeer were on strike or something. But if he really wanted Santa to come to the party, he could have asked his good buddy Crow to go fetch Santa in his private jet. Of course, if Thomas also wanted to bring all the reindeer to the party as well, he might have needed a plane bigger than Crow's to hold them all. They could have asked Rudolph to help out, but unfortunately, he was holding a press conference at Four Seasons Landscaping.

The lawyers who sent the money included Patrick Strawbridge, a partner at Consovoy McCarthy, who recently argued that affirmative action violated the U.S. Constitution. Another payment came from Kate Todd, who served as a White House deputy counsel under Donald Trump. There was also one from Elbert Lin, who played a key role in the Supreme Court case that limited the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Then there was Brian Schmalzbach, who has argued many cases before the Supreme Court. There were others as well. Thomas had a pretty impressive guest list. On the other hand, Thomas is apparently a simple fellow at heart. Normally bribes are wired to numbered bank accounts in Zurich, Lichtenstein, or the Cayman Islands, or delivered in suitcases full of cash, not sent using Venmo.

Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, said: "A federal government employee collecting money from lawyers for any reason? I don't see how that works." Then he added that if the payers were recent law clerks going to a paid party Thomas held, maybe. But senior litigators at major law firms sending money to the aide of a Supreme Court justice? No way.

Maybe this is all legitimate somehow and the amounts paid were $50 to cover drinks, but it clearly doesn't pass the smell test. A Supreme Court Justice should not be partying with lawyers with cases before the Court. Also, a guy making $230,000 and married to a woman making good money ought to be able to host a Christmas party without hitting up big-time lawyers for an admission fee. The whole thing needs to be investigated. Maybe when Jim Jordan finishes browbeating Christopher Wray, he could look at it, but we suspect he is too busy. Maybe Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) has the time. All he has to do to get started is to send a couple of subpoenas to Venmo to get copies of Vasisht's transactions and Thomas' transactions. (V)

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