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Clarence Thomas Is Forced to 'Fess Up

The watchdog group Fix the Court has released a report stating that the current Supreme Court justices have accepted 445 gifts valued at $4.7 million in the past 20 years. If now-retired justices are included, the tally comes to 672 gifts valued at $6.6 million. Justice Clarence Thomas is the biggest recipient, with 193 gifts totaling $4 million. There are also another 126 suspected, but not confirmed, gifts. Thomas has reported only 27 of them on his financial disclosure forms. The research is based on investigative reporting by ProPublica, several newspapers, the congressional record, annual disclosures, and Fix the Court's own investigative reporting.

The value of the gifts is not 100% certain since it is hard to value what a trip in a private jet followed by a stay in an exclusive hunting lodge is really worth. Still, Fix the Court's Gabe Roth said: "Supreme Court justices should not be accepting gifts, let alone the hundreds of freebies worth millions of dollars they've received over the years. Public servants who make four times the median local salary, and who can make millions writing books on any topic they like, can afford to pay for their own vacations, vehicles, hunting excursions and club memberships."

The second biggest recipient of gifts was the late Justice Antonin Scalia at $210,164. The winner of the bronze medal for corruption is Justice Samuel Alito, who raked in $170,095. Why do they do this? Because they can. Who's to say no?

Thomas is clearly feeling uncomfortable with all this publicity, so on Friday he acknowledged that he had accepted some luxury travel from billionaire Republican MAGAdonor Harlan Crow that he somehow had forgotten to put on his disclosure form for 2019, so he amended the form. Lying on a disclosure form is a federal crime. Theoretically he could be indicted for it, but don't count on it. If Thomas had correctly reported all the gifts, everything would have been perfectly legal as there is no law banning anyone from giving Supreme Court justices nice (birthday) presents. However, some of them report them and some don't. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson reported getting four concert tickets worth $3,700 from Beyoncé, for example. She also reported getting almost $900K as an advance for her forthcoming memoir. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh have also reported big book advances. It is perfectly legal for justices to write books and get advances and royalties from them. However, this is qualitatively different from getting expensive vacations together with billionaires who have a clear interest in how the Court decides matters of interest to them, even if they are not litigants in the cases (think: interpretations of tax law). (V)

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