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It Seems Clarence Thomas Has A GOP Sugar Daddy

A close-up of Clarence Thomas' face.

The Supreme Court has come under heavy fire for its recent antics, most notably the devastating overturning of Roe v. Wade. But now there’s a new shitstorm a-brewin’ on the horizon. And boy howdy, it’s a Category 5. Its name? Shitstorm Clarence.

Shitstorm Clarence has been turning since 1991, when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was accused of sexual misconduct by a former employee, a woman named Anita Hill. The televised hearings were infamous, as Hill was grilled by a panel of 14 white men—led, by the way, by then-Senator Joe Biden. She gave a horrifying account of Thomas’ behavior, describing his many unwanted sexual advances on her, as well as the graphic detail he went into about his “sexual prowess” and his anatomy. He would talk—at work—about women having sex with animals in films, as well as group sex and rape scenes. Despite Hill’s brave efforts, Thomas was confirmed to the Supreme Court in a 52–48 vote, the most narrow margin since the 19th century.

So now that you’re primed on the goriest details about the kind of scumbag we’re dealing with, allow me to shovel a little bit more scum inside. A new report from ProPublica shows that Clarence Thomas has been accepting lavish gifts from a mega-GOP-donor billionaire for decades. In 2019, Thomas and his disturbingly influential right-wing conspiracy theorist wife Ginni hopped on a private jet to Indonesia and embarked on a nine-day tour of the nation’s islands while riding in a superyacht. Is that the Thomas’ jet and superyacht? Hell no. The yacht and plane would have cost them $500,000—almost double the annual $285,000 salary he makes as a “public servant”. Luckily for him, they were owned by Harlan Crow. Who is Harlan Crow? A megadonor to the Republican party, and Thomas’ (for lack of a better term) sugar daddy. Maybe a sugar-BFF. A sugar something, that’s for sure.

This isn’t the only trip that Crow has financed for the Thomas family. Thomas has gone on fancy outings with Crow every year for nearly 20 years. These trips include rides on Harlan’s multimillion-dollar private jet, along with visits to his lavish estates in the Adirondacks and East Texas. And you know what the kicker is? Thomas hasn’t disclosed any of it.

Not only is this completely unprecedented, it is also illegal. Supreme Court Justices have very little in the way of oversight but Thomas’ failure to include these trips on his financial disclosures is in direct violation of a post-Watergate law that requires federal officials to disclose such gifts. Why? Because it’s unethical. By showering Thomas with gifts, Crow is able to get special access to some of the most powerful people in the country. “When a justice’s lifestyle is being subsidized by the rich and famous, it absolutely corrodes public trust,” Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer, told ProPublica. She believes that Thomas’ actions are evidence that he has “disregarded his higher ethical obligations.”

Ironically enough, the laws surrounding the Supreme Court were designed to protect justices (and the public they represent) from political influences. Supreme Court justices are appointed for life, and in theory, the security of their position makes them less vulnerable to being swayed by external forces. After all, they don’t have any elections to win. They are, however, beholden to a code of conduct that forbids even the “appearance of impropriety”, meaning that even IF Harlan Crow’s gifts to Thomas are not meant to politically influence him but simply stem from the goodness of his heart (lol sure), Thomas would STILL have to refuse them because accepting them would look improper a.k.a. REALLY BAD.

According to writings by Chief Justice John Roberts, members of the Supreme Court “consult” those guidelines in order to ensure that they are behaving ethically. It seems like Clarence Thomas’ definition of “consult” is give it a peak then forget about it entirely. But because the Supreme Court is left to its own devices, there’s no one to stop him. Similarly, the Supreme Court does not face the same scrutiny with regard to accepting gifts as other branches of government. A member of Congress, for instance, is not allowed to accept a gift with a value of over $50 (not even a real nice tie!) without first consulting an ethics committee. Thomas may as well have received over a million “nice ties” from Crow, all without a single glance from any sort of ethics institution.

So what does Sugar Daddy Crow want in return for all of these gifts? A hug and a thank you? A Christmas card swap? No, Crow is likely in this to influence American politics. After all, the pro-business billionaire has already spent millions attempting to mold the justice system into adhering to his own political ideologies. While Crow has never had a case directly involved with the Supreme Court, the court often hears cases regarding one of Crow’s chief moneymakers: real estate. How convenient.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is the fact that Clarence Thomas has attempted to build a reputation as an “American everyman”. He claims that he “prefers Walmart parking lots to the beaches and things like that” because he comes from “regular stock”. Which is how you KNOW he’s full of shit. I’m sorry, I don’t care how “regular” the stock you come from is, NO ONE ON EARTH WOULD CHOOSE HANGING OUT IN A WALMART PARKING LOT OVER THE BEACH. LIKE WHAT!?!?!?!?!! EVEN A SPACE ALIEN PRETENDING TO BE HUMAN WOULD NEVER SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

(He made that wild claim, by the way, “in a recent interview for a documentary about his life, which Crow helped finance,” ProPublica writes.)

If anything, this should serve as an example of how woefully out of touch Clarence Thomas and people like him are with the American public. The fact that he doesn’t consider his behavior unethical, or simply believed that he could get away with it anyway—and has for many years!—is particularly chilling. So what happens now? Perhaps this will serve as a watershed moment in the American political landscape. Perhaps this will serve as a call to action in government that results increased ethical scrutiny of the justice system. Perhaps we’ll see an investigation conducted against the Supreme Court by an organization other than itself.

Stop laughing at me! I can dream. Let me dream!

(via ProPublica, featured image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels in crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.