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Clarence Thomas discloses trips paid for by GOP donor as justices report financials

Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2022.
J. Scott Applewhite
Members of the Supreme Court sit for a new group portrait following the addition of Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, at the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 7, 2022.

WASHINGTON — Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday belatedly acknowledged more travel paid by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, while several colleagues reported six-figure payments as part of book deals.

Thomas, who has faced criticism for failing to report luxury trips paid for by Crow and others over many years, said in his annual financial disclosure that, in 2019, Crow paid for a hotel room in Bali, Indonesia, for a single night, and food and lodging at a private club in Sonoma County, California. He did not report any travel paid by others last year.

The disclosure on Indonesia is curious for what it omits: the rest of the trip. ProPublica reported last year that Thomas flew to Indonesia on Crow’s private jet and then boarded his superyacht for an islands tour, one of many trips Crow has given to Thomas and his wife, Ginni, over the years.

Another justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson, reported eye-popping numbers, a nearly $900,000 advance for her upcoming memoir, and attention-grabbing gifts, four tickets to a Beyoncé concert valued at $3,700 from the singer herself.

Jackson was one of four Supreme Court justices who reported sizable income from book deals. Justice Brett Kavanaugh reported being paid $340,000 by the conservative Regnery Publishing company. The company was sold and the book is to be published by an imprint at Hachette Book Group, according to Axios, which also reported this week that Kavanaugh's book will deal with his contentious confirmation hearing that included allegations of sexual misconduct, which he has denied. The court confirmed Friday that the justice is writing a legal memoir.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor reported royalty income of $250,000 and nearly $90,000, respectively.

In their day jobs, the justices are being paid $298,500 this year, except for Chief Justice John Roberts, who earns $312,200.

The only justice whose report was not available Friday is Samuel Alito, who received an extension for up to 90 days, as he does most years. The justice has separately been under scrutiny over flags that flew outside homes he owned. He has said they were raised by his wife.

Jackson, the first Black woman on the nation's highest court, signed a book contract soon after taking her seat in 2022. The book, “Lovely One,” is to be published in September.

The total value of her book deal has not been publicly disclosed, but it is expected to rival if not exceed what Sotomayor was paid for her memoir, “My Beloved World,” more than $3 million.

Among the current justices, only Roberts, Alito and Justice Elena Kagan have so far not cut book deals. Thomas received a $1.5 million advance, stunning at the time, for his 2007 book, “My Grandfather's Son.” Justice Amy Coney Barrett in 2022 reported receiving $425,000 for a yet-to-be-released book, part of a reported $2 million deal she signed soon after joining the court in 2020.

The disclosures paint a partial picture of the justices' finances, as they are not required to reveal the value of their homes or, for those who are married, their spouses' salary.

The justices adopted an ethics code in November, though it lacks a means of enforcement. The code treats travel, food and lodging as expenses rather than gifts, for which monetary values must be reported. Justices aren't required to attach a value to expenses.

In March, the federal judiciary began requiring judges to disclose travel-related gifts and their values — rather than reporting such gifts as reimbursements. The justices say they generally abide by the same rules, but Thomas did not disclose the cost of the Bali hotel.

Some Democratic lawmakers are continuing to press legislation that would require the court to adopt a binding code of conduct and provide for investigations of alleged violations. But the prospect for such legislation is considered remote in a closely divided Congress.

Only two justices reported receiving gifts last year. Thomas said he was given two photo albums worth $2,000 by Terrence Giroux and his wife. Giroux is the executive director emeritus of the Horatio Alger Association.

Jackson received artwork for her Supreme Court office worth $12,500. And then there were the Beyoncé tickets, worth more than $900 a pop. Beyoncé performed two concerts in the Washington area in August 2023, though Jackson's disclosure does not say when or where the tickets were for.

“Justice Jackson is Crazy in Love with Beyonce’s music,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Patricia McCabe said, invoking a Beyoncé song. “Who isn’t?”

Copyright 2024 NPR

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]