Washington, DC – Today, People For the American Way released a letter (below) and its petition with more than 14,000 signatures to the Department of Justice urging the agency to promptly investigate and take appropriate action concerning Justice Clarence Thomas’ failure to report large gifts and a real estate transaction involving billionaire Harlan Crow.
“Justice Thomas has proven once again that he puts his own interests over the integrity of the highest court in the land, and the DOJ must respond,” said People For the American Way President Svante Myrick. “Our Supreme Court justices are too powerful for us to ignore conflicts of interest and unethical behavior. With this letter I’m urging the DOJ to act decisively and reassure the American people that justice will be done.”
The letter specifically states that new evidence strongly suggests that Justice Thomas’ failure to report was in fact “knowing and willful.” Myrick writes, “This is not the first time Thomas failed to report large gifts from Crow after previously reporting a similar smaller gift, suggesting knowing and willful misconduct. . . Accordingly, we urge the Department to open an investigation. . . and to take appropriate action, including seeking civil and criminal penalties.”
“We and the 14,500 who signed our petition believe the law is clear, that Justice Thomas violated it, and that the Justice Department has clear authority under the law to prosecute those violations,” said Myrick. “We also believe that Justice Thomas should resign, because he’s embarrassed himself, he’s embarrassed the Court, and he’s undermined public trust in our justice system.”
People For the American Way has been a leader on advocating for a fair and just Supreme Court, submitting testimony to the committee explaining how the Court affects people’s lives and why the public should be concerned about the ethical problems among the justices. People For also called for Congress to impose a binding ethics code on the Court and made repeated calls for accountability for past ethical misconduct by Justice Thomas.
Dear Attorney General Garland:
As you are aware, numerous organizations and individuals, including more than 14,500 individuals who signed a petition sponsored by People For the American Way (signatures enclosed with email copy), have urged the Department of Justice to investigate and take appropriate action concerning Justice Clarence Thomas’ failure to report large gifts from and a real estate transaction involving billionaire Harlan Crow.
As you know, the Ethics in Government Act authorizes the Department to pursue civil and criminal penalties against any individual required to file such reports who fails to do so “knowingly and willfully.” We write to call your attention to new evidence that strongly suggests that Justice Thomas’ failure to report was in fact knowing and willful, making it important that the Department promptly open an investigation.
Specifically, a recent Pro Publica report demonstrates that Crow paid approximately $100,000 in tuition at private schools for a student for whom Thomas was legal guardian. This tuition was accordingly an amount that Thomas would otherwise have been responsible for and was thus a reportable “gift” to Thomas. Although the Crow tuition payments were never reported by Thomas, he did report as a “gift” a similar tuition payment of $5000 five years earlier by another friend.
The fact that Thomas reported the $5000 tuition payment as a “gift” strongly suggests he was aware that such payments were in fact gifts reportable under federal law. It also indicates that Thomas’ failure to report Crow’s larger tuition payments several years after the $5000 gift was done “knowingly and willfully” in violation of federal law.
This is not the first time Thomas failed to report large gifts from Crow after previously reporting a similar smaller gift, suggesting knowing and willful misconduct. Justice Thomas did report as a gift from Crow transportation to and a stay at the Bohemian Grove resort near San Francisco in 1997. But as Pro Publica has demonstrated, Thomas failed to report many similar and larger gifts by Crow, including transportation to and stays at the very same Bohemian Grove resort. Again, the evidence suggests that Thomas recognized that such trips should be reported and that he knowingly and willfully failed to do so after 1997.
Accordingly, we urge the Department to open an investigation of Justice Thomas’ failure to report gifts and other transactions involving Harlan Crow and to take appropriate action, including seeking civil and criminal penalties.
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About People For the American Way
People For the American Way, a national progressive advocacy organization, inspires and mobilizes community and cultural leaders to advance Truth, Justice and the American Way. We convene courageous Americans, produce compelling media and organize campaigns to defend our democracy from authoritarian threats and advance America’s promise that everyone will enjoy freedom, safety and a vote that counts. Learn more: http://www.pfaw.org