By ASHRAF KHALIL
WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative mega-donor Harlan Crow purchased three properties belonging to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his family, in a transaction worth more than $100,000 that Thomas never reported, according to the non-profit investigative journalism organization ProPublica.
The 2014 real estate deal shines a new light on Thomas’s decades old relationship with Crow, a real estate magnate and longtime financier for conservative causes. That relationship and the material benefits received by Thomas have fueled calls for an official ethics investigation.
ProPublica previously revealed that Thomas and his wife Ginni were gifted with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of annual vacations and trips by Crow for decades — including international cruises on his mega-yacht, private jet flights and stays at Crow’s invitation-only resort in the Adirondacks. But the 2014 real estate deal is the first public evidence of a direct financial transaction between the pair.
Citing state tax documents and property deeds, ProPublica reported that one of Crow’s companies paid $133,363 for the home in Savannah, Georgia where Thomas’ mother was living, along with two nearby vacant lots that belonged to Thomas’ family members. Thomas mother remained living in the home, which soon underwent tens of thousands of dollars in renovations.
Federal officials, including Supreme Court justices, are required to disclose the details of most real estate transactions with a value of over $1,000. Thomas would not be required to report the purchase if the property was his or his spouse’s primary personal residence, but this stipulation does not apply to this purchase, which Thomas did not report.
Both Thomas and Crow have released statements downplaying the significance of the gifts, with Thomas maintaining that he was not required to disclose the trips. Crow respondents to the latest disclosure with a statement to ProPublica said that he approached Thomas about the purchase with an eye on honoring his legacy.
“My intention is to one day create a public museum at the Thomas home dedicated to telling the story of our nation’s second black Supreme Court Justice,” the statement said. “Justice Thomas’s story represents the best of America.”
Thomas’ office did not respond to an Associated Press request for comment.
Associated Press reporter Mark Sherman contributed to this report.