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Senate Finance Chief Vows to Use All Tools at His Disposal to Get Answers on Thomas 'Corruption'

Sen. Ron Wyden

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SUPREME CORRUPTION - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on Thursday said he will use his authority as chair of the Senate Finance Committee to get answers from Republican megadonor Harlan Crow about his financial ties to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

The Oregon Democrat said after ProPublica published the latest revelations about financial gifts Crow provided to the right-wing justice that he is giving Crow "until May 8th to provide a full account of the gifts he provided to Justice Thomas' family."

ProPublica revealed Thursday morning that Crow paid for Thomas' grandnephew, Mark Martin, who the justice raised "as a son" from the time Martin was six years old, to attend a private school in Georgia where tuition was $74,000 per year. Thomas did not include the payments on federal disclosure forms as required by law. 

Last month, the outlet reported that Crow footed the bill for Thomas to take numerous luxury vacations for two decades and that the Texas billionaire bought property from the justice's family and acted as Thomas' mother's landlord—none of which was previously disclosed to the government. 

Since Thomas was confirmed to the high court in 1991, several right-wing groups with ties to Crow have been involved in cases that were argued before the Supreme Court, and his own real estate company was directly involved in a case regarding the pandemic-era federal eviction moratorium in 2021.

"With every new revelation in this case, it becomes clearer that Harlan Crow has been subsidizing an extravagant lifestyle that Justice Thomas and his family could not otherwise afford," said Wyden. "This is a foul breach of ethics standards, which are already far too low when it comes to the Supreme Court."

The chairman added that he "will explore using other tools at the committee's disposal to obtain this critical information."

The Democratic Party holds a majority of seats on the panel, giving Wyden subpoena power.

Wyden previously wrote to Crow late last month, demanding a "complete account" of his gifts to Thomas and inquiring whether the real estate magnate treated Thomas' travel on his yacht and private jets as a business expense in order to benefit from a tax write-off.

"The secrecy surrounding your dealings with Justice Thomas is simply unacceptable," he wrote to Crow in April. "The American public deserves a full accounting of the full extent of your largesse towards Justice Thomas, including whether these gifts complied with all relevant federal tax and ethics laws." 

(Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams, where this article was first published.)