GOP Megadonor Paid Tuition for Kid Clarence Thomas Was Raising
Clarence Thomas and his wife Ginni raised Thomas’ grandnephew, Mark Martin, “as a son,” as the Supreme Court justice once put it. They sent him to a private boarding school in 2008 and, wouldn’t you know it, conservative billionaire Harlan Crow footed the bill, ProPublica reported on Thursday.
“Harlan picked up the tab,” Christopher Grimwood, a former administrator at Hidden Lake Academy, told the outlet, noting that the GOP megadonor and Nazi aficionado paid the $6,000-per-month tuition for Martin’s entire stay at the school. Grimwood also said that Crow told him he was paying for Martin’s tuition at Randolph-Macon Academy, another private school he attended before and after he was at Hidden Lake.
ProPublica estimates that Crow could have paid as much as $150,000 worth of Martin’s tuition at the two schools. Thomas did not disclose the payments on his financial disclosure forms.
Tuition for Martin — whom Thomas had taken legal custody of — is only one of a troubling array of gifts the Republican megadonor has lavished on the Supreme Court justice. ProPublica reported last month that Thomas has regularly been taking luxury trips on Crow’s dime — including traveling around the world on a private jet, island hopping on a yacht, and kicking back at Crow’s private resort — for decades.
Thomas didn’t disclose any of the gifts, and tried to explain himself in a statement arguing that he was merely accepting “personal hospitality” from two of his “dearest friends,” referring to Crow and his wife. He said he didn’t need to disclose the gifts because Crow didn’t have business before the court.
Regardless of whether Crow himself had a case before the court, he is a major player in the conservative movement and certainly has an interest how the court rules. He also does indeed appear to have had business before the court, with Bloomberg reporting that Trammell Crow Residential Co. had a case before the court in 2005, and that there’s no indication Thomas recused himself.
In addition to the revelations about Crow paying for Thomas’ vacations and his child’s tuition, ProPublica has also reported that Crow bought $133,000 worth of real estate from Thomas’ family, and that Thomas — surprise, surprise — didn’t disclose the purchase. CNN reported that Crow allowed Thomas’ mother to continue living at the property, and that Thomas now intends to amend his financial disclosures to reflect the sale, an essential admission that he should have done it in the first place.
Thomas’ relationship with Crow has spurred calls for his resignation, as well as a wider push for reform of the Supreme Court. Senate Democrats holding a hearing earlier this week to address the growing ethics quandary, which isn’t limited to Thomas. “It is critical to our democracy that the American people have confidence that judges cannot be bought or influenced, and that they are serving the public interest, not their own personal interest,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said in his opening statement.