Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday that he did not disclose luxury travel paid for by a Republican donor because he was advised at the time that he did not have to report it.
In a rare statement sent via the Supreme Court's public information office, Thomas said that the trips he and his wife, conservative activist Ginni Thomas, took with the donor Harlan Crow and his wife -- whom Thomas describes as among his family's "dearest friends" -- were the "sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends" that he was advised did not require disclosure.
Thomas' travel with the Crows, which included trips on the donor's yacht and private jet, was the subject of a bombshell ProPublica report published Thursday. Congressional Democrats have called for investigation into the matter and for a stronger ethics code for the justices.
The justice notes that the guidelines for reporting personal hospitality have been recently changed.
"And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future," Thomas said.
The ProPublica report describes Thomas accepting travel hospitality from Crow that included lavish trips to Indonesia, New Zealand, California, Texas and Georgia. Some of these trips reportedly included travel on Crow's super yacht or stays at properties owned by Crow or his company.
In a statement to ProPublica and CNN, Crow said that he has been friends with Thomas and his wife Ginni for more than 30 years, and that the hospitality he has extended the justice over the years was "no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends."
"Justice Thomas and Ginni never asked for any of this hospitality," Crow said in the statement. He said that we "never asked about a pending or lower court case, and Justice Thomas has never discussed one."
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Read Thomas' statement in full:
"Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years. As friends do, we have joined them on a number of family trips during the more than quarter century we have known them.
"Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable. I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.
"These guidelines are now being changed, as the committee of the Judicial Conference responsible for financial disclosure for the entire federal judiciary just this past month announced new guidance. And, it is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future."
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