US judge justifies extravagant vacation as ‘personal hospitality’

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US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday defended himself in response to claims that he accepted years’ worth of opulent trips from a Republican billionaire, claiming that such “personal hospitality” was exempt from registration.

The mega-donor Harlan Crow hosted steadfast conservative Thomas for yachting in New Zealand, international travel on a private jet, and many stays at Crow’s estates in the US, according to the ProPublica news outlet.

It determined that Thomas, 74, the court’s senior justice, took one trip to Indonesia that would have cost $500,000 on its own.

It was previously advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable, Thomas said in a statement from his judicial peers.

The rules were being modified at the time, and he continued, “It is, of course, my intent to follow this guidance in the future.”

ProPublica described how Thomas had traveled with Crow for 20 years, visiting Crow’s private residences in Texas and New York State as well as an elite all-male wilderness resort in California.

According to ProPublica, Crow has given more than $10 million to Republican political organizations, including a million dollars to a group that Ginni Thomas, the husband of Thomas, formed to advocate for conservative causes.

Some justices and Democratic legislators expressed indignation over the ProPublica discoveries, while legal reform organizations demanded major reforms to the way the Supreme Court is managed.