Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden on Monday asked conservative billionaire Harlan Crow to provide a full account of extravagant undisclosed trips, gifts and payments he has made to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over the years.
In a letter to Crow, Wyden, D-Ore., requested a complete inventory of Crow's gifts to Thomas over the years, along with evidence that Crow had complied with federal tax law.
"I write seeking information related to reports of undisclosed gifts and payments for the personal benefit of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, including private real estate transactions and the complimentary use of your private jet and superyacht," Wyden wrote. "This unprecedented arrangement between a wealthy benefactor and a Supreme Court justice raises serious concerns related to federal tax and ethics laws."
Allegations against Thomas were referred last week to the Judicial Conference of the United States, a committee that reviews financial disclosures, after a bombshell ProPublica article published this month detailed lavish trips taken by Thomas that were funded by Crow.
Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have launched a separate effort to dig into the allegations against Thomas, calling for Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate the recent findings about undisclosed gifts and trips.
In his letter, Wyden asked for a detailed list of all of Thomas' free flights aboard Crow's private jets and superyacht, an accounting of federal gift tax returns for gifts made to Thomas or his family and information about three Georgia properties Crow bought from Thomas and his relatives.
The letter also asks whether any company Crow owns treated any travel on Crow’s yacht or private jets that included Thomas as business expenses for tax purposes.
While there are exemptions from the gift tax for certain payments, Wyden noted, "none of these exemptions appear to apply to any gifts you made to Justice Thomas."
Wyden asked for answers by May 8.
Crow Holdings, of which Crow is chairman of the board, did not immediately respond to a request for comment; neither did the Supreme Court.
In a statement this month, Thomas referred to Crow and his wife, Kathy, as “dearest friends” and said that early in his tenure he had been advised that “personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable.”
The Supreme Court last month tightened its rules for what judges and justices need to include in annual financial disclosure statements.