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A guide to the friends and patrons of Clarence and Ginni Thomas

By Shawn Boburg Washington Post

Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, have long been surrounded by a tight network of friends and patrons, most of them staunch conservatives. Over the past six months, reporting primarily by ProPublica but also by the Washington Post, the New York Times and other outlets has revealed the extent to which that network has provided the Thomases with gifts, favors and employment – many of which the justice never publicly disclosed.

The revelations about the Thomases’ interactions with billionaires have fueled calls for the Supreme Court justices to be bound by a code of ethics. Though Thomas has amended some details in his financial disclosures, saying errors and omissions were the result of misunderstandings, he has said he was not required to report many of the personal gifts he received from wealthy friends. A lawyer for Thomas has said “no one influences Justice Clarence Thomas’ jurisprudence.”

Harlan Crow

Crow is a Texas billionaire and real estate developer who has been a major donor to conservative causes. He and Thomas became friends in the 1990s, after Thomas joined the Supreme Court. Crow has said that he has never discussed pending court cases with Thomas or sought to influence his thinking.

  • Crow has repeatedly flown Thomas on his private jet and hosted him almost every summer at his resort in the Adirondacks.
  • He has taken the Thomases on multiple vacations around the globe on his 162-foot superyacht, including a nine-day trip to Indonesia in 2019 and a cruise in New Zealand about a decade ago.
  • Over the past 25 years, he regularly hosted Thomas as his guest at Bohemian Grove, the exclusive all-male retreat in California.
  • For a period of time around 2009, Crow paid the $6,000-per-month tuition at a private boarding school for Thomas’ grandnephew. Thomas had legal custody of the child at the time.
  • In 2009, according to Politico, he gave at least $500,000 to a nonprofit group launched by Ginni Thomas, Liberty Central, which aimed to harness the energy of the tea party movement.
  • In 2014, he spent $133,363 to buy three properties owned by Thomas and family members, including the house in which Thomas’ mother was allowed to continue living, rent-free. Crow has said he intends to turn the house into a museum focused on Thomas.

Leonard Leo

Leo is a longtime Federalist Society leader and a key architect of the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority. He also steers a network of nonprofits that promote conservative causes in the courts and beyond.

  • Leo arranged for Ginni Thomas’ for-profit firm, Liberty Consulting, to receive an unknown sum for a contract that was to have “no mention of Ginni.” In 2012, he told pollster Kellyanne Conway that he wanted her to “give” Ginni Thomas “another $25k,” documents show. He directed Conway to get the money by billing a nonprofit he advises. In a statement to the Post, Leo praised the work by Conway and Ginni Thomas as an “invaluable resource.”
  • Since 2016, nonprofits steered by Leo have paid at least $1.8 million for public relations efforts to defend and lionize Clarence Thomas, including in a laudatory film about his life.

H. Wayne Huizenga

Huizenga was a billionaire who founded businesses such as Waste Management Inc. and AutoNation and owned professional sports teams including the Miami Dolphins and Florida Panthers. He died in 2018.

  • In the 1990s and 2000s, Huizenga flew Thomas at least twice on his private 737 jets and other times on Gulfstream jets and helicopters. He took Thomas to see the Dolphins and the Panthers play several times. He also frequently hosted Thomas at his private, members-only golf club in Florida.

Anthony Welters

Welters is a wealthy health care entrepreneur who became friends with Clarence Thomas decades ago, when both men were aides to Republicans in Congress.

  • Welters provided a loan that allowed the justice to buy a $267,230 luxury RV in 1999. A congressional investigation found that Thomas made some interest payments, but that it was declared settled by Welters in 2008 without Thomas repaying a substantial portion – or perhaps any – of the principal. An attorney for Thomas said in response that the loan’s terms “were satisfied in full” but has not said what those terms were.

Heritage Foundation

The nonprofit has long been a key leader in the conservative movement. Its efforts to shape policy have extended to the federal courts, where in recent years it has sued the Biden administration and submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court. In 2021, Heritage hosted a day-long symposium on the legacy of Clarence Thomas’ 30 years as a justice.

  • Heritage paid Ginni Thomas more than $936,000 between 2001 and 2007, tax filings show. Tax filings before 2001 are not available. Clarence Thomas reported her employment at Heritage in 2011, after left-leaning activists raised questions.

Hillsdale College

Hillsdale is a conservative Christian school in Michigan with an outpost in the nation’s capital. It has close ties to Republicans, including former president Donald Trump.

  • Hillsdale employed Ginni Thomas from mid-2008 until 2010. Clarence Thomas also reported this employment in 2011. He did not say, and nor was he required to say, how much she was paid.

The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller is a conservative website co-founded by Tucker Carlson, who went on to become a Fox News host.

  • The Daily Caller paid Ginni Thomas an unknown salary from 2011 to 2017 to conduct video interviews with conservative leaders.

Center for Security Policy

The Center for Security Policy is a far-right think tank that has sought to spread the belief that Islamists are infiltrating the U.S. government. In 2018, the group supported Trump’s Muslim travel ban in a Supreme Court amicus brief.

The nonprofit group paid Liberty Consulting, Ginni Thomas’ firm, $236,000 total in 2017 and 2018, tax records show. Details of the work have not been disclosed.