Left-wing nonprofit leads charge against Justice Clarence Thomas: ‘Political drive-by shooting’

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) — a D.C.-based organization that filed an ethics complaint last week against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for “failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from and property sales” from a wealthy GOP donor — was one of the main sources quoted in the ProPublica report a day before they filed an ethics complaint. “When a justice’s lifestyle is being subsidized by the rich and famous, it absolutely corrodes public trust,” Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer who now works for CREW, told ProPublica for its initial report on Thomas’ friendship with Republican mega donor Harlan Crow. “Quite frankly, it makes my heart sink.” Canter also told ProPublica that Thomas “seems to have completely disregarded his higher ethical obligations.” Less than 24 hours after the report featuring those comments was published, CREW, which was previously chaired by longtime Clinton ally David Brock, announced that it had filed an ethics complaint against Thomas to the Department of Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts. REPORT ON CLARENCE THOMAS’ TRAVEL HABITS IS ‘POLITICS PLAIN AND SIMPLE’: EXPERT “Justice Thomas’s acceptance of and failure to disclose these repeated, lavish gifts and shocking real estate sales not only undermines public trust in his ability to serve impartially on the Court, it undermines confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder stated when the complaint was announced. Bookbinder previously worked as the chief justice counsel for Senate Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont for over 5 years. The ProPublica report accused Thomas of taking trips across the world on Crow’s yacht and private jet without disclosing them and Crow acknowledged extending “hospitality” to Thomas but insisted he never asked for it and that the two families have been friends for decades. The reasoning behind ProPublica’s decision to feature an initial comment from CREW is unclear and raises concern following reports in recent years that the group operates in a partisan fashion. Bloomberg previously reported in 2016 that “CREW shares office space, a board member and fundraising executive with the groups under Brock’s purview, and as a result is intertwined with the kinds of organizations it investigates.” Though he is not at the helm of the group anymore, The Week also reported the same year that Brock was “gearing up for four years of Donald Trump, and he plans to remold his media networks into anti-Trump weaponry in preparation.” The ProPublica report claimed that trips taken by Thomas “have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.” Justices are not required to disclose invitations and travel that are considered “personal hospitality” and the Supreme Court is not subject to an ethics code. However, the Washington Post reported that the Judicial Conference, the policymaking body of the court, decided last month that judges must report travel by private jet. ProPublica’s report specifically targeted Thomas for a real estate deal he made with Crow in 2014 involved the sale of three properties, some which were empty lots, owned by Thomas and his relatives. “A federal disclosure law passed after Watergate requires justices and other officials to disclose the details of most real estate sales over $1,000,” ProPublica stated. “Thomas never disclosed his sale of the Savannah properties. That appears to be a violation of the law, four ethics law experts told ProPublica.” Shortly after purchasing the properties, Crow began making improvements to them and transforming the neighborhood. Crow, according to the report, “eventually sold most of the other properties he bought to new owners who built upscale modern homes, including the two vacant lots he purchased from Thomas.” NBA HALL OF FAMER CHARLES BARKLEY TAKES JAB AT CLARENCE THOMAS OVER TRIPS WITH GOP MEGADONOR While the sale of the properties should have been reported by Thomas, prominent Democrats like Joe Biden have found themselves in similar situations. In 1996, then-Senator Joe Biden sold a home in Greenville, Delaware, to a longtime benefactor, John R. Cochran III of MBNA, for $1.2 million. Biden then used those profits to purchase a nearby lot of 4.2 acres for $350,000 from real estate executive and developer Keith Stoltz, according to Delaware Online. The funding for ProPublica, an investigative journalism nonprofit, has also faced scrutiny for coming from liberal-leaning groups. In 2017, only 17% of ProPublica’s revenue came from small-dollar donors. The Sandler Foundation provided some of the initial funding for ProPublica, and Sandler Foundation founder Herb Sandler was ProPublica’s founding chairman of the Board of Directors until 2016. Sandler, who has donated millions of dollars to Democratic organizations and candidates, is involved with a number of left-of-center organizations, such as helping found the Center for American Progress, and it’s provided support for the Sierra Club and the ACLU. Other large donations came from left-leaning sources: investor Donald Sussman, who has donated tens of millions of dollars to Democrats in recent election cycles, donated $480,100. George Soros’ Foundation to Promote Open Society donated $200,000. The left-wing advocacy group Solidarity Giving gave $150,000. In a recent Dallas Morning News article, ProPublica’s founder denied any funding from leftist organizations, saying “As investigative journalists, our job is to unearth the facts. If Harlan Crow disputes the accuracy of our reporting involving Justice Clarence Thomas, we invite him to provide us with the details so we can correct any inaccuracies.” Mike Davis, the founder and president of Article III Project, told Fox News Digital that ProPublica “is a well-known leftwing publication, funded by leftwing foundations and individuals including billionaires George Soros and the late Herb Sandler. And CREW is a well-known leftwing organization, formerly run by notorious Democrat operative David Brock. It should come as no surprise that leftwing ProPublica and CREW are colluding on a political drive-by shooting against Justice Clarence Thomas, a conservative black jurist who Democrats have long hated for escaping their plantation four decades ago.” “Harlan has no business before the Supreme Court. And there is nothing illegal or unethical about best friends taking family vacations together or engaging in fair-market-value transactions,” he added. “Claiming ‘corruption’ when a government official sells real estate at a loss nearly a decade ago to his best friend of 25 years is laughable on its face.” Thomas has defended his relationship with the Crow family and explained in a statement issued earlier this month that he has always followed Supreme Court guidance. “Harlan and Kathy Crow are among our dearest friends, and we have been friends for over twenty-five years,” said Thomas. “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,” he continued. “I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines,” he added. “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.” Davis told Fox there is “no chance Justice Clarence Thomas will ever succumb to the Democrats’ 31-year campaign to chase him off the Supreme Court–for the non-crime of a conservative black man thinking for himself.” Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.
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