Clarence Thomas has been living much more like a billionaire than was previously thought.
The Supreme Court justice has received numerous perks from his well-heeled friends that were not previously disclosed, according to a ProPublica report published Thursday. Among those gifts are at least 38 vacations, 26 private-jet flights, eight helicopter rides, a dozen VIP tickets to sporting events, two stays at luxury resorts, and access to an ultra-exclusive Florida golf club.
“In my career I don’t remember ever seeing this degree of largesse given to anybody,” Jeremy Fogel, a former federal judge who used to be on the judicial committee that reviews judges’ financial disclosures, told ProPublica. “I think it’s unprecedented.”
While Thomas has been in the spotlight in recent months due to undisclosed gifts coming to light, this latest report is much more vast in the people it implicates and the perks outlined. It names the Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, who has previously come under fire for his relationship with Thomas, alongside the oil baron Paul “Tony” Novelly, the late billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga, and the former Berkshire Hathaway exec David Sokol. ProPublica noted that although Crow does appear in Thomas’s financial disclosures, the other three men do not.
Thomas and Novelly didn’t respond to ProPublica’s questions. Huizenga died in 2018 and his son similarly did not respond to the outlet’s requests for comment. Sokol said that he’s been friends with Thomas and his wife for 21 years and that he’s traveled with and hosted them in the past. “We have never once discussed any pending court matter,” he said. “Our conversations have always revolved around helping young people, sports, and family matters.”
The lavish perks dished out to Thomas include rides on Huizenga’s private Boeing 737, which contained recliners, love seats, dining tables, card tables, and gourmet food. If the justice had been picked up in Washington, D.C., and ferried to South Florida, the round-trip ride would have cost at least $130,000 each time had Thomas chartered the plane himself, according to ProPublica. Thomas also enjoyed time on Novelly’s yachts, one of which features accommodations for 10 guests, a full bar, and a baby grand piano, among other amenities. Novelly usually charges $60,000 a week for others to charter the vessel.
In addition, Thomas had access to Sokol’s $20 million Fort Lauderdale manse, which includes a home theater, a walk-in wine cellar, and a dock for yachts. Huizenga also offered the justice a standing invite to his exclusive, members-only golf course, which a family friend once called “the most coveted private golf invitation in the world.” The course was sold by Huizenga’s family in 2010, and it now charges $150,000 in initiation fees.
Don Fox, the former general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the senior ethics official in the executive branch, put it succinctly: “It’s just the height of hypocrisy to wear the robes and live the lifestyle of a billionaire.”